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Sorcery

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Starhawk and Sorcery soundtracks now available


Jun 12
// Jayson Napolitano
I guess the title says it all, but in terms of why you might care, I'm really digging the Starhawk soundtrack composed by Christopher Lennertz. It's a great combination of gritty western ambiance with traditional orchestra. S...

Review: Sorcery

May 21 // Jim Sterling
Sorcery (PlayStation 3)Developer: The Workshop, SCE Santa Monica StudioPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: May 22, 2012MSRP: $39.99 Sorcery tells the story of a boy apprentice named Finn who, true to the stereotype, just cannot help playing around with his master's magic when nobody's looking. Aided by a talking cat named Erline, the apprentice sets off on an adventure to stop the Nightmare Queen before she does something generically evil. A relatively light and family-friendly story, Sorcery's narrative presentation relies on comic-style cutscenes and lame jokes in a manner not unlike last year's "big" Move title, Medieval Moves. Luckily, Sorcery manages to stay a step above that particular title, despite the similarities.  Armed with a Navigation controller and PS Move, the player controls Finn in a traditional third-person manner, pressing X to dodge and L1 to center the camera. The Move is used to control our hapless apprentice's wand-bearing hand, where a flick of the remote sends a bolt of arcane energy in a direction vaguely corresponding to one's physical movements. Yes, despite the Move's 1:1 control, Sorcery wisely adds a dose of aim assist to make sure you hit targets at least 70% of the time. Magic spells often have an alternative use, usually triggered by sweeping the Move across a wide arc to curve shots, create area-of-effect traps, and other such useful tricks.  Naturally, there is some banal busywork involving turning keys in locks and waving the remote from side to side in order to sweep obstacles from a pathway, but the vast bulk of the game involves combat versus a range of melee and ranged enemies, as Finn runs through fairly typical levels consisting of winding corridors broken up by large enemy-rich arenas. While the idea of motion-controlled arcane battling is a noble one, the limitations of the technology leave much to be desired, and it seems nobody was interested in working around those limitations, only plowing blindly through them.  [embed]227710:43715[/embed] The biggest obstacle is the targeting system and associated camera issues. When enemies are present, Finn will automatically alter his movement to strafe mode, while the camera will focus in the direction of the most salient threat. Of course, the game's idea of a pressing threat is not always the player's idea, since its camera cannot cope with large rooms of enemies that may be coming from multiple directions. When the game chooses to focus on an enemy, it will almost always stay focused until that particular opponent is dead, even if there are monsters behind or flanking Finn that are far closer and more worthy of attention. This becomes especially frustrating when facing elemental enemies that require certain spells to defeat, forcing the player to change their tactics on the whims of the game, rather than making any decisions for themselves.  When the camera isn't completely failing, you're left with a fairly typical shooting game in which the only real objective is to run around, firing at stuff with magic until all lies still. To do that, expect to be snapping your wrist back and forth like you're practicing for the national Wank-a-thon, because you'll be cracking that remote around at a rapid pace. In truth, there is some pleasure to be had in the fast-paced action, though it's a shame that the only real attempt at difficulty comes by way of the, "just throw as much at the player as possible" variety. Often, victory comes down to base attrition more than skill, especially when projectiles are being thrown at such a rapid pace that Finn literally cannot fire back without taking at least some damage, or enemies repeatedly knock him to the ground and hit him again as soon as he's stood up. Outside of these inelegant spikes of annoyance, the game remains fairly easy. Things get a little more interesting in the latter half of the game, once players have unlocked elemental spells to augment their standard issue bolts. Finn is drip-fed a range of spells corresponding to earth, ice, wind, fire, and lightning, with each elemental bolt behaving in a different manner. Even better, spells can be combined in a variety of ways to create deadly hybrid attacks. For instance, Finn can use the fire spell to draw a wall of flame in front of him, then shoot regular bolts through it to create fireballs, or he can summon a whirlwind and charge it with a lightning shot to create an electrical storm.  The tactical potential of spell combinations really opens up the combat, showing off a great deal of potential that could turn a mundane shooter into a compelling one. Sadly, that potential ends just a few yards from the starting gate, with only a handful of spell combos available and even less worth using. I also despise the method of spell selection, which is done by holding a button and waving the remote in one of five swirly directions, so similar to each other in motion that the game often selects the wrong one. It's almost depressing, how predictable these problems with motion controls are, and how unaware of them developers seem to be. It would be an easy fix -- have an actual selection wheel, a'la Ratchet & Clank, or something similar. You could even still keep the precious gestures that way. Instead, everything has to be done with swirly motions, because user-friendliness once again takes a back seat to gesture showboating.  One thing to really enjoy with Sorcery is the upgrade system. Finn doesn't level up in a traditional manner, but instead uses potions that enhance his abilities in a variety of ways. Potions are brewed by purchasing or finding ingredients and combining three of them, provided you have a potion bottle in your inventory. These potions increase health, mana, and the effectiveness of various spells, with a few joke upgrades thrown in for good measure (being able to turn into a pie ingredient, for example). Once the correct ingredients are discovered, players create the potion themselves by grinding, sprinkling, and stirring with the remote. They can then shake the Move and make a swigging motion in order to ingest. It's simple and silly, but I actually rather enjoyed the downtime between combat that the potion mixing provides. I just wish the same drinking motion wasn't required for health potions. There's nothing quite like having to wave one's arm around, utterly defenseless, in the middle of a fight.  Sorcery is not without its fun. At times, the frantic fighting can get a little exhilarating, and one can't help but love summoning a whirlwind, setting it on fire, and shooting the defenseless monsters trapped within the blazing storm. I also love how, for once, the colorful ball on the end of the PS Move actually corresponds to the gameplay. For instance, if you shake a health potion, the ball will glow a soft pink and gradually darken to a deep red, simulating the potion itself as it mixes and becomes consumable. Different potions and activities will cause the Move to glow in various colors, which may only be a minor aesthetic detail, but remains genuinely amusing.  Still, for all its promise, Sorcery is nowhere near good enough to justify the wait for a killer PlayStation Move title. In many ways, it still has that "tech demo" feel to it, a game of potential without much in the way of substance. Over the five or six hours it may take to beat, the game never evolves to any remarkable degree, and never becomes about the player as a masterful, powerful spellcaster. There are ideas, hints of brilliance, but no crescendo at the end of all that build. Perhaps if it had managed to launch alongside the Move in 2010, Sorcery might have looked better, but we're so far past the need for demonstrations of technology, and the Move needs games that capitalize on its potential, rather than simply showcase what could be. It's time motion control moved beyond the gimmick stage, if it can, but Sorcery seems content to still wallow in the mindset that gesture control exists simply to promote gesture control.  For those desperate to use their Move controllers in something exclusively centered around the Move, Sorcery provides a few hours of inanity that can be gratifying, if in a slightly underwhelming way. Still, the game's chaotic camera and unwieldy controls can frustrate, not to mention the alarming tendency for the PS Move to need consistent recalibration. Had more been done with its most promising features, and had it dropped the arrogant insistence on using gestures for almost everything, Sorcery could have been the hybrid of old and new game design that Sony promised. Instead, we're left with a game that, for all its possibilities, simply lacks the imagination to step beyond the same old experiences we've had before, along with the same old problems.
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Sorcery was announced before the PlayStation Move had even graced a store shelf, and it quickly became the most promising motion title out of Sony's small stable of software. Unfortunately, the spell-slinging adventure never ...

