Inkle’s Sorcery! Series is Truly Epic

British mobile developer Inkle took the world by storm last year with 80 Days. An interactive take on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in 80 Days, the innovative text adventure allows players to circumnavigate a fantastic world full of steampunk wonders and thrilling adventures, choosing their own path along the way. Intrepid explorers can find themselves on an arctic expedition, become embroiled in political uprisings around the globe, or even end up aboard Captain Nemo’s Nautilus if they’re lucky. It’s a brilliant concept for a game, and rightfully deserving of the many accolades it’s won, but for all its success, it was always supposed to be a side project.

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! is the studio’s main project; a grand, choice-driven role-playing adventure broken into four episodes, each more expansive and intricate than the last. As a warrior on a quest to recover a magic crown, you use both sword and spellcraft to make your way across an immense dark fantasy realm. While 80 Days is a fantastic self-contained story that you can play over and over again, Sorcery! is a proper epic that gives you true ownership over your character and challenges your critical thinking skills with every decision and encounter. Every other choice-driven series on the market pales in comparison to what Inkle has accomplished with their text-driven RPG.

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Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Inkle’s source material. The game is based on the Sorcery! quadrilogy from Steve Jackson’s fighting fantasy gamebook series (choose your own adventure stories that borrow mechanics from dungeons and dragons). Many consider Sorcery! to be the pinnacle of the medium with its intricate choice-driven narrative and clever spellcasting mechanics, but Inkle’s mobile version manages to top it in almost every way.

Sorcery!’s acclaimed prose can be altered dynamically to reflect your previous actions and a ton of other variables. Combat is a strategic minigame based on bluffs and tells rather than a matter of random luck. Instead of flipping through a book of numbered passages, you drag a character token around a massive and beautiful fantasy map dotted with encounters. It’s an infinitely more intuitive interface, and as an added bonus it makes the world feel more sprawling and open.

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The worlds get bigger and bigger with each instalment, too, The first Sorcery! game, The Shamutanti Hills, is a relatively linear adventure full of branching paths – a “string of beads” narrative, if you will. The second game sets you loose in the massive city of Khare, free to explore as you please with only one effective “choke point” at the city’s North Gate. The third game will feature an entirely open world with a dynamic day/night cycle, and you’ll have to scour the whole thing on order to hunt down six magical serpents that stand in your way. Not only that, but the world will exist in two distinct time periods that contain entirely different events and encounters, and you can change between them at will using the beams of magical lighthouses.

But it’s not the huge worlds that make Inkle’s Sorcery! games so special – it’s the level of control you’re given over every minor detail. If you’re mugged by bandits, you can sneak around them, talk your way out of it, or fight them head on – just like you could in any other RPG – but you can also drive them away with a pungent magical odor or force them to dance with an enchanted song. If you can imagine a solution to a problem, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to use it. Playing the Sorcery! series feels more like role-playing with an extremely permissive DM than being railroaded through a pre-scripted video game. If you loved 80 days, you’ll love Sorcery! too.