Review

Sorcerer King Review

  • First Released Jul 16, 2016
    released
  • PC

It's the end of the world as we know it.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

There's a line in The Lord of the Rings that succinctly captures the desperation of the Fellowship's forlorn journey. It comes near the end, as Sam and Frodo make their way through Mordor. Sam says that he's not sure that they'll have enough food to get home after all is said and done, but Frodo's response--"I wouldn't worry Sam. It's just to get there …"--sells the air of fatalism, the creeping realization that this trek to save the world will almost certainly claim their lives. It's a quote I kept coming back to throughout my dozens of hours with Sorcerer King. Despite its almost saccharine, cartoon aesthetic, Sorcerer King is a morose adventure.

In Sorcerer King, the world's been taken over by a nigh-omnipotent wizard. He's fractured the land, scattered the world's people, and committed himself to casting a spell to unmake existence. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's not too far from J.R.R. Tolkien's works. Your job is to lead one of the last remaining nations against this incredible force and stop the apocalypse.

Sorcerer King is one of those rare, genuinely funny games
Sorcerer King is one of those rare, genuinely funny games

As you might suspect, the deck's been stacked against you right from the beginning. You're small, weak, and the few soldiers you have defending with you are poorly trained and poorly equipped. That insignificance is reinforced by a Doomsday counter, which steadily ticks up as the Sorcerer King gathers his power--a constant reminder of the struggle that lies ahead. So you set yourself to vying for the allegiance of other races, forging new, better weapons and armor, and gathering what strength you can before one last, glorious battle to determine the fate of the world.

It's a tired setting, but Sorcerer King executes the idea with remarkable deftness. As you build your empire and colonize new lands, you'll find dozens, if not hundreds of little vignettes. Packed away in libraries, abandoned villages, and old dungeons, these scenes are the meat of the narrative. Each one provides a piece of a much larger branching narrative that collectively serves several roles.

First, and perhaps most importantly, they're each expertly written and packed with cute twists or hilarious, tongue-in-cheek dialogue. Rarely trite, these clips ooze style and flair, brightening an otherwise hackneyed setting. They also help you role play a bit. Your leader may be ruthless and determined or may be the snarky sort. Those traits are culled from your decisions in these rogue-like scenarios. It's a novel way to approach the issue of personality development, particularly in a strategy game, but it works and, indeed, it's brilliant and affecting.

With a keen eye and sharp intellect, you can take on far more enemies than you'd otherwise think possible
With a keen eye and sharp intellect, you can take on far more enemies than you'd otherwise think possible

Your choices have broad implications too. Establishing new alliances, one of the other key tactics for success against the eponymous Sorcerer King, depends on the decisions you've made up to that point. Creatures and spirits will react to your reputation, and may be more or less willing to join forces. Given the overwhelming nature of the threat, those friendships are vital. With whom you choose to shack up matters, and could mean the difference between a successful outcome or the end of the world.

These two facets of your grand strategy, while important in their own right, feed into the broader theme of marshalling armies and hammering out your empire. You are the resistance here, and you're fighting a defensive war against a much better and stronger opponent. Deception, gathering magical equipment and summoning mythical creatures are, next to forging those alliances, your best option if you want to succeed in the quest to save the world..

As you continue your campaign against the big baddie, you'll quickly realize that even your best troops are pretty pathetic. Armed with little more than swords and spears, they don't have much hope against the legions of demons and mutated beasts at the Sorcerer King's beck and call. You can, however, equip your armies with new gear. You can loot special equipment from corpses, craft it yourself or find it in one of the game's vignettes. Regardless of the source, superior accoutrements can help an average knight beat dragons. Because of this, Sorcerer King breaks from more traditional strategy games, resembling its Civilization-inspired brethren only in the broadest of strokes.

Instead, Sorcerer King is a delightful fusion of genres that should always fit together well--role-playing and strategy. Both tend to play to the theme of growing stronger and developing over time, but until now, neither have found each other in quite so satisfying a package before.

Sorcerer King is a delightful fusion of genres that should always fit together well--role-playing and strategy.

Since strategy tends to deal in the very large scales of nations and continents, while RPGs tend to stick to the realms of the personal, it is surprising to see everything click so well here. Each time one of your troops crosses paths with a monster or minion of the Sorcerer King, the game will shift into a tactical battle. Here, you can individually direct your pieces, use a variety of combat manoeuvres, and then toss in some of your own spells to support them. Your options here are numerous, and you're encouraged to explore them all. You can easily win out-levelled fights, provided you mix in the right amount of planning and tactical prowess.

