When I was much, much younger, before I really got into video games - I had a huge love of choose your own adventure adventure books, specifically the Fighting Fantasy Series that was created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. These books mixed the standard choose your own adventure-style storytelling with dice-based RPG elements and covered a variety of themes and genres including fantasy, sci-fi and post apocalyptic settings to name a few. The series went on to sell millions of copies and had 59 titles published in the main series. The Fighting Fantasy franchise also spawned some spin offs with one of them being Steve Jackson's Sorcery!. Sorcery! was a four-part series that could be played as individual adventures or as an overall story arc and introduced several mechanics that had not been present in previously released Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Developed by Inkle and published by No Gravity Games, Steve Jackson's Sorcery! originally released on PC and Mobile between 2012 and 2016 in four installments. The Sorcery! game series has sold more than 1.5 million copies and is now available on console! With this release the four chapters have been collected into one game for the first time. Will it live up to the classic adventure books it was based on?
The main plot of the game has you journeying across the deadly Shamutanti Hills and through the Cityport of Khare, home to thieves, corrupt nobles and deadly mutants, as you attempt to recover the Crown of Kings. The game takes place across maps (akin to fantasy board games) that you are able to explore across multiple paths. There is alot of text and reading to be found, if you have ever had the pleasure of reading a Fighting Fantasy adventure then you know what to expect! Your choices and actions will change the story as it adapts to your play style (using the inklewriter technology that was previously found in the multi-award-winning 80 Days game). It's great to play a game like this that remembers your previous choices (all the way through the four chapters), similar to how the telltale games would remember what you did in one episode then cause a ripple into the next. There is also a handy rewind function, so if you feel like you have made some bad choices you are able to rewind through the previous ones until you're at a point you feel comfortable to progress from.
As with all fantasy stories you're going to be getting into plenty of danger from tons of monsters. Each of these has their own strategies and combat styles to make their encounters unique. These encounters play out in a unique bluff and strike based combat system which procedurally narrates your battles, where you have the option to defend or attack. There is also over fifty magic spells you can use throughout the game ranging from the weird to the wonderful. These spells can be used at certain points during the games choices.
The collection itself looks beautiful, from its stunning hand-drawn map graphics, to its old school artwork (that feels like it came from the original books) sprinkled in its a fantastic nostalgia trip with a modern twist. The sound design is also top notch and really adds to the overall experience.
As you progress past the first chapter, new mechanics are added with each preceding chapter. It's really interesting to see how the game progresses across the four separate games however as you get to the later chapters it does become more like a fully fledged RPG game and much less like the classic choose your own adventure stories of old. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, but i would love to have played through all four chapters in the original ones style. What starts as a more linear adventure really opens up to a open expansive world by chapter 3. With chapter 2 a gambling mini game called Swindlestones is introduced which while not being the most exciting addition, does add something new to the formula and enables you to gain money or information from the people you play.
There is obviously also a ton of replayability to be found in this collection. There are 1000s of choices to be made throughout the story which effect how everything plays out and hundreds of characters to meet and interact with, so there are many reasons for multiple playthroughs to see what the alternative options lead to. Depending on how in depth you want to go you can get tens of hours out of the game without even replaying once, so the value on offer is immense. Plus if you prefer some of the chapters over others you are able to jump in at those instead of needing to play through all four in one sitting.
Steve Jackson's Sorcery!: The Complete Collection is a joy to play. It hits all the nostalgia notes of reading through the adventure books when I was younger, but with a fresh coat of paint. If you like the narrative adventure style of gameplay then you will get alot of enjoyment and playtime out of this. With its great storytelling and gorgeous art style your in for a great time, however some of the additional mechanics found in the later parts may feel like too much of a deviation from the core Fighting Fantasy style and the odd bug and menu navigation issues found may detract from the experience for some people. But right now I just want to dig out my green spined adventure books and give them another read through for old times sake!
Steve Jackson's Sorcery! was released on the 23rd June 2022 for the price of £20.99 and is playable on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. You can purchase the game HERE. We were provided a copy of the game for this review. A big thanks for that!