It’s not often that the present manages to catch up with the future. Fifteen years ago the idea of seeing motion-sensing devices in an entertainment platform had been the kind of thing reserved for the ranks of late-night sci-fi. Yet here we are: against all odds we have somehow seized the future. Today Move is being marketed, along with its sibling Kinect, as the kind of thing that’s been cooked up in some sort of Frankenstein lab - something that will help pave the way for how people will interact with games in the years to come.
But this represents a shiny, some might say naïve, optimism about the future. The idea of motion-sense games that aren’t inherently disappointing inhabits the same world as innovations like flying cars and sex robots. Because no matter how well a sensor can track your torso in a 3D environment, it all looks a bit pedestrian when compared to the world we were promised in Demolition Man.
This is especially true when being shown a game that from afar looks like it’s been lifted from the Harry Potter series. The Workshop’s Sorcery is the story of a young sorcerer’s apprentice who is in the process of mastering the art of magic. Your task is to spend your time travelling through a kind of faerie netherworld in order to defeat the Nightmare Queen who has broken some form of pact with mankind. In classic fantasy-world form, the territory becomes enshrouded in darkness and it’s your duty to stop ol’ Queeny and various minions via your wand.
With EA’s upcoming Harry Potter game coming out as a hands-free title for Kinect, the integration of an actual Move controller has a better effect in a game that puts similar focus on spell-casting. You’re there in your living room holding a wand-ish, bobbly controller in your hand; look to the screen and you’re holding a proper wand. It’s a nice and simple 1:1 correlation between what you’re doing in your pants at home and what you’re doing in a fairy dungeon. Flick your controller about and the wand follows suit.
The primary section of the game we’re shown has you standing in a dungeon, in third-person view. Centre of the screen is you, a little sorcerer. To the right is an imp in a cage, squawking away like some sort of gull at a seaside resort. Controls are gesture-based: aim at the imp, hit the imp. While there’s no auto-target there is still a bit of stickiness involved when you’re waving your controller, attempting to focus your shot.
Surprisingly there are a hefty number of actions you can perform simply by flinging your arms about. Press shoot and a bit of light with explode from your wand in the direction you’re pointing. Swing your arm horizontally and you’ll shoot around corners. Create a wall of fire on the ground, then select a whirlwind spell and create a vortex that will suck the flames in and create a spinning top of fire.
The next demonstration has you standing about in a magic kitchen, in a scene depicting how potion-making has been implemented into the game. The sorcerer takes an arrangement of liquids, mixes them together by shaking his controller, and then drinks it down for various effects.
We’re shown how potion mixing can be used for stealth levels. The sorcerer downs the brew and falls to the floor in rat form. Now he can fit through holes in the wall, explore bits of underground area that he’d never fit through in full human-form, and stealthily avoid enemies.
But Sorcery is essentially a laundry list of the same regurgitated characteristics you’ve seen in any fantasy game. Imps, dungeons, catacombs, sorcerers, oh my. It’s a fairly clever use of the basic features of a new piece of technology, but appears to exist mostly to be a show reel of things Move can do. Don’t expect this to be your footpath to the future of gaming.
Sorcery will be released in 2011, exclusively on PS3.