Conversely, on the strategic map, your time will be spent moving items and units around the field to cover outposts and safeguard your cities. Thankfully, Sorcerer King includes some useful menus and search functions, letting you easily organize your inventory. You can rework the equipment for any of your troops as needed. Provided they fit the necessary requirements, you can pass around top-level gear to your outpost easily, and, as long as no two get hit during the same round, you can defend a large area with relatively few men, if you so choose.

The benefit here is that such tactics should give you a better shot at stopping the apocalypse, which is what this is all about. The stark, asymmetric backdrop of this war presents a very unique stage. Your only goal is to get there and beat the Sorcerer King. Everything else--creating long-term infrastructure, setting effective tax policies, all the minutiae that form the heart of other strategy games--is secondary. During some runs, I even caught myself sacrificing scores of my own people, essentially committing mass genocide, for the sake of saving everyone. Sorcerer King consistently encourages this kind of desperation, particularly as the game's omnipresent Doomsday counter ticks closer and closer to The End.

The map has lots of unusual land types, each with their own properties.
The map has lots of unusual land types, each with their own properties.

Predictably, the asymmetrical nature of the game bars any sort of multiplayer, a staple in most strategy games. While there is a campaign mode, it's pretty bare bones, with only a few substantial differences from a round of play in sandbox mode. This limits replayability quite a bit, despite its seeming absence of limitations. The vignettes and factions become predictable after a while, and after your eightieth Magical Axe of Awesomeness, the charm of finding new items runs a little thin. That said, what is here is special and should keep you busy, even it wears out after a while.

Desperation is the best frame to understand Sorcerer King, and the game is fortunate that it's both fresh and effective, presenting a wholly unique take on the same fantasy and strategy tropes we've all seen dozens of times before. But desperation isn't the only thing Sorcerer King has going for it. Throughout, vignettes treat you to pieces of distilled levity and constant growth, item discovery incentivizes constant exploration, and the complex political world backing the whole campaign forces some tough choices. Together, these pieces come together to create a great twist on the classic 4X formula.

Back To Top
The Good
Robust RPG system supports excellent tactical and strategic play
Clever, hilarious writing brings some much-needed levity to it all
Tactical battles greatly reward skilled play
The Bad
Lack of multiplayer and subpar campaign leave you wanting more than the game offers
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Dan Starkey is a 4X fanatic, always looking novel takes on one of gaming's oldest genres. He spent over 50 hours mixing it up with the dreaded Sorcerer King for this review.
28 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo
elessarGObonzo

2545

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 135

User Lists: 0

Would love it on Android but there's already too much out there and too much backlogged for my PC.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

7260

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 44

User Lists: 0

Looks to me like a modern twist on Heroes of Might&Magic -- sign me up!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24099

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 551

User Lists: 4

Just in case anyone is wondering, Arcen Games had been making games like this for a long while, before Stardock did. Arcen Games is quite shitty at graphics and art design though.

Avatar image for hellgast0
hellgast0

89

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By hellgast0

I really like the concept of 4x games, but the "turn" mechanics just really turn me off.

I would like to see more games in the style of Sins of a Solar Empire, where you can just start at once and you're only limited by your resource income.

Avatar image for pimplordmofo
pimplordmofo

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Another HMM/Civ/MoMagic clone, that could have been great, but is just ok. :[

Avatar image for johnlewis107
johnlewis107

89

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I really enjoy this. Simply cutting out the AI factions is a big improvement from Fallen Enchantress.

Avatar image for tr4newreck
Tr4newreck

674

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

i want new soase!

screw this high fantasy crap

Avatar image for DomesticCatnip
DomesticCatnip

62

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@tr4newreck: then help them out moneywise and buy this!!

Avatar image for liotinedario
liotinedario

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By liotinedario

I want a new Etherlords... :D

Avatar image for Julio_Brutal
Julio_Brutal

116

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 14

User Lists: 0

@liotinedario: Etherlords 2 was one of the best games of my life.

Avatar image for DomesticCatnip
DomesticCatnip

62

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@liotinedario: then help them out moneywise and buy this!!

