Adventure/Interactive Fiction Game of the Year 2015: Sorcery! 321 Dec 2015 0
You'd have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a year in which inkle Studios failed to win the Adventure/Interactive Fiction Game of the Year award here at Pocket Tactics. Of course, that year there was no such award, so they lost on a technicality. From then on, this award has been dominated by inkle and for good reason: they reinvented the genre on digital and, each year, keep pushing it forward. This year they pushed the envelope with what could have been an easy cut/paste job, a sequel. Instead they took the opportunity to create a gamebook unlike any other we've played.
The original Sorcery! and Sorcery! 2 were released back in 2013 and, narratively at least, hewed fairly closely to their paperback forebears. In 2014 inkle changed the game with the release of 80 Days. Not only was it grand storytelling, but they managed to fit an open-world structure--something associated with simulations and RPGs--into a gamebook. You know, things that are generally considered to be highly linear? Sure, gamebooks have branching paths but, usually, they all drive the book toward its conclusion; there's usually no going back to see what awaited you down the other path. 80 Days gave you the world and told you to saddle up.
This is the world into which Sorcery! 3 was born and instead of following the more linear path of parts 1 and 2, it would stick closer to the 80 Days model and let you explore the Baklands however you saw fit. What really pushed it over the top was the ability to not just view the Baklands as they are today, but to use beacons around the map to turn back time wherever the beacon's light falls. Thus, there were 2 versions of the Baklands to explore and switching between the two was the only way to find the seven serpents.
And that's the first I've even mentioned the story. The world created in the gamebook is so wonderful that you nearly forget the story. You shouldn't, because it's a good one. After leaving Kharé in book 2, you are wandering across the inhospitable Baklands, being hunted by seven serpents who are looking to spy and report back to their master, the dark lord of Mampang Fortress (who we will meet in the upcoming Sorcery! 4). Destroying all seven serpents will give your opponent no advantage in the next stage of your quest, and the search for the serpents is a delightful game of hide and seek.
Sorcery! 3 is completely playable from scratch without experiencing the first two volumes, but playing through from the beginning of Sorcery! makes the entire experience even richer. Regardless, Sorcery! 3 deserves to be played and will make you long for the upcoming Sorcery! 4 and whatever else inkle has up their sleeves for 2016.
To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.