Paper Sorcerer
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 7

First person role playing games can be notoriously grindy but Paper Sorcerer manages to deliver an old school experience without any of the tedium. The visuals are stunning, the writing witty and the bite sized levels kept me coming back for more. The game is even more impressive considering that it is the work of basically one person and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Gameplay: Old school first person RPG without the grinding.

Graphics: Beautiful hand drawn and inked visuals.

Sound: I loved the soundtrack but others around the office didn’t

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Paper Sorcerer

Developer: Jesse Gallagher | Publisher: Ultra Runaway Games | Release Date: 2013| Genre: Indie / RPG | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam / itch.io

Paper Sorcerer, like so many role playing games before it, features a villainous sorcerer terrorizing the lands before being vanquished by a party of brave heroes. The heroes seal the sorcerer away in a magical tome that serves as a prison for evil doers and peace returns to the world. The bad news is that your character is the sorcerer and it is now up to you to find a way out of the supernatural prison.

I am a huge fan of role playing games and this is partly due to the vast amounts of “Choose your own adventure” style books I read in my youth. I used to spend hours engrossed in the latest “Lone Wolf” adventures which were brought to life by the drawings of Gary Chalk. This made Paper Sorcerer, with its hand drawn sprites and stylish monochrome visuals that simulate the pages of a book especially appealing to me.

Paper Sorcerer is a first person role playing game that pays homage to the classics of the genre, but without all the unnecessary grinding. It is a single player game, but you get to recruit up to three party members to aid you in your escape from the magical book. As your character is a sorcerer your party members take the form of minions such as a skeleton, vampire, ghost, werewolf or Minotaur that you summon. This also means that most of your opponents are the guards and other do-gooders that have been tasked with keeping you imprisoned.

Your overall goal is to defeat your captors and undo the bindings of the book in order to escape, but with some careful exploration you will also reveal a deeper storyline. I’m not going to spoil anything but suffice to say it’s pretty good and quite original. Paper Sorcerer is the result of a very successful Kickstarter that more than doubled its  modest goals and surprisingly enough for such an ambitious title has been created almost entirely by one person.

What I liked about Paper Sorcerer is that while there is no map feature, levels are generally small enough that it’s hard to get lost. Encounters are for the most part not random either and enemies are represented by a black mist. You can’t see what you are fighting until you walk into the mist and once you engage in battle it is to the death as there is no escape button, but it’s still better than endless random encounters. Occasionally enemies will “sneak up” on you and initiate combat, but this is the exception rather than the norm. If you do yearn for some random encounters to boost your levels you can always go exploring the optional catacomb levels that are unlocked by locating souls hiding throughout the normal dungeons.

The game has ten dungeons and each one, apart from the final dungeon, has three levels and a boss encounter to complete before you can access the next. You can save at any time and return to town to rest and recover (except during battles) so the game isn’t too hard, but it definitely requires some skill. Combat is turn based and takes place on a separate screen where you use menu commands to engage the enemy. The game uses a unique combat system where skills require energy and you have to use strategy to win battles. My party consisted of a Minotaur to deal the heavy damage, a vampire using his own health to heal the party and a ghost casting buffs and debuffs while my sorcerer wielded elemental magic. Even on the “Normal” mode some fights were challenging and for the old school players there is a “1980s” difficulty setting to really test their skills.

The visuals are definitely the most striking aspect of the game and have apparently been hand drawn and inked by the developer. You have free movement in the dungeon and the monochrome visuals really pop out due to the line art and deep shadows. Players that grew up with early first person role playing games will really appreciate what the developer was able to achieve with the visuals. Exploring the dungeons, solving puzzles and searching for secret walls and rooms is really addictive and despite spending close to thirteen hours on the game I never found myself bored.

While I personally enjoyed the soundtrack and have one of the tunes stuck in my head as I’m writing this review it would appear that not everyone appreciates the music as much. There is no voice acting, but this is hardly surprising considering the small budget the developer had to work with. The writing is very good however and actually contains a lot of humor. I found myself looking forward to returning to the sanctuary town after each boss battle just to see what crazy antics the zombie shopkeeper were up to in order to promote his new wares. The ending is also rather brilliant and almost tempted me into another playthrough with different party members. The controls work fine for the most party but the menu driven interface can be a bit of a hassle to navigate at times, especially when equipping party members. For a title so reliant on menu navigation it would have been nice if the interface was a bit more streamlined and intuitive. Achievement hunters and card collectors will be pleased to know that this game supports both these features.

Despite some small issues I thoroughly enjoyed Paper Sorcerer and can heartily recommend it to RPG fans, especially as it has a ridiculously low price tag considering the amount of content. The game had me hooked from start to finish and I found myself constantly playing “just one more” level. It is quite a niche game however so check out the Web demo if you are unsure about what to expect. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see what is next from Ultra Runaway Games.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: Pentium 4 1300 MHz 1.3 GHz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce2 MX 400 64/128-bit SDR, 64-bit DDR or better
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: Pentium 4 1300 MHz 1.3 GHz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce2 MX 400 64/128-bit SDR, 64-bit DDR or better
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space

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