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PSN adds pre-purchase feature for Sorcery


May 18
// Jim Sterling
Are you excited about Sorcery? Can't wait to wave your arm around, over and over again? Do you have the money for it, and just can't wait to spend that son of a bitch? Well Sony has you covered, enabling Sorcery as the first ...
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Here's a story trailer for Sorcery


Apr 17
// Jim Sterling
Well how about that? Some actual footage of Sorcery to serve as a lovely Tuesday treat. This new trailer details the story, complete as it is with "hilarious" child-safe humor and a talking animal with attitude. No, there's ...

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Cram these Sorcery screens up your magic arse


Apr 12
// Jim Sterling
Sony's conjured up nine new screenshots for its upcoming PS Move game, Sorcery. I said "conjured" because it's a game about magic, and that was a funny joke. It's like a pun, or a play on words. Being good at words is what yo...
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Sorcery finally coming to PS3 on May 22


Mar 07
// Jim Sterling
The long-awaited Sorcery finally has a release date. Announced before the PlayStation Move was in stores, this waggle-fueled magic fest has been my sole reason for keeping Sony's glow-in-the-dark dildo around. At long last, S...
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Sony: Sorcery shows why Move is better than Wii, Kinect


Dec 16
// Jim Sterling
Arguing over which motion controller is better? What year are we in again? Sony has said that its upcoming magic 'em up Sorcery will prove that the PlayStation Move is superior to both the Wii and Kinect, claiming that it's m...

