I didn't feel like a magician, sorcerer, witcher, or warlock after playing through a combat demo of Sony's PlayStation Move-exclusive game, Sorcery, at a recent NYC press event. I wasn't sure how I felt, actually. The game didn't leave a huge impact on me, and perhaps that's telling as Sorcery doesn't seem to be remarkably deep or impressive, as much as it is fine.
When working on this preview, I was asked if Sorcery's Move mechanic "felt like a tech demo," as so many games for the PlayStation Move have (The Shoot , The Fight: Lights Out, and Sports Champions come to mind). "It feels deeper than that," I responded. "But not by much." As it turns out, that phrase is pretty representative of my whole experience with Sorcery.
Here's the elevator pitch for Sorcery that I was given at the opening of the two level demo:
"What we're trying to do with [Sorcery], is that a lot of motion-controlled games are really just about playing 'Simon Says.' You're told to do a gesture, you do the gesture. You're told to do another gesture, you do that gesture. We want to do something that is much more like a regular video game, where you have a set of tools you can use, spells that you can cast, but there's a variety of different ways to solve any particular combat situation." - Brian Upton, creative lead at The WorkshopUpton's right on in one sense -- my demo didn't force me to nail certain gestures at any given moment outside of a few puzzle moments (though my actions were absolutely gesture-based and not one-to-one), and the gameplay didn't have a "Simon Says" feel to it. As I moved the player avatar around the screen using a DualShock 3's analog stick, my right hand quickly and intuitively picked up what I should be doing, namely flicking the main Move controller in the general direction of enemies close and far with my other hand.
It's the toolset analogy that Upton relates where things started falling apart for me. Even with four spells at my disposal (whirlwind, fire, ice, and a general projectile -- many more than I should have had at that point in the game) and the ability to combine them, the gimmick fell flat almost immediately. Enemies ran into my fire tornadoes or frozen projectiles without hesitation, and the concept of cover was rarely necessary, if it was available at all.
Like Harry Potter's two encounters with the Deathly Hallows from EA's Bright Light studio, Sorcery seems to be a third-person shooter steeped in a fantasy world instead of being a game about wizardry, as the title indicates. I'm told there will be some form of crafting of collected and bought items, and your character's powers will change over time, though none of that was on display at last week's event.
With a just announced "spring 2012" launch window, though, we'll see much more of Sorcery in the coming months. How much it improves in the next half year remains to be seen -- it depends on how good those magicians at The Workshop are.