After impressing PC and mobile gamers with its brilliant storytelling for nearly ten years, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery has now made its ways to consoles, bringing with it all four parts in one neat package. As a long-time fan of the classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style of books, it’s surprising that I’ve taken this long to finally jump into the game. What better time than now with its release on the Nintendo Switch?
Check out some screenshots below:
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery puts players in the role of an adventurer who must defeat the vicious Archmage in order to recover the prized Crown of Kings. This means heading on a dangerous journey across the land, with the decisions players make determining just how successful it will be (and, in many cases, what sort of perils they’ll find themselves facing). It’s a wondrous tale that isn’t shy in embracing the fantasy tropes we’ve seen across all forms of media over the years, but the brilliant writing and creative scenarios players find themselves in ensure that they’ll be fully engrossed until the journey comes to an end.
Be warned though: this is a VERY text-heavy experience. Steve Jackson’s Sorcery is based upon the book series of the same name, and believe me, it’ll certainly feel like you’re reading a book at times. It isn’t a bad thing at all and it makes the narrative all the more engrossing (something that’s owed to that aforementioned brilliant writing), but you’ll have to be ready to do a whole lot of word guzzling across each of the game’s four parts.
The thing I loved the most about the game was the choices it offers the player. Almost every situation faced in the game can be affected by the player’s choices and, in many cases, these choices can lead to your death. Whether stumbling down the wrong alley in a city, rubbing up an NPC the wrong way with your dialogue choice, or entering a building and finding a vicious monster roaming inside, there are so many ways to accidentally meet your doom and bring your adventure to a halt. Of course, there are also plenty of ways in which your choices can prove incredibly beneficial, with the risks-and-rewards of any given situation unclear at first. With so many ways for events to pan out and your decisions having a lasting effect on what’s to come, it’s hard not to find yourself loving the freedom and fully immersing yourself in the experience. The adventure truly feels like your own, and whilst there are clearly right and wrong ways to approach it, the endless possibilities it offers ensure that the player really does put their own personal touch on things.
“Almost every situation faced in the game can be affected by the player’s choices and, in many cases, these choices can lead to your death.”
There’s more to the game than just reading and making choices though, with combat and dice-rolling mini-games showing up along the way. Combat isn’t especially complex, with the actions of enemies narrated and the player then having to spend stamina points to attack or defend. If you counter your opponent’s move and assign more points, you’ll land damage (and save yourself from getting hurt). Simple.
If I’m being honest, combat is probably the weakest aspect of the entire experience, with a lot of encounters just feeling like guesswork and hoping you don’t run out of the stamina points required to better your opponent’s actions. I would have rather seen the game using a dice-rolling mechanic in a similar vein to Nomad Games’ Fighting Fantasy video game adaptations, if only to make battles more intriguing and fun. Sure, it would have meant a bit more RNG which I know isn’t always appreciated in titles like this, but it would have been truer to the books and a bit more exciting.
You remember how in the old days you could simply turn back the pages when a choice you make goes wrong in a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book? Well, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery isn’t ignorant to the fact that players would have done that and has introduced its own rewind mechanic to help you out when you find yourself in a precarious situation. This robust mechanic lets you switch back to your previous decisions, ensuring that instead of being punished for your missteps, you can instead learn from them and take a different course of action. Nobody wants to have to play the whole experience all over again when they die, so this fixes that and ensures players really can get the most out of the game – it’s something that I MASSIVELY appreciated.
Check out some screenshots below:
There are other ways in which Steve Jackson’s Sorcery helps streamline the book experience to make it more accessible, whether that’s by making it easier to manage stats when levelling up, mapping out the world as you travel across it, or simply keeping record of the magic you have obtained and how it’s utilised. Magic isn’t exclusive to combat in this world and can instead be used to help you out of some stifling situations, so it’s nice to see it’s so easily manageable. And trust me, some of the ways that magic is used can be truly wonderful in the storytelling, so be sure not to neglect it.
It all comes together to make for an utterly compelling storytelling experience where the player really does get to choose their own adventure. It looks the part too, with the visuals managing to capture the essence of the of the books with the mixture of static illustrations and an interactive world. It’ll definitely tick all the right boxes for players who spent time with the books back in the day.
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery offers a wonderful take on the classic book series, with the seemingly endless possibilities that the adventure offers sure to keep players engrossed from start to end. I loved being a part of the world and seeing what sort of wild situations I’d find myself in (and working out the most unusual ways to get out of them), whilst being able to rewind my decisions ensured that frustrations were kept to a minimum when things DID go wrong – and believe me, you can expect to die a lot.
It is a shame that the instances of combat could be a little dull and repetitive, but the game manages to nail it where it matters the most: the storytelling. If you’re a fan of the books or are simply looking for an endearing narrative-driven adventure that’ll hook you in, you won’t want to miss out on Steve Jackson’s Sorcery.
Developer: Inkle, No Gravity Games
Publisher: No Gravity Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC