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Sorcerer King

Sorcerer King

Written by Tom Bitterman on 3/4/2015 for PC  
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“Sorcerer King” (SK) is a turn-based strategy-RPG hybrid in the “Heroes of Might and Magic” vein.  The setting is a post-apocalyptic medieval land full of treasures, wandering monsters, and large sewer openings.  Yes, a post-apocalyptic medieval land – it turns out that medieval lands look pretty much the same whether it is before an apocalypse or after it.

The backstory is that a while back this guy named the “Sorcerer King” took over this world.  There were many battles and much was laid to waste, but he won.  You are part of a remnant of unreconstructed rebels against his rule.  It is as if the King had played (and won) a 4X game on this map before you got there.  Now you have to pick up the pieces and stop his complete victory before he drains all the life from your world.

While the King is busy recovering from the previous war it is your job to marshal forces against him.  You start with just a single tiny castle.  The last war has left treasure scattered around, treasure you badly need to build your strength.  Unfortunately it has also left monsters roaming the countryside, so you will want to arm your scavenging parties.

The big benefit of finding treasure is the raw materials.  SK has a large crafting component.  As time passes you can learn more and more powerful crafting recipes for such things as potions, armor, rings, and the usual panoply of fantasy-themed magic items.  Between gaining levels and wearing more powerful magic items, your heroes and the armies they lead will grow stronger.

This is good, because at the end of the line is the Sorcerer King himself.  During the game he functions as an off-screen presence without much direct impact.  From time to time he will stop by and threaten your feeble attempts, or possibly offer some help if you'd just do this one little (incredibly evil) thing he wants done.  Most of the time his presence is felt through the Doom Track, a bar at the top of the screen that fills in red.  When the Doom Track is completely full the game is over and you have lost.  It fills for a variety of reasons: doing the Sorcerer King's bidding, performing an evil action while on a quest, or just as time passes.  You also have opportunities to roll it back by performing meritorious acts or gaining a reputation for virtue.

The Doom Track is just one aspect of the overall asymmetry of the game.  You are a scrappy, never-say-day rebel taking on the evil Sorcerer King.  You do not (for the most part) fight him directly.  He sends his minions out to destroy the few remaining important features in your world – the Shards.  You have to battle the environment and grow your kingdom to the point where you can stop these incursions and save the world.

You are given a standard set of tools – a big cloth map, spells, separate strategic movement and tactical combat maps, heroes, crafting, quests – and lots of other features I do not have time in this preview to describe.  It all works well together, and even the beta is fun to play.  This preview would have been done a week ago if I could have just stopped playing.  And have I mentioned that it's funny, but not too funny?

The challenge is that you never have enough time/manpower/stuff to really get powerful.  This is a game in which the goal is to be just strong enough, to use everything you have in just the right way, so that when you get that one shot at taking down the Big Bad you can.  Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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Can write a better AI than anybody out there.  Your mom likes me better than you.  So does your girlfriend.  Better-looking than you.  Greatest living American author (except for Gene Wolfe.  maybe).  Humble.

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