The final chapter in a saga can easily be a bittersweet part. While I rarely find it unfortunate if a game ends early, as I find it more common for them to go on longer than needed, books and series that I find charming, usually end too soon for my liking. Sorcery! has had a very comfortable length for my taste and with the last chapter around the corner, I was looking forward to the final map to traverse over, but also sad to think that this was really the final chapter. Does it end on a high note?
The journey is as important as the finale
Your adventure has come to its last stretch. In front of you are short mountain-paths with the Citadel of Mampang at the top, where the Archmage who has the Crown of Kings you seek resides. Being alone in a land that feels both barren and rich, with a society you will be uncertain on what to make of, creates a good sense of paranoia and tension. It is very interesting to encounter creatures, get an idea of what the town is like and who this Archmage really is. The characters you will meet are, as before, well written, interesting, and scenarios lead to a lot of interesting outcomes depending on your choices and cunning. There might not be as many interesting events as before, but certainly enough to be engaging and entertaining.
However, this installment relies heavily on that you have played previous titles, as familiar characters will appear again. It does not destroy the tale if you are new to this series, as they still give you a decent introduction to them without it being forced, but the finale means so much more if you have experienced the story from the beginning. If not, you will still find these characters intriguing and the story provides a harsh ending, but also makes it lighthearted and even pokes fun indirectly at a certain similar end-portion.
Story Score: 8/10
Resurrection has its cost
If I have not sounded like a broken record yet, I hope I won’t start doing so here. That is highly unlikely as we are in the fourth episode of this gamebook-series. With an overworld map, you guide your character towards marked destinations and choose what path you wish to take and how to react to events. The options you are provided can be social, using items or magic, attack, or possibly more, though cunning goes a long way.
As before, this is a visual novel with a stamina-counter representing your health, and you must eat rations every day to keep it up or even to heal it. Gold is the currency for trade and you can find items which vary in uses, such as dealing with creatures, traversing obstacles or for using magic. Like before, you are given a set of letters depending on the star sign of the day, and with those you can combine three letters to cast spells, such as ZAP for lightning or SUN to make an area light up. These don’t come cheap however and will require either a portion of your stamina or certain items, so you can’t use them recklessly. You can also pray to these star signs for guidance or health, but they won’t answer for a while after you have done this.
Combat is still present with each opponent having an attack-bar that depletes depending on how strong they make their attacks. You and your opponent will attack at the same time and the one with the highest strength deals the damage. However, as it depletes, you won’t be able to make stronger attacks and must make small attacks or defend to make it recharge. This simple mechanic holds up still and is great fun, however combat is rarely used as you are set in a dangerous world and your sword can only get you so far, especially against creatures that can kill you instantly. Death has rarely been a ginormous issue in previous installments as you could rewind to previous points in your journey and redo mistakes or battles.While this could be misused, it was hard to do so since every mistake could lead you to new events that would prove worthwhile and unique.
However as soon as you reach the town in this game, you will be unable to rewind and each death will send you back to a checkpoint and make you lose one point of your maximum stamina. This is a decent idea on paper as the safety net you once had is now gone and you feel huge pressure as you cannot be too reckless. Sadly, this can also make the game feel repetitive as you will enter segments where you will die multiple times and not be sure on what to do, all while losing important stamina. You will keep what you acquired before you died, so it can mean easier progress, but it is a shame this was not better constructed as it can be a damper on the final stretch.
As a final chapter though, it provides the essential parts of what we have come to expect from previous entries, with multiple choices, acquiring knowledge, and smart approaches being rewarded. It adds a new feature that makes the experience more intense and while it can provide new ideas each time you fail and is thankfully used only for the last part of the game, it still can become repetitive and somewhat frustrating when you are not sure what you did exactly wrong.
Gameplay Score: 6.5/10
We have gone from the 3D maps and onto a well-made construction of the mountain, with the walled up city map and castle on top of it, highlighting perfectly that this is the last stretch of your journey. While this area does not contain much variation other than grey rocks and the castle itself, they both serve as good visuals with a lot of minor details to be engaging and finding worthwhile paths to take. Though without much colors, there is a lack of personality in the black and white figurines representing you and the pictures, which describes the more unique creatures and events. It is not a deal-breaker, but it was more interesting when the colors were strong and in good contrast to represent the gamebook and old tabletop setup, though these images are still impressive due to their fine details and your figurine will even change looks if you wear a disguise. The more barren land, makes it feel more threatening, so it serves its purpose. I still think more could have been done to make this land more visually interesting.
The track in the beginning is excellent and gives a sense that this is the final stretch with a huge emphasis on trumpets and darker tones. The lovely chimes of casting spells and drums while fighting, adds to their importance when the rest of the game is filled with ambient sounds similar to the titles before. The soundtrack is now filled with a lot of more distant sounds, showcasing the tall mountain you are traversing over, and the lonely atmosphere. Even when people are in town, you sense that it is quiet, making it hard to connect to this world and thus, effectively adding to this lonely atmosphere.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Is this the end?
Like the story, to get most out of the different endings, it is strongly recommended that you have played earlier entries to get more insight on the journey and more options for the ending. There are still tons of things to explore and learn more about, and the New Game Plus gives even more secrets to uncover and makes the journey more challenging, but the other games add so much if you have them already on your device.
Extra Score: 7/10
Compared to previous titles, this installment relies much more on your experiences with the rest of the series. This is understandable as this is the final chapter, but it definitely could have added more for the newcomers to make them feel more connected to the plot and the adventure. The idea to remove rewinding is interesting, but can also make the adventure feel more restricted as failing does not lead to interesting scenarios necessarily and it is not always clear what you should have done instead. Still, if you have experienced the previous entries, this is a worthy finale. Think of this as skipping to the end of a great book.