Sorcery! (iOS) Review

By Lex Firth 23.09.2016

Review for Sorcery! on iOS

The choose-your-own-adventure book is something of a lost art now - while they were once a staple of geek culture, RPGs have evolved with the digital age and they've lost out to the likes of Fallout or The Elder Scrolls. Perhaps one of the best-loved and well-remembered examples is the Fighting Fantasy series, of which a massive fifty-nine books were published between 1980 and 1995, Steve Jackson's four-part Sorcery! series being among its finest. In an attempt to bring these single-player RPG books into the twenty-first century, they've been reimagined as a text-based iOS game, but does it hold up more than thirty years after its original publication?

The most instantly striking thing about Sorcery! is how incredibly simple it looks - the game is almost entirely text-based, with the only visible action being demonstrated with a virtual figurine moving around a map. The player rarely gets to see the locales or creatures they come across, but this is thankfully not too much of an issue, given the genuinely gorgeous writing on display here. Everything is excellently described, and, coupled with the particularly engaging illustrations that crop up now and again, as well as an excellent environmental soundtrack, there's a fantastic atmosphere surrounding the adventure.

Of course, this is far from a straight novel, and there are a number of complications spread out across the gameplay to keep it fresh, namely, the ability to cast spells, along with a spirit guardian that can be summoned in a pinch. The spell-casting system here has each spell consisting of three letters or symbols that can be plucked from constellations - selecting "Z-A-P" will strike a foe with lightning, for instance - although the availability of spells depends on the player's location on the map. Each one costs stamina, which can only be regained by eating the few rations of food that are obtainable, or sleeping at an inn; this means spending some of the player's all-important gold.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on iOS

As interesting as the resource management may seem, the spells are actually used far more sparingly than one may expect, making it easy to breeze through this without running out of either gold or stamina. Employed even less often is the spirit guardian. Based on a different animal based on location, the guardian can be used to get the player out of a pinch, should they face certain death. Each animal can only be used once (in the interest of balance), but the opportunities to use them crop up so rarely that most will ignore the mechanic altogether.

As for the story itself, it's particularly weak in this first installment. The politics and geography of the land are not well-explained, even for adventurers who make the effort to speak to its wide cast of inhabitants, and encounters with enemies occur so frequently that they end up passing by incredibly briefly and, ultimately, get forgettable. Even the ending is an incredible anticlimax. Most may not even notice they're fighting the final boss - not in the least bit helped by the ability to rewind time at any point, preventing any particularly dangerous situations from feeling at all threatening.

Of course, the ending itself is little more than a sequel hook (this is only the first quarter of the story, after all), with the few plot threads that have been started remaining unresolved. It's sure to disappoint a few players, but the truly committed will be happy to pay for the next episode, with all four apps altogether costing roughly the same as a physical book would.

Screenshot for Sorcery! on iOS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

As engaging in its writing as it is simple in its gameplay, Sorcery! could indeed set a new standard for the modern-day visual novel. While some refinements are needed to make it a truly excellent story, its innovations will certainly interest readers and gamers alike. A solid standard for the rest of the series has surely be set.

Developer

inkle

Publisher

inkle

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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