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About the StoryAn adaptation of a print-based game book originally published in 1983, updated for modern touch-screen devices. The player quests across a fantasy map, dealing with all sorts of encounters using a text-based choice system. Character stats, a turn-based combat mini-game, and a rules-bending magic system all add twists to the tale.
From the game's App Store description:
"From legendary designer Steve Jackson, co-founder of Lionhead Studios (with Peter Molyneux), and Fighting Fantasy and Games Workshop (with Ian Livingstone); and inkle, the studio behind the award-winning, App Store featured Frankenstein, Sorcery! is an interactive adventure like never before.
The app uses inklewriter technology to tell your journey in real-time, shaping the story around your choices. The text itself changes based on how you play and what you do, and in combat, the action is description on the fly based on how you play.
Featuring original illustrations by John Blanche, new character art by Eddie Sharam (DC Comics), an interactive map by Mike Schley (Wizards of the Coast) and music by David Wise (Donkey Kong Country)."
Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2013 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 3
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While the prose is solid, as literature Sorcery! doesn't have high aspirations. It's a post-Tolkienian hero's journey, heavily shaped by the school of RPG design that's all about individual, discrete encounters. There is an overarching story, but it boils down to "retrieve the immensely powerful artefact, save the world: to do this you will need to traverse most of the map." The hero is a blank, and the moral range is the familiar RPG dichotomy of "help people, or be a heartless mercenary." But within this overworked genre, it occupies a pretty specific style, with a grimy swords-and-sorcery feel.
The art from the original book has a huge influence on this: it's from a school of 1980s British fantasy art, all hippies-gone-heavy-metal, macabre and hideous, wherein everyone looks monstrous and threatening. Given how much of the contemporary reworkings of medieval fantasy sanitise and soften the era, this is kind of refreshing: it's a world of disease, deformity and desperation, where you're much more likely to catch the plague than to own a suit of shiny plate-mail. Unlike some of Jackson's gamebooks, The Shamutanti Hills is actually not a totally hostile world - allies and neutrals are by no means uncommon, if rarely straightforward - but the art style constantly hints at something nastier and more alien. (The more recent elements of the art, while capable and well-integrated, are a good deal less flavourful.) Much of the original art is finely-detailed enough that it's not really shown to best effect on a phone-sized device.
But about that hostility level: the design of the original is very much derived from a style of tabletop RPGs in which the GM is primarily an antagonist, not a guide, play is meant to be challenging. Like many of Steve Jackson's gamebooks, it actively works to instill paranoia in the player, but sometimes punishes paranoia. Enemies can be allies in disguise, or vice versa. Cues about the better decision are not to be trusted.
The combat is a big improvement from the gamebook version, which (in my faulty memory) mostly consisted of repeatedly rolling dice until someone was dead. The new mechanic is intuitive, not trivially easy, and involves some real tactical decisions. The gloss and guesswork of the magic system is far less worthwhile. Sometimes the adaptation isn't entirely smooth - you can play a male or female character, but there are certain romance-edged scenes that were clearly written with the assumption that the protagonist is male. But in other places the additions are just right, often in ways that make play less brutal - the rewind mechanic allows you to UNDO to any point along your journey, which is super-convenient.
Overall, Sorcery! is a strong and professional-feeling adaptation, and the things that prevent me from being a wholehearted fan of it are largely to do with the goals of the source material: it's a genre that I'm kind of burnt out on, and it's modeled after a style of role-playing of which I am unfond.
The folks at inkle have done a spectacular job translating them for iOS, keeping the spirit of the original works intact while allowing you to be able to play the books w/o lugging around dice and pencils. That being said - I wasn't entirely thrilled with how much easier this version plays, being able to quickly save/restore made my playtime with this version a much quicker experience. I was also disappointed that I didn't have to memorize the spells - which I did studiously as a youngster.
That being said, from retaining the original illustrations to the fun mechanic of seeing your character move throughout the fantasy land, I believe inkle did a fantastic job.
Side note - this isn't traditional IF, it's a CYOA adventure translated to a graphical UI for iOS.
A beautifully gorgeous text game with excellent combat/magic systems, February 3, 2016
You have stamina, gold, rations, spells, etc. The spells are cast by using up some stamina and selecting 3-letter words out of a cloud of letters. The available words differ quite a bit from situation to situation.
The combat system involves guessing a number at the same time as your opponent, trying to beat them without using up too much of your strength. It ends up being a sort of dance between attack and defend.
There are numerous side quests; the main quest can be finished extremely quickly, while one side quest took up an hour of gameplay by itself.
Highly, highly recommended.
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