Game review 🎮: Open Sorcery

You are BEL/S, a fire elemental bound to a piece of arcane software. You were created to protect your summoners’ neighbourhood and cleanse it of magical corruption, so people can go about their daily lives free from mystic trouble. You embody Fire and Order, but the world is full of chaos and surprises. How will you respond to your world and the people in it, and what will you learn? And you’ll have to learn fast, because trouble is already looming in your peaceful, quirky neighbourhood…

Open Sorcery is a text-based narrative game set in our world with an urban fantasy flavour — everyday magicians and spellcasting, fairies and elemental spirits. As BEL/S, you patrol various locations in the neighbourhood, interact with denizens both human and non, learn new skills, and become more self-aware. It’s a light-hearted “coming-of-age” tale filled with diverse and quirky characters.

Created by a solo indie developer, the game sits firmly in the interactive fiction (IF) genre, so it’s entirely text-based, sprinkled with a few graphics for flavour. Read the story, click on the words to make a choice (or occasionally, reveal a tidbit about this urban fantasy world), and keep on reading. This isn’t a novel, it’s a game — so text styling (ie. colour, font face, font weight, position on the screen, etc) is as much part of the story as the prose. The prose itself is engagingly written: mostly dialogue, short and snappy, and conveys a lot of emotion and detail in a few words. There is a stat sheet to keep track of the numerous skill checks and gains, but as with most narrative games, stats exist as choice gates to drive story interactivity, close off some narrative paths, and open up others.

And what of the game mechanics? Overall, the narrative is quite linear with defined progress points, and a single playthrough can be completed in about 30 minutes. But this is a deep-not-broad kind of game that’s expressly designed to be replayed many times with different choices. This replayability is the source of Open Sorcery‘s depth and fun. With every playthrough I discovered more details about the setting, learned more about characters and influenced their relationships (and even final fates), and figured out how to defeat that aforementioned trouble in more ingenious ways. (Or not defeat it, as it may be.) There are multiple endings, it’s not possible to see everything in one playthrough, and indeed there are whole areas you might miss due to not having one particular stat. Thankfully, the game’s short-and-sweet length makes each replay both doable and enjoyable! And if the whole thing looks straightforward on first glance, the Achievements list on the main menu reveal just how much you have — or haven’t — discovered yet.

One can argue that Open Sorcery is more of an interactive story than a bona fide game; the only time where you experience real gamified risk is the story climax, where you and everyone you’ve met can die, and in a variety of ways. But game or not, if you enjoy well-told, engaging stories and/or other text-based games like visual novels, Open Sorcery is a fun, lively entry into this growing niche genre of interactive fiction.

If you’re curious, experience the story beginning in the browser-based demo.

Cross-posted at We The Players.

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