Sorcerer King is the newest turn-based strategy title from Stardock Entertainment. Released on July 16th for $40 and available from Stardock and from Steam (buying from Stardock gives you a Steam key as well), it’s considered a psuedo-sequel to Fallen Enchantress. As they themselves say:
Sorcerer King is an offshoot of the Fallen Enchantress franchise – not a sequel but a related title that explores new gameplay concepts within the fantasy strategy framework.
Some hundreds of years after the events of Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, a dark sorcerer arose with a terrible artifact that let him gain the power of anyone he killed. Being evil and all, he rampaged across the world and more or less murdered everyone worth murdering. Now he’s trying to murder the world itself by shattering the elemental shards, absorbing their power, and becoming a god. Someone should really stop him, don’t you think?
As far as turn-based strategy games go, Sorcerer King takes a step away from the genre and begins with one important distinction that truly sets it apart from the rest. Rather than drop you into a world surrounded by the most powerful enemies ever created, with sadistic powers and vorpal weapons that go “snicker-snack,” Sorcerer King struck genius by easing the player into the game and offering useful advice for each feature. A player who shall not be named, whose skills at these games could be described as “lost 0-3 to a damp sponge,” went to review Sorcerer King and prepared to be violated for several hours while re-reading a manual containing three sentences in broken English discussing the proper entry methods of floppy disks. Instead, actual aid was provided and that unnamed player managed to last a few turns before being crushed horribly by the first bandit group/stalker/light breeze that passed by. If you aren’t the kind of person who can blink at a game and write a strategy guide, this is a godsend. You would think that in the year 2015 that developers would start explaining their games a bit more, but this reviewer played a game last week whose help menu was simply “press the to play.”
So, Sorcerer King‘s gameplay itself. Most of the time you’re going to be looking at the map view, which looks as you might expect. From here you can manage cities—or City, singular, if you’re as bad at the game as TechRaptor’s esteemed game reviewers are—build units and buildings, upgrade abilities, learn spells, equip units, and perform most other functions of the game. While in this screen you’re occasionally greeted by a few different NPCs, including the eponymous Sorcerer King. They will ask questions, you will give answers, then they will ridicule you for not having the correct trade supplies.
In the case of the Sorcerer King, at least for the Commander character, you will be able to ask for help or supplies while allied, which causes the Doomsday Counter to go up. If it fills up all the way, you lose. At the beginning, again at least as the Commander, you are allied with the Sorcerer King and work under him. While this could reasonably lead some reviewers to being confused and acting to make the doomsday counter go higher, thinking they picked the bad guys to play as, I’m positive this doesn’t happen because we’re all smart people here. Right?
The rest of Sorcerer King works with the battle system. If you’ve ever played another turn-based tactical RPG then you have a pretty good idea of what’s in store. Initiative determines move order, and each unit has their own experience, items, skills, and stats that can be used to diversify your army. Once you move to the location of an enemy on the map—or are put into an encounter via events—you go into a separate screen where your army and their army collide.
Depending on the difficulty you selected, this could go one of a few ways. On Normal difficulty, you get pelted with ranged attacks while the enemy army sits lazily behind cover and relaxes. On Beginner, they fear your soldiers like a bug fears a boot, resisting, but never able to put up enough of a fight. On Insane, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell crawls out of your monitor and steals your kidneys. The tide of battle can be changed toward your favor by using certain spells, such as creating a storm to strike a foe with lightning or hasting your units to make them move quicker.
There certainly are a lot of spells, fit for a game called Sorcerer King, which can be picked from a list similar to how one would research technology in other turn-based strategy games. Magic gain is managed each turn—divided into Skill, Mana, and Lore—and each of these impacts what you can get and how quickly you can get it.
Crafting is actually one of the simpler aspects of Sorcerer King, comparatively. As you explore the map, complete quests, and trade with NPCs, you get materials. You can go into the crafting menu and turn these materials into useful items. An intelligent player carefully considers the effects of each item before assigning them to the units they most benefit. So after giving everything to your most powerful unit and sending them in alone to tank everybody, you’re gonna need some healing. Luckily, potions come easy. A weird looking grey jug and a purple flower later and you’ve got a glass flask of red liquid. Make a hundred and you’re golden.
Once you gather enough ingredients you can enchant your items with many different enchantments, accessed from a tab in the crafting menu. Most of these are very situation-heavy and are about as useful to as a ring that gives +2 to bluff checks against minotaurs. Some give additional experience gain, some give poison damage, fire damage, thorn effect, elemental resistance, and other useful things. Enchant all of your gear, furniture, and family pets, then continue on with your quest. As for what the quest is, the writing is pretty good and should draw you in on its own. Beat up a wizard cause he’s kind of a jerk.
Let’s talk about Sorcerer King‘s options menu. You’ve got all the usual strategy options as well as some much-needed additions, such as “auto-resolve flawless battles,” that are definitely not overlooked. The audio supports multiple sliders, as well as different configurations for speaker setups. Let’s list them: System Default, Mono, Stereo Headphones, Stereo Speakers, Dolby Surround, SRS Circle Surround, 4.0, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, and 8.1. Glorious. You can select the tool tip delay, which is a great addition since the default is much too quick to pop up. In the advanced options menu you can skip the intro cutscene, which is something all games should be able to do. You can enable a different camera type, enable cloth map only, adjust brightness and world props, and all that other usual stuff. The max texture atlas size is truly a thing of beauty, supporting between 2048×2048 and 2048×16384 sizes. Even running on a GTX 970 with 4GB of VRAM, though, selecting the 16K option would cause it to reset automatically to 8K. This could be a bug, or this could be a silent disapproval of choosing the 970 over the 980. You can select the screenshot format, choosing between PNG, DIB, JPG, BMP, and TGA.
There is one thing they’ve left out, however, and it’s a big one. There doesn’t appear to be any way of rebinding or even viewing the controls at all, at least not through my extensive search through the menu screens. All the screenshot formats mean nothing if you don’t know what key takes the picture. Even looking through Sorcerer King‘s manual and FAQ pages shows no solution. It’s not a major flaw, but it’s one that stains an otherwise impeccable game.
Prospective players out there wishing for a multiplayer experience, you’re about to be a bit disappointed. Sorcerer King has no multiplayer, instead focusing all its efforts on making a good singleplayer experience. In place of that, there are leaderboards to compare scores with other players. From that, one fact can be learned: not a lot of people pick Priestess. As far as the community goes, there’s also significant mod support with a built in tile editor, map editor, and particle editor using the same tools Stardock used to build the game. Sorcerer King does not appear to have a Steam Workshop, so it’s possible that mod sharing will be limited to Sorcerer King‘s official forums.
So, after every sentence said above, there is one question: should you buy Sorcerer King? It’s a solid game, it’s fun to play, it’s got a low barrier of entry compared to other games of its genre, and it’s got everything you come to want and expect from a game and more. Sorcerer King is an enjoyable title, and one that deserves all the praise it’s getting.
This game was provided free for review purposes by Stardock.
Sorcerer King is everything you could want from a turn-based strategy, refining the genre and creating one of its most enjoyable entries.