Talk about one of the most forgotten games in the Move hype machine. Following a promising E3 2010 presentation, Sony’s Move-enabled Sorcery seemingly vanished from existence. Perhaps tired of having its identity mistaken with Medieval Moves: Deadmund‘s Quest - the PS3’s other motion-controlled fantasy-themed action-adventure - Sorcery recently returned from its year-and-a-half hiatus. Based on our hands-on time with the title at Sony’s Holiday Showcase, it appears its developers have not only been keeping quiet, they’ve also kept quite busy. A far cry from the glimpse we previously got, Sorcery now looks much more like a fleshed-out interactive experience than an impressive Move tech demo. Its core concept, which sees players casting a variety of spells with the wand, is still intact. Everything else, however, from the responsive mechanics to the vibrant fantasy visuals, complements an experience that’s shaping up to be more game-changing than gimmicky.
As a young sorcerer’s apprentice, you’ll enter a familiar high-fantasy plot: an unlikely hero must battle the forces of evil to save the world. Sorcery manages to separate itself from the hack-and-slash pack by focusing almost entirely on spell-casting; aside from an enemy-stunning shield bash, all attacks spawn from your magic wand. During our demo, we were able to unleash fire, wind, and ice magic - as well as a default arcane bolt - from behind the Move controller. All spells are gesture-based and encourage a free-form play style, so you’re never just mimicking on-screen prompts or, as creative director Brian Upton puts it, “It’s not Simon Says.”
We got a taste of this dynamic approach when taking on a variety of troll-, ogre-, and orc-looking menaces amongst ancient architecture and picturesque waterfalls. Holding down the Move trigger and aiming at targets, we peppered the rampaging uglies with an endless barrage of arcane bolts. This did a decent job of keeping the beasties at bay, but it wasn’t until Upton taught us some new tricks that we really lit up the screen. The Move button makes a HUD appear at the bottom of the display, highlighting the more powerful spells, which are triggered with a few simple wrist gestures of the flick or quarter-circle variety. We soon conjured mini tornadoes, set up defensive walls of fire, and encapsulated enemies in ice.
These spells eat up mana, though, so alternating with the bottomless supply of arcane bolts is the way to go: freeze an attacker in its tracks with an ice spell and then shatter it with an arcane blast. Shoot arcane energy through a summoned fire wall and it’s elevated to baddie-barbecuing status. Especially skilled sorcerers can also combine powerful elemental attacks for additional screen-clearing effect - hurling a whirlwind through a firewall, for example, creates a “Firenado,” which is as dangerous as it sounds. With seven basic combat spells planned for the final game, it seems much of the fun will come from creatively mixing and matching your foe-finishing magic tricks.
While our unseasoned casting only scratched the surface of Sorcery‘s inventive combat, we did get a good feel for the controls. Switching between spells is a breeze, as is activating different attacks within the same school of magic - laying down a wall of fire and then blasting flame-engulfed balls over it feels great. Targeting, which doesn’t use a reticule, is slightly less responsive. You basically gesture toward your target and an auto-assist does the rest, but we didn’t find this to be entirely accurate. That said, it doesn’t seem like an issue that can’t be balanced with a bit more pre-release polish. We should also mention Sorcery is not, thank goodness, another on-rails Move title; it requires both a wand and navigation controller, as the hero’s basic movement is intuitively mapped to the latter.
Our demo concentrated on combat, but the final game will also feature an extensive alchemy system used to upgrade your character, magic-based puzzles, and level-capping boss encounters. Oh yeah, the protagonist also has a talking cat companion who both helps and taunts him. While many Move games feel as though they’ve been forced into utilizing the controller-free tech, Sorcery appears to be making a genuine effort to deliver more than mindless arm-flailing. We look forward to unleashing flame-engulfed tornadoes - and being teased by a talking cat - when it casts its spell on PS3 owners next spring.