Interactive novel fans must be in heaven lately, what with the genre expanding at such an incredible rate. And although it might seem easy to create something that seems on the surface like no more than a branching picture book, the best of these take incredible cleverness and ingenuity. Cambridge-based developer Inkle Studios clearly has both of these characteristics, as shown in its latest interactive novel, Sorcery 2.
As you might have guessed, Sorcery 2 is the continuation of a story begun in the first Sorcery wherein you as a adventurer/hero set out to cross a treacherous land. Here, you can choose to load the save from the previous game or start fresh (The latter can be very useful if your choices from before painted you into a corner). Sorcery 2 provides the option of starting out as female and sets you on the road to a hive of scum and villainy called Khare. The idea is to survive the place and if you're feeling altruistic, to save it from itself. Either way, you're in for an incredible amount of absorbing adventure.
As in most interactive novels, the graphics in Sorcery 2 are simple and consist of static images. Most of the time, you're looking at a map of Khare and its environs and occasionally things are broken up by an awkward black and white illustration. There's a limited amount of animation when you move your character around the map but really, you don't play these for their special effects. Story is at the center of Sorcery 2, and unlike many more expensively-made games, it doesn't need anything else.
As you progress through the story, you're constantly confronted with forks in the road, both literal and conceptual. At those forks you make choices that profoundly alter what happens to you next; for instance, you could see a beggar at the side of the road and choose to help him; later he could end up saving you from a bad situation. Alternately, if you ignore the beggar's plight, your callousness could come back to haunt you. Sorcery 2 is packed to bursting with meaningful choices like these, so many, thinking about what it took to make it is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Your success in the story depends not only on your choices, but on how well you manage your stamina, food rations and gold. It's also affected by your patron animal familiar who can on occasion, answer your prayers. On top of this, it's essential you learn as many magic spells as possible (these cost stamina and sometimes require magical items to cast) and become as adept as you can at combat.
Combat takes place on a 2D stage, duel-style, where you face off against a single enemy or monster. You're given a choice of attacks (or to defend) and you're rewarded for your strategy by taking down your opponent's stamina. Whoever reaches zero first loses, although you can always retry a fight that doesn't go your way. Actually, Sorcery 2 is very forgiving in that way overall; no matter where you are in the story, you can always rewind to previous points and make different choices.
With a seemingly endless number of outcomes, Sorcery 2 offers hours upon hours of gameplay and as such, hearkens back to the text-based adventures old school gamers look back on with such fondness. It demonstrates that entertainment doesn't necessarily require explosions, famous voice actors or big budgets. What it needs is creativity, surprise and relatability. Seriously, Sorcery 2 is one of the best interactive novels--heck, even one of the best games of 2013 and adventure fans, you can't afford to miss it.
To purchase Sorcery 2, visit its page on the iTunes App Store.
For more information about Inkle Studios, visit the company's official website.