by Steve Jackson and inkle

Episode 1 of Steve Jackson's Sorcery!
Fantasy, RPG

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fine but inessential start of the series, July 14, 2018
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

The Sorcery! games are recreations of four of Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. In this first instalment of the series, the gamebook origins are still quite obvious: you journey through a rather literal 'garden of forking paths', making relatively unmotivated choices between one road and another, and dealing with the creatures and situations that you happen to come across. Continuity is provided mostly through your inventory and health. If you find a giant's tooth here, you'll be able to use it later; if you lose much health in this fight, you might not survive the next. Otherwise there is little in the way of a coherent narrative to bind all the events together.

This means that at bottom the game is a learn-from-previous-attempts exercise in optimisation. You won't be able to follow all paths; some paths are more lucrative or less dangerous than others; some paths may open new options later; and the challenge is to find a way through the game that gets you to the end with a maximum of useful items (to be used in the next part of the series).

Of course, in the original gamebooks, the challenge was less one of optimisation and more one of survival. Death could come swiftly and unexpectedly, and the non-cheating player would usually need many playthroughs to achieve victory. However, the electronic Sorcery! makes some very welcome changes to the original format. Combat is less random and the game allows you to redo fights if they went badly. If that isn't enough, there is a handy system for going back to any previous point in the game. While this makes Sorcery! much easier than the book on which it is based, this is a welcome change -- especially if you are not a kid in the 80's with limited access to games and limitless amounts of free time.

Sorcery! looks quite beautiful even on a mobile phone, even though the modern art doesn't mesh that well with the original pictures from the gamebooks. (I would have preferred to see this original 'ugly' style of fantasy, where people are likely to be dressed in rags and deformed by diseases, throughout the game.) The writing is good, though nor particularly distinctive.

Should you play Sorcery!? If you have any fondness for gamebooks, or just enjoy a nice combat-filled fantasy romp, the answer is probably affirmative. (I bought the game for 5.49 euros, and that seems okay.) But the best reason for playing Sorcery! is that it is a good introduction to Sorcery! 2, a game that is much, much better, and that I would wholeheartedly recommend.