Released in 1990, Sierra On-Line, Inc.'s role-playing game Sorcerian is a Japanese import -- a best-seller in Japan for three years. Not only does the game contain elements of role-playing but it features adventuring and arcade action as well. Gameplay is divided into three separate scenarios, each having five progressively harder levels. In addition, each scenario has a distinct goal, specific monsters and items.
The first scenario takes place in the kingdom of Pentawa where the king has offered a huge award of gold to any adventurer who will brave the underground caves beneath the city and recover his stolen scepter from the evil Ouks. In the second level, you must track down The Lost Talisman, a magic stone with the power to control the forces of nature, by finding and confronting the evil magician Destru in the great forest. In Lucifer's Floodgate, the third quest in Scenario I, Blood River, the only source of fresh water for the kingdom, has been dammed by someone -- your mission is to find out who and discover a means to raise the floodgate.
The fourth level deals with an oasis that provides fresh water for caravans plying their trade between Pentawa and Varaga -- you must find the source of the spell and reverse it or trading will stop and the kingdom will suffer mightily. Finally, you'll have to infiltrate The Tower of Thieves, headquarters to an outlaw band that is raiding nearby villages and whose members have kidnapped the princess of a neighboring country -- rescue her, defeat the dragon under their castle and end the reign of these marauding misfits. Again, it is important to understand that each level is more difficult than the previous one, so playing them in order allows your party to gain experience, magic and weapons for dealing with the more difficult quests.
Using Scenario I as an example, suffice it to say that the other two scenarios are similar in setup and take the adventuring party to many varied locations throughout the kingdom of Pentawa, each focusing on a particular quest. In Scenario II, the five levels are The Master of the Dark Marsh, The Dragon King, The Riddle of the Red Jewel, The Dark Magician and The Cursed Ship. Scenario III offers Garden of the Gods, The Ice Cavern, The Curse of Medusa, The Missing Magician and The Water of Life.
The size of your party can number one to four characters, although certain levels only allow three at the most. As in most role-playing epics, character generation offers a large number of choices. There are four character classes including fighter, wizard, dwarf and elf, each with distinctive advantages and abilities. Characters do grow older as the game progresses (all begin at age 16), there are seven primary abilities common to all party members and the game offers a whopping 60 possible occupations, ranging from clown to exorcist.
The game's huge infrastructure features magic principles used by Sorcerians in seven different areas, ruled by the Gods of the Seven Planets. These seven gods are The Sun, The Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, all dealing with elements suggested by their respective names. Additionally, all enemies encountered in the game are element-based monsters and include Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Spirit. Magic in Sorcerian consists of more than 120 possible spells, many of which must be conjured by molding or combining the powers of the seven planets.
Spells come in several varieties and each have specific properties that must be included in the ingredients. The Book of Herbal Magic, for instance, contains spells made up of combinations of five sacred herbs. Within this book are 31 varying spells ranging from Airsbane (sends a storm to disperse air monsters) to Watersbane (uses fire to evaporate water monsters). There are 71 spells in the Book of Offensive Magic and 37 indigenous to the Book of Defensive Spells. Another handful of spells (8) can be found in the Book of Healing Magic with only four available from the Book of Transportation Magic.
Many of the magic spells do crossover into other fields and can simply be wielded by the varied classes in different ways. The manual contains complete lists of all the spells as well as an invaluable Sorcerian Spells Chart that recaps the five types of spells, the planets associated with them, herbs required to mold them and the possible effects. Each spells is listed individually as well by name, type, powers required (planets) and what effects can be expected by the casting of each. All 15 of the scenario levels are explained in depth in the manual with specific details on what items are important to the level, which monsters will be encountered and the specific goal needed to advance the story along.
You can create up to ten characters at a time but, as mentioned earlier, the number in your party can be restricted. An option to delete characters and generate new ones at any time during the game is available and ensures flexibility. All characters have basic data including name, sex, class, age, level, hit points, magic points, abilities, gold, experience and maximum allowable ability values for each level of experience. Each character can also carry up to six items (weapons and armor) and has a rating for knowledge (gained through training) as well as a listing of herbs with which he or she is familiar.
Weapon items consist of swords, axes, staffs, armor, robes, shields and rings, all of which can be enchanted at the Magician's House. Resurrection of dead adventurers is also possible if the circumstances surrounding death and length of time the character has been dead permit. Other factors enter into the resurrection equation as well and a nice surprising feature is the unforeseen side effects that can arise after the dead have risen.
Other important places to visit during gameplay include the Elder's House, where he can tell you what spell has been cast on a particular party member, the Throne Room, where character's are taken when possible promotion to a new level is reached and the king will pontificate on how many experience points are needed for the next level and the Training Field which is self-explanatory.
Although Sorcerian was plagued by a late release, it still remains one of the most complete role-playing packages from the early era of the genre. Gameplay holds up reasonably well with its eye for detail and screen-scrolling properties. The music in the game features more than 60 different tunes. The adventures are varied, the monsters vicious and the magic all encompassing. For a rollicking good time and total immersion in a fantasy world filled with a good storyline, magic, monsters, wizards, elves and other exotic beings, the world of the Sorcerian is worth a visit.
1999 Product Update: While the game is certainly outdated by late 1990s standards, the title does offer a nostalgic look at role-playing computer games as they were in the genre's infancy.
Graphics: 1990 vintage. Screen scrolling, static displays but interesting characterizations. Somewhat bland.
Sound: Music is mood-enhancing rather than distracting. Sound is adequately done.
Enjoyment: Probably not up to usual Sierra standards at the turn of the decade (1990) but still enjoyable as a lengthy quest held together by the thread of a solid storyline.
Replay Value: Large fantasy world with many options for character generation and a vast arsenal of spells to create and use. Even so, once the 15 goals have been attained, there's not much of a point for going back again.
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