Hands On With Sorcery (PS3)
Last week at the Sony 2011 Holiday Media Showcase in New York City, I was able to meet with Brian Upton, Senior Designer for Sony’s upcoming Move based title, Sorcery. A lot has changed since the E3 reveal back in 2010 and the game is really shaping up to be a model for how to make a motion control title.
You’ll play as a seventeen year old sorcerer’s apprentice with a know-it-all attitude. As the game starts, you’ve been an apprentice for about three months and the magical cat companion that follows you around dares you to enter The Land of the Dead. Of course you do, and of course, you accidentally unleash a nasty evil on the world. It’s then up to you and your companion to set things right.
You’ll travel across the world together but you and your companion cat aren’t all buddy buddy from the start. Early on, she’s pretty antagonistic towards you and quite sarcastic. As you move through the game however, she’ll give you hints and advice and eventually you’ll form a mutual respect for each other and a stronger bond. It’s a nice touch that should add more to the narrative and keep it from being a mindless action game.
Two different levels were on display showing off different areas of the game. Essentially a third person action-adventure, the disc based game will have three difficulty levels and roughly six hours of gameplay. While that may seem a bit short at first glance, remember that this is a Move only title and you probably don’t want to be swinging your arms around in combat for 20-30 hours. Controls require a combination of a Move controller and a Nav or DualShock 3 for movement. Because it’s Move only, the developers have worked to change up gameplay often enough so you won’t get tired. The game gets broken up into action scenes, narrative scenes and puzzles much like any good action title, but obviously more critical here to keep the player from getting fatigued.
When designing the game, the developers looked at action titles as their basis for the core gameplay, and it shows. Many motion based titles nowadays tend to be on rails which severely limits the gameplay, ahem, Star Wars Kinect, but the developers wanted Sorcery to play like a standard action game and from what I’ve seen, they succeeded.
What you’ll see on screen is a fantasy world that borrows from a number of different styles and cultures creating it’s own look along the way. There’s a health bar on the left with a Heroic Strike meter above it and Manna on the right. The Heroic Strike meter will charge as you cast spells while fighting and when it’s unleashed it can have a devastating effect on nearby enemies. Refilling your health is actually a fun and clever use of the motion controls. You’ll need to pull out a potion and shake it up, then drink it making all the movements intuitively with the Move controller. I had a huge smile on my face while playing the game and this part just made me laugh.
Combat tends to be just as intuitive. You can fire basic bolts along with using wind, fire and ice and everything has an alt fire mode, as in any good action game. To fire off a simple bolt, you’ll hold your wand straight up and flick your wrist forward, you can also hold it to either side and swing it across you body to curve shots around obstacles. This comes in handy as the enemy AI is good at hiding behind things and firing at you. If you point down and sweep your arm across your body, you can lay down a barrier with your elemental spells like a wall of fire. Firing bolts through the fire turns them into fire bolts causing greater damage, the same with ice. Wind can be used to create a mini maelstrom to throw enemies around. You’ve also got a shield and can use a shield bash to push enemies back if you get surrounded.
All in all, you have seven base spells with eight combos and the combos become essential to progress in later levels. It all works really well and it feels great when playing. I can see this being the inspiration for a proper Harry Potter action game somewhere down the line.
Littered around the levels are chests where you can find treasure, gold or alchemy ingredients. You’ll use those ingredients in a light RPG-like alchemy system. You’ll have the ability to research up to 56 different potions which will determine your upgrades throughout the game. For example, drinking all the fire potions will make your fire spells more powerful. There are about a dozen upgrade opportunities during the game and you’ll need to decide what you want to focus on as only about a quarter of the full upgrade tree can be explored in a single game. The nice thing is that you have the option to keep all your upgrades for subsequent playthroughs.
While it’s not an on-rails experience, it’s also not a massive open world like a Just Cause or Grand Theft Auto. The game is fairly linear but there are plenty of side paths and hidden areas which contain a lot of the alchemy elements making exploration essential. Sorcery is making a push to show developers and players what can be done with motion controls. It’s a really good step forward and hopefully will be looked at as a turning point in the development of Move titles. Overall I came away very impressed with the game and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the full version when it releases this Spring exclusively for the PS3.