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Hands-on with Sorcery, the PlayStation Move wand-waving adventure

18 April 2012

Do you know where your PlayStation Move controller is? It took me three days to find my rude-shaped peripheral before I could play Sorcery. That really boils down to the fact that there just hasn't been many games that have excited me enough to get it out and wave it around like a glow-stick at a rave. Indeed, Sony’s motion-sensing peripheral hasn’t exactly set the PlayStation world alight.

Though I have enjoyed a few moments during my time with Move, in particular getting naked and watching myself doing squat thrusts on the screen next to a former Spice Girl in Get Fit With Mel B, I’m still waiting for that game that really takes advantage of Move’s technology and encourages the masses to dust off their glowing balls in anticipation. From the moment Sorcery was announced, I’ve had high hopes that it may be the game to do just that.

Taking the role of a young sorcerer’s apprentice, tasked with saving the homeland from the evil Nightmare Queen and her minions, players journey through the Faerie Kingdom using a magic wand to blast away enemies. Sorcery is essentially a third-person shooter in which you use the Move controller to cast a range of spells. Though exploration is encouraged through the search for alchemy ingredients to upgrade your powers – and minor puzzle-solving tasks, such as having to levitate a rock to make a pathway through a cavern – Sorcery is largely about the spell-casting battles against a decent range of enemy-types and bosses.

             

The action begins with the introduction of an arcane power spell which unleashes a ball of energy that zaps the health of enemies. Taking a few hits to drain an enemy’s power bar, which appears above their head, gameplay involves clearing the pathway or arena of creatures before heading to the next area where the next bout of wand-waving combat inevitably kicks in.

In the initial stages there are many ranged battles that require you to point Move at the screen and press the’ T’ button to unleash a spell, but the apprentice can also use a shield to batter enemies when close by. So far though, the enemies that I've bumped into don’t seem too bright in terms of the way they respond to your attacks. In fact, they generally run toward you or stand out in the open from a distance. There's little cover in the game, so combat largely involves keeping on the move and shooting frantically in the right direction.

Thanks to an automatic lock-on system there’s also no real need to do much more than point your controller roughly in the right direction before shooting; and, nine times out of ten, you'll hit your opponent. It feels like the opportunity has been missed to implement a variety of flicks and gesture-based combat moves to make the battles more tactical, and more wizard-like. The skill factor largely comes down to having to react quickly with the navigation controller to make sure you're facing the right way; which can be tricky when multiple opponents attack from various angles. 

              

Judging from my play-through so far, gameplay is very simple to grasp and the lack of real challenge is a concern. There are signs though that things may get more in-depth later on. As you progress you get access to powers that relate to the four elements: wind, fire, ice and water. This gives you the freedom to experiment and combine powers. Though this is largely unnecessary to progress through many of the areas that I've played so far - which require nothing more than point and shoot tactics - there are moments where you do have to choose the right power and can combine these spells. At one moment, for example, I froze an enemy into a block of ice and then switched spells to shatter the cube and kill him with one blast.

Conjuring up a whirlwind, or creating a fiery wall that enemies will run into makes for some visually attractive battles that create some sparks of excitement, and it's during the more intense battles that Sorcery shows its fun side. When things do get manic, when you’re attacked from all angles, there's some senseless enjoyment out of trying to avoid projectiles while blasting away furiously.

The action does get more intense as your progress too and there are signs that the final released version of Sorcery will offer more depth and challenge in the later stages. Largely, whether this happens or not, will depend on whether enemies get tougher to beat to balance out the fact that you can upgrade spells along the way. Throughout your journey you can pick up alchemy ingredients like Troll Sweat and in the mixing screen can combine ingredients to boost powers. It offers a welcome change of pace to the action and mixing ingredients together, while using the Move controller to pour potions into a cauldron fits in nicely with the whole wizarding theme.

              

At this preview stage though, I’m not overly excited about the finished product. Though there are some gesture-based movements in the game where you can interact with objects, it's only during these moments that I felt anything like a wizard. For the most part, it felt like I was playing a shooter, and an average one at that. I’m sure Sorcery is going to appeal to the younger generation of more casual gamers, or perhaps those with an interest in wizards, or gamers looking for an accessible pick up and play title that utilises Move, but I’ve got the feeling that my controller is about to get even dustier.


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