Steve Jackson’s “SORCERY! Part 2: Khare Cityport of Traps” Review

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Man I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books. They were like the gateway drug into Role Playing Games. When you’re the weird loner kid in grade-school, you haven’t quite gotten the confidence yet to bond with the other weird loner kids. So what did you do? You found other RPGs to play yourself, like the Lone Wolf books (still some of my favorites) and of course, Steve Jackson’s (the OG SJ, co-founder of Games Workshop and Lionhead Studios) SORCERY! series.

These days, most of these books are rather hard to find. The few out there who have decent copies are hesitant to part with them at any price. Who could blame them? These were better than solitaire!

Now, thanks to Steve Jackson himself, and Inkle Studios, we can relive the original SORCERY!  series on Android and iOS devices!!

185px-Steve2Says Jackson:
The Sorcery! gamebook series was an epic project which took up a significant portion of my life between 1983-1985. I have always wanted it to be brought up to date with 21st Century technology. But only with the right developer. In entrusting Sorcery! digital future to inkle I am confident they will not only be able to convert the original adventure faithfully to digital formats but also that they will take it beyond the original into new realms. Those who have seen their re-working of the Frankenstein story will know what I mean. This is not just a straight translation of the original books to iOS. This will be a brand new Sorcery! experience.

android-devices Some of the more interesting “selling points” of the SORCERY! games are:

  • Plot your own journey across a hand-drawn 3D world map
  • Fully interactive story, with 1000s of choices
  • The story is rewritten on the fly based on how you play
  • Play as a male or female adventurer
  • Unique touch-based sword-duelling, with procedurally-generated descriptions of the action
  • Outwit monsters by learning their weaknesses and tells
  • 48 magic spells to master, with weird and wonderful effects that change the story
  • In Part 2: outwit the citizens of Kharé at Swindlestones, a game of lies and deceit

One more point of interest here that inkle surprisingly left off their list of features is that you can save your completed quest to the cloud and use your same character to continue in the next game!

As I got into the first lines of this game, I was immediately transported back. The words, the original art, *sigh*, it was a magical experience. The best part? It was EXACTLY what I hoped it would be. A  graphically charged, interactive version of the book.

Illustration2Now instead of text alone (though, as an avid reader there’s nothing wrong with that), you do combat, cast spells, and traverse the map, based of course, on the information provided to you about what you see down either path.

During your adventure, you’ll encounter many interesting characters and places. Much like reading a book, the appearance of most of these will be left to your imagination, but here and there, you’ll be treated to John Blanche’s excellent artwork from the Sorcery! books. His pieces really bring back the old school feel of the “good ol’ days” of pen & paper RPGs. This was the type of art that filled my sketchbooks in junior high. It may not look that great at first glance, but the more you admire it, the more you miss it in today’s genre medium.

The combat is done via a fun “drag for power”, turned based format. Each opponent, creature or otherwise, has a specific series of text that, once sorted, will guide you through a successful fight…or to your fate, if you read them wrong.

The spell-casting in the game is just as mysterious as it was in the books. Upon choosing to cast a spell, you’re transported skyward to form your magic word from the stars. Creating each spell takes combining letters to form any number of “words” available at the time. Some spells require specific items you can find during your quest, some just require a sacrifice of stamina.

Werewolf in armor....as if they weren't hard enough to defeat as is...

Werewolf in armor….as if they weren’t hard enough to defeat as is…

Another fun aspect is your spirit animal, or any of the Gods you might come across, joining themselves with you to lend a hand along your journey. Some are benevolent, some malicious, choose carefully….or don’t! That’s part of the fun!

The first game, Steve Jackon’s SORCERY!: The Shamutanti Hills is summed up thus:

Your search for the legendary Crown of Kings takes you to the Shamutanti Hills. Alive with evil creatures, lawless wanderers and bloodthirsty monsters, the land is riddled with tricks and traps waiting for the unwary traveller. Will you be able to cross the hills safely and proceed to the second part of the adventure – or will you perish in the attempt?

"Oh the places you'll go!"

“Oh the places you’ll go!”

In part two, you are to travel through the city of Khare, a sinister hive of scum and villainy. The once great city has fallen to pieces with the disappearance of it’s council of nobles, the four of which each hold a line of a spell that is needed to open the North Gate and permit you to move on to the next part of your journey…..but you have to keep one thing in mind, things are rarely as simple or easy as they seem…especially in this world.

If you’re an RPG or fantasy fan, you owe it to yourself to give this series a shot. It’s available for about $5 in both on both iOS and Android stores for phones and tablets, and honestly worth every penny.

The two releases so far have been instantly fun, engaging, and replayable. The only thing I really didn’t like is that now I have to anxiously wait for part 3!

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