Preview: Sorcery

Dec 14 // Samit Sarkar
Sorcery (PlayStation Move) Developer: The Workshop Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Release: Spring 2012 Sorcery’s senior designer and creative director, Brian Upton, opened my demo by pointing out the principal difference between this and other motion-controlled games. “A lot of motion games basically boil down to Simon Says,” he told me, explaining that such games typically throw up gesture prompts at certain points and ask you to merely repeat those gestures in order to win. Sorcery is certainly a gesture-based experience as well, but it’s one that puts the onus on you to forge your way ahead with the tools at hand. The protagonist is a young sorcerer’s apprentice who’s just starting out in the world of wizardry. His master’s cat dares him to venture into Lochbarrow, the land of the undead, and -- being a carefree young farm boy -- he does. In this case, their curiosity only results in the apprentice accidentally unleashing the power of nightmare upon the world. So the two of them set off through the Faerie Realm to right this cosmic wrong, and perhaps do some growing up along the way. The cat serves as a feline Navi of sorts: she doesn’t participate in gameplay -- Upton assured me that “there are no escort missions” -- but provides hints and gives out bits of story. She has a deep knowledge of, and involvement in, the world; the bond between boy and cat intensifies over the course of the game. Upton showed me a world partway through the game called Endless Stair, and noted that for the purposes of the demo, the developers had armed the apprentice with abilities he wouldn’t actually have access to at that point in the full game. Endless Stair is a bright, colorful outdoor area, with an aesthetic that instantly reminded me of the PlayStation-era Spyro games (Upton could see where I was coming from, but told me that the team didn’t specifically take inspiration from that series). The apprentice came upon an open area with numerous bogies, the world’s basic grunt enemies, waiting to take him down. As a mage-like character, it behooves you to engage in mid-range combat, firing away with your projectiles and area-of-effect spells; enemies are much more dangerous at close range, and melee isn’t your strong suit. Upton made quick work of the bogies, showing off a variety of elemental attacks.Arcane Bolt is your standard projectile attack; you can fire straight ahead, or twist the Move wand in your hand for an arcing shot. It becomes much more powerful when combined with other elements. Upton laid down a trail of fire -- which you are impervious to -- and then shot bolts through the flames to set enemies alight. He then switched to wind and whipped up a “Firenado” after throwing down some more fire. I can think of few things more terrifying than a flaming vortex careening toward me, and indeed, it proved supremely effective against bogies hiding behind rocks. You also have ice powers at your disposal, which allow you to encase enemies in blocks of ice (for shattering with Arcane Bolt) or slow them down with a gradual area-of-effect frost. Switching between elements requires quick gestures with the wand while the Move button is held down. (Upton told me that in light of focus testing feedback, The Workshop will implement button controls for spell switching.) However, he asserted that “once you learn [the gesture system], it’s really, really fast, and lets you do these powerful combos.” The team also noticed during focus testing that players who were familiar with motion games immediately began to waggle furiously, firing off many bolts in quick succession. Sorcery goes out of its way to teach players not to do that; while the game doesn’t get too difficult, Upton warned, “If you just spam bolts, you will die.” After defeating his foes, Upton picked up a sigil fragment that one of the bogies had dropped. He then brought it to a group of broken rocks and used a mending spell to patch up the stone. Stepping on it opened up a portal to a new area, with a chest and a large urn from which water dripped. The gold that Upton looted from the chest can be used to purchase potion ingredients from an alchemist, and the alchemy system allows you to brew dozens of different potions that bestow upgrades upon you when consumed. Your other main ability is telekinesis; Upton used it to rip off the urn’s lid, flooding the area below. The control method, with a Move wand in your right hand and a Navigation Controller (or DualShock 3) in your left, feels good. Yet Sorcery offers limited camera control and no lock-on targeting; when I expressed trepidations about that to Upton, he dismissed my concerns. The pinpoint control that PlayStation Move offers, he said, obviates the need for the control scheme seen in typical third-person action games. Sorcery manages the camera for you, and Move is accurate enough to ask players to simply aim where they want their attacks to go. In my experience, it didn’t quite work as Upton described. Then again, I did inadvertently rotate the Move controller “backward” in my hand (with my thumb, rather than my index finger, near the trigger), which throws off the Move’s targeting. It was much smoother sailing once I fixed the wand’s orientation. Either way, the development team is still tweaking the targeting, and I hope it’ll be as good as it needs to be by the time the game launches next spring.
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I imagine our Reviews Editor, Jim Sterling, isn’t alone in yearning for PlayStation Move-exclusive titles beyond the scope of minigame collections and tech demos. Sony announced one such game, Sorcery, back at E3 2010, ...

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Long-awaited Move title Sorcery revealed in December


Nov 15
// Jim Sterling
It seems fitting that the one PlayStation Move game I've truly cared about is the one PlayStation Move game that disappeared off the face of the Earth. Sorcery is the kind of title that you'd think the Move would have been al...
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PS Move game Sorcery is still in development


Jun 27
// Jim Sterling
Of all the PlayStation Move games touted before the peripheral's launch, Sorcery looked the most interesting. Stands to reason, then, that it isn't out and was a total no-show at this year's E3. Heaven forbid an interesting g...

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