Sorceress is shaping up to be a precious kind of game: The Dark Messiah-like. Arkane’s sophomore outing is mostly remembered for its legendary kick ability, which could turn nearly any enemy into one of those supremely satisfying Source engine ragdolls with one or two good smacks, but it also had this beautifully anarchic approach to level design, with spike traps and bottomless pits everywhere. Individual rooms (like this one number with a swinging chandelier) from Dark Messiah were so distinctive I remember them all these years later.
Sorceress’ demo, I’m excited to say, delivers not only the kick but the accoutrements I crave—it’s a really granular, system-driven game where you can pick up anything and combine powers together in interesting ways. The first good sign is that even the tutorial level is fun: it’s a largely combat-free, exploration-focused climb down one cloud piercing fantasy tower then back up another.
When fights do happen, Sorceress pulls a trick from Breath of the Wild with copious generic, breakable weapons you’re meant to pick up, use up, then move on from. I like this system as a way of encouraging improvisation on the fly, and from what I can tell, developer Wabbaboy has plans for more permanent weapons as well. My one complaint is that the standard mooks are a bit easy and insubstantial in a way—I almost want their character models to be bigger and more imposing in addition to them being more of a threat.
Things really come to life in the demo’s first full level, a sprawling, nonlinear castle ground that also gives you access to your first proper magic spells. Sorceress has the good kind of videogame magic, spells that transform the world around you and have multiple potential applications. One is a variation on a classic ice spell capable of freezing enemies.
Your other starting magic is rather novel: a bubble gun that can send enemies, objects, or yourself floating up into the air, while a combo with the ice spell turns the bubble into a giant bowling ball you can kick at enemies—it’s useful for both crowd control and exploration, and I absolutely love it. While there’s no fire magic, Sorceress does have simple fire propagation that I really dig: metal weapons and objects heat up and turn orange when held to an open flame while wood will burn and eventually disintegrate, and you can light arrows on fire for extra damage.
The main level features some more challenging enemies in a few encounters, but they’re a slightly mixed bag. The nasty mushroom wizard guys are a really fun concept that can throw a wrench into any fight, but their AOE slow and damage over time is a real drag to deal with when they recover from your attacks and recast those spells as quickly as they do. On the flip side, there’s a fight with a big ole’ troll guy miniboss that requires some Souls-y dodging, and he was just a great change of pace.
The castle’ a really great immersive sim level, twisting back in on itself and revealing shortcuts like a Soulsborne, and even without an in-game map I found it easy to navigate. I had a little bit of that retro FPS wandering around wondering where I should go next, but never to an annoying degree. It feels a little cavernous and empty at times—I’d like to see more characterful clutter, notes, other detail to incentivize exploration—but that’s something that could improve as development goes on.
Sorceress is an exciting game, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows as it approaches its full release. The game’s Kickstarter has already closed with successful funding but you can support Sorceress by wishlisting it and checking out the demo on Steam.
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