Avatar image for Bond_Villain
Bond_Villain

498

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

Edited By Bond_Villain

yeah

Avatar image for r31ya
r31ya

164

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I love Endless Legend and after that tried to play similar 4x games (fallen enchantress i think) from stardocks who are according to many are "good".

I didn't bother to finish my first campaign after being turn-off by the graphics as it is sup par compared to Endless-Legend. Shallow reason, sure.

But oddly, while i can stomach Hearts of irons grahics, pixel art games, and some others, i simply couldn't deal with fallen enchantress's. Something about dull color palette or fantasy-themed games that makes my graphics-standards went quite high, that annoyed the hell out of me.

Avatar image for tr4newreck
Tr4newreck

674

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@r31ya: fallen enchantress was a disaster... the gfx are the least of its worries

Avatar image for TheZeroPercent
TheZeroPercent

2585

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 43

User Lists: 2

--it is obvious that gamespot are PC whores
--giving this game an 8
--and ONLY giving "until dawn" an 8
--strategy games arent what people want
--they want walking simulators
--sellouts!

Avatar image for kalarro
kalarro

244

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Edited By kalarro

@TheZeroPercent said:

--it is obvious that gamespot are PC whores

--giving this game an 8

--and ONLY giving "until dawn" an 8

--strategy games arent what people want

--they want walking simulators

--sellouts!

Ideally, reviews must ignore the genre.

But while you are at it, strategy games should be worth much more, since you play them for months/years, and not for 2 evenings like the ones you like.

Avatar image for grillingcoats
Grillingcoats

241

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 20

User Lists: 0

@kalarro: Sounds like you need some cream for that butt hurt.

Avatar image for kalarro
kalarro

244

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

@grillingcoats said:

@kalarro: Sounds like you need some cream for that butt hurt.

lol

my argument 1: reviews shouldn't be affected by genre

my argument 2: one genre has more play value since it isnt a game that you finish in 2 days

grillingcoats's angry kids response: "Sounds like you need some cream for that butt hurt"

You surely have such interesting and mature conversations usually.

Avatar image for bujak
Bujak

12

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Bujak

@kalarro: You right. Also Call Of Duty is the best game ever. Whoeverthinks different is just plain noooooob.

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

31717

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@TheZeroPercent: You are mistaken. Until Dawn was not the only game Gamespot ever awarded a 8/10 to.

Avatar image for anakvunky
anakvunky

204

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@TheZeroPercent: I remember that someone bash the comment about gamespot are console whores that hates PC games by giving them low score.... and now I see this comment... WTF with people nowadays...

Avatar image for j0nathanruss11
J0nathanRuss11

33

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@TheZeroPercent: LOL!

Avatar image for jhonMalcovich
jhonMalcovich

7090

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By jhonMalcovich

@TheZeroPercent: Mmmmm, your tears are tasty. Please cry more. Yummy yummy yummy.

Avatar image for bujak
Bujak

12

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@jhonMalcovich: Yes we all watch south park

Avatar image for mrbojangles25
mrbojangles25

44599

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Is this pretty much just like Fallen Enchantress?

I'm cool with that; if it is, I am totally going to buy it.

Avatar image for illmatic87
illmatic87

17934

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 564

User Lists: 0

@mrbojangles25 said:

Is this pretty much just like Fallen Enchantress?

I'm cool with that; if it is, I am totally going to buy it.

It's alot different. More asymetric in its survival scenario with less civilization management. Seems to be really focused on the RPG side of things like HOMM.

Avatar image for mrbojangles25
mrbojangles25

44599

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Edited By mrbojangles25

@illmatic87: hmmmm, that seems like a nice change. So less Civ, more HOMM?

Avatar image for Hayasmez
Hayasmez

117

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@mrbojangles25 said:

Is this pretty much just like Fallen Enchantress?

I'm cool with that; if it is, I am totally going to buy it.

Yeah its also set in the same world as Fallen Enchantress

Sorcerer King More Info

Follow
  • First Released Jul 16, 2016
    released
    • PC
    Sorcerer King is a fantasy 4X strategy game from the makers of Galactic Civilizations and Fallen Enchantress. Build a civilization from the ground up that can face the unrelenting might of the malevolent Sorcerer King. Found new cities, craft items, learn spells, engage in amazing tactical combat and save the world.
    6.6
    Average Rating3 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Sorcerer King
    Developed by:
    Stardock
    Published by:
    Stardock
    Genre(s):
    Strategy