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Sorcery hands-on preview

Sony really wants to make the PS Move something you can care about with The Workshop’s upcoming May 22, 2012 release, Sorcery. The game made its debut at E3 2010, but it was largely absent from the public eye after that until late last year. The third-person action-adventure puts players in the role of a youthful sorcerer’s apprentice who inadvertently releases a great evil into the Faerie Kingdoms. One day master sorcerers will learn to keep nice things out of reach of their young pups, but today is not the day.

The Move-based “gimmick” with Sorcery is that you’re using the Move controller as a real world analogue for the apprentice’s magic wand. You essentially get to make like Harry Potter, waving the wand around wildly, and producing a variety of effects as you do. The nav controller is used to guide your character through the 3D levels — the auto-centering camera does a decent job of holding its own — and uncover the hidden secrets of the Faerie Kingdoms.

I got to run through most of one of the game’s later levels at a recent Sony preview event. There are six elemental-based combat spells that you’ll unlock over the course of the game, and I had the chance to try out five of them: fire, ice, wind, earth, and arcane bolts, which is your basic “Magic Missile” type of attack. The sixth spell is lightning, the last one to be unlocked–and from what I’m told, the most powerful.

What’s cool about Sorcery — and this is where playing one of the later levels became important — is that different enemies call for different spellcasting tactics. There are basic elemental-empowered enemies that you’ll want to use the opposing element on (ie fire beats ice, ice beats fire). Some carry elemental shields which you can use a spell to destroy. It’s all straightforward enough until you find yourself in an arena facing off against a variety of enemy types; that’s when strategy comes into play.

The level I ran through was set in the thick, overgrown Faerie Forest, a place populated by spiders and nymph-like magic-using creatures. The heart of Sorcery‘s combat is built around spell combos. You can, for example, fire off a whirlwind to suck in enemies and spin them around. Why just settle for that when you can also launch a bunch of fireballs into the swirling nexus, dealing out added damage to anything you’ve ensnared?

As the level continues to unfold, more wrinkles are added to the mix. Some of the nymphs use fire spells; others use ice spells. Eventually, I’m facing off against groups that include both varieties, along with more of those spiders. The auto-targeting works reasonably well even without and real manual camera control. I sometimes sent a spell spinning out at the wrong enemy type, but that really only happened when the two targets were only a short distance from one another.

There’s no question that the game is relatively simple overall, but it does make good use of the Move. Most of your spells have two basic uses: a direct, frontal casting, triggered by flicking forward with the wand, or a more area of effect-oriented casting that you pull off with a left-right/right-left flourish. Switching between spells is also based on swipe motions, with a pop-up menu pausing the game while you swap one armed spell for another.

Adding some depth to the proceedings is an upgrade system based on your character’s ability to brew potions. As you play, you’ll gather various ingredients that can be combined with a hard-to-find glass bottle to create a potion that offers one buff or another, anything from enhanced effectiveness for one of your spells to bonuses whenever you use a healing item. There are slightly less than 60 potions in all, but you’ll only be able to brew up a handful over the course of a game, which adds some weight to the choices you’ll make

That about sums it up for Sorcery. It looks and sounds like a somewhat run-of-the-mill action-adventure with light RPG elements, but it’s difficult to describe how holding the Move wand in your hand adds to the overall experience. The real test will come in a few weeks when fans and critics get to tear through the game in full for the first time. There’s a good amount of promise here though in the basic controls. Be sure to check out Ryan’s GDC 2012 hands-on Sorcery preview for a more detailed rundown of the game’s motion controls.

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