Sony Move enthusiasts will rejoice next month when their beloved Sorcery, the long-awaited title touted as The Reason to own a Move, is finally released on May 22nd. If they were anything but gamers, you’d probably see them rapturously dancing in the streets. Instead they’ll be holed up in their living rooms flailing Move wands like closet Harry Potter addicts.
A light at the end of the tunnel
And as well they should—after an impressive showing at E3 2010, the publicity on Sorcery went dark for eighteen months, generating doubt that the project would come to fruition. When these doubts reached the feelers of developer The Workshop in June 2011, Sony responded feebly, “Yes, Sorcery is still in development.” Fans continued to doubt—perhaps it was better to prepare for the worst, and if the game never saw the light of day, there would be some comfort in a resounding “I told you so!”
But in December they were happily proven wrong. Sony confirmed Sorcery for a spring 2012 release and gave some explanation for the publicity silence. Design director Brian Upton told Playstation Blog,
Coming out of E3, we knew there were some things we weren’t happy with… What we showed at E3 was largely organized around a dungeon crawl, and we realized we didn’t want that. We wanted a full-blown fantasy world, not a series of tunnels. A lot of our re-tooling involved moving the action gameplay into a more free-flowing space. The E3 version also had a much younger hero, and the enemies were a lot more cartoonish. We though, ‘you know, we have a game here that would appeal to a hardcore PlayStation gamer…and it looks a little bit like Spyro!’ [laughs] We didn’t want people to get the wrong impression, so we wanted to bring the visuals in-line with the gameplay.
I believe that’s code for, “Oh crap! We didn’t realize how much pressure was on this game to be awesome. We’d better, uh, do that.”
On Tuesday Upton posted a new Sorcery trailer on the Playstation Blog. A fussy old sorcerer named Dash introduces his apprentice Finn and Finn’s magical cat Erline (sounds like airline) who embodies your typical saucy animal companion, like Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service or Donkey from Shrek. In fact, based on this trailer, Sorcery seems to have taken quite a few tricks from the Shrek playbook: goofy characters light-heatedly banter while growing close to one another as they set out on a deliberately-cliché quest—in Sorcery’s case, to defeat the Nightmare Queen who wants to cover the fairy land in eternal darkness. Based on Shrek’s success, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Despite the delay between the E3 demo and the game’s release, developer The Workshop contends that the core gameplay hasn’t altered much from what fans saw back in 2010. The Move is still reputedly the most fine-tuned of the motion control consoles, and Sorcery aims to show it off at its best. For example, as seen in the E3 demo, the player’s personal style with the Move controller will affect both the power and trajectory of Finn’s Arcane Bolts.
Additionally, The Workshop also got creative with the ways that different spells affect enemies. Arcane bolts can be shot in a bent trajectory to hit enemies around corners. Fire spells are effective against large swarms of enemies. Frost can be used to freeze and disable potent targets. You can also combine spells. For example, you can use Frost to freeze enemies and then shatter them with the Arcane Bolts. Or you can cast Fire, create a Whirlwind, then push the whirlwind through the fire which turns it into a firestorm. There seem to be quite a few options, and the game appears to reward creative tinkering with spell types.
Another cool gameplay element in the E3 demo is the Polymorph Rat Potion . Finn shakes up the potion (which changes color when it’s ready), tips it back, and – voila! He’s a rat now and can access a small tunnel previously inaccessible to his human form. This reminded me of Samus curling into a ball and rolling through cramped Metroid spaces, and Kameo with her myriad beast forms—awesome elements from awesome games.
Happily ever after?
Sony has put a lot of pressure on Sorcery as one of its key Move titles, and as a title that will open a can of whoopass on Wii and Kinect motion control games. For many gamers, Sorcery is the reason they bought a Move in the first place. Hopefully the extended development phase was sufficient for The Workshop to beef Sorcery up to its own hype.