Back to something a little more obscure, this week’s review is a turn-based strategy role playing game from Ultra Runaway Games with the visual style of a newspaper: black, white, and red all over! It’s Paper Sorcerer, let’s go!
The story starts off in proper story-book style: Once long ago there was a sorcerer and apprentice that terrorized the land with minions. The king of the land, not liking that sort of thing, entrusted his royal mage and knights with a powerful artifact, the Librum Claustrum, to defeat the sorcerer. They set out, traveled through treacherous terrain, battled their way up the sorcerer’s tower, and sealed the sorcerer, and themselves, away forever. But is forever always forever? You wake up inside a cell, powerless and sleepy, but with a little help from a friend, you start making your way out of this monochromatic dungeon. Easy enough, right?
Visually, the art style is very distinct, using only black and beige for its colors and stark shadows for most of its shading. The colors really push further home the ‘paper’ part of Paper Sorcerer, with the floors, walls, and enemies looking like parchment. The shading gives most, if not all, characters a sort of illustrative feel to their design, again fitting well with the paper aspect of the theme. There is a brownish vignette on the screen for most of the game, which is trying to add to the atmosphere of age, replicating older parchment, but just ends up looking a little dirty and annoying. Enemy designs are on the generic side, which isn’t helped by fighting five of the same enemy at once. This is mitigated by having a good variety of enemies as the game continues, so there isn’t too much of seeing the same designs. All in all- a good style that makes for some really cool screenshots, but can wear a little as time goes on. The backgrounds used in some shots are rather nice, featuring artwork in a way that works well compared to the copy and paste of enemies in a fight and rooms reused for dungeon layouts.
Musically, Paper Sorcerer does not have a lot in terms of soundtrack. There is one major dungeon theme, one theme for town, a fight theme, and a few themes for boss fights, and that’s most of what stands out. Don’t get me wrong, most of the music is good, some of it actually really nice, but expect to listen to some of these tracks a lot more than others. You can listen to a playlist over here.
Let’s talk about something a number of the other games I’ve reviewed here haven’t had: story. The story of Paper Sorcerer is that you are the sorcerer trapped in the Librum Claustrum to sleep for all eternity. Taking from the brief description above, a king sent his knights to seal away the sorcerer terrorizing the kingdom and bring peace. Already we have a very generic story, and there’s not much more to add to it. It evokes the flavor of basic western fantasy, without giving any details about the king, the lands he ruled, or anything else that might give detail or character motivation. Suffice to say, the story is on the shallow end, and even as time goes on not much more is added. The magic prison in which you are trapped, the Librum Claustrum, is a magical book, which gives us the full reason behind the title. Kudos to those who have been paying attention, or can figure out Latin. The major bosses are the knights that sealed you into the Librum Claustrum, and they recognize you and give some dialogue about the time before being trapped in the book. Beyond this, the story is just a small bit of narrative that, while interesting, is nothing groundbreaking. The ending was nice, I will note, and was a good way to wrap up the story.
Now, for the every-important gameplay. As mentioned, Paper Sorcerer is a turn-based RPG. With much of the usual mechanics one might expect from such a game, like weapons, spells, managing equipment, those sorts of things. One of the cool aspects of the game is that you get to create your own party throughout the introductory dungeon. Explained as regaining your power, as you move through the intro level you can pick out three of your party members from a list of a dozen options, including things like an imp, skeleton, werewolf, or vampire, all of which can fill various roles for a RPG. This can make for some replayability as you try out various combinations of party members. There are ways to get more party members, but it’s as a side quest that’s not required but also not too difficult.
In terms of group size, there are four people in a group, and you can switch out for your other group members outside of combat, making for some strategizing for various fights. Fights mostly happen by running into a cloud of enemy dust, so most of the time you can see the combat coming and prepare accordingly. Sometimes fights start without the heads up, and your just thrown into combat. The laziness of this design is through the roof, but it’s better than having random encounters and no visual cue for a coming fight. Combat is pretty simple, you assign actions to your dudes, and then everyone acts in a somewhat-random order. There are attacks, skills, items, and defense actions, with a variety of skills that support your allies, debilitate your enemies, and deal direct damage. If at any time you feel the need to get out of battle, there’s an item for that. If you want to go back to town in the middle of a dungeon, there’s an item for that. Saving your game can be done anywhere, which is another useful feature. While Paper Sorcerer does little in terms of new, it still has quite a bit it does right.
Despite many flaws and being somewhat generic, it still has a little flavor of its own that’s kind of nice. You do play as the villain of the story, more or less, even if why and how you’re the villain is unknown. I have a habit of enjoying games I know are not the greatest, that have issues with balancing and pacing and story, but I enjoy them and often play them more than games I really love. Paper Sorcerer, has some flaws but can still be plenty of fun. Great if you can find it on sale, otherwise it’s $5 on Steam, but don’t expect any updates, as it’s been two years since the last update and some odd bugs are still present.