First posted on 30 October 1998. Last updated on 12 August 2009.
Sorcerer is the second game in the Enchanter trilogy. It continues the story of a young enchanter first introduced in Enchanter. The Enchanter trilogy takes place in Frobozz, part of the universe that originates from the Zork series. Instead of being a rough and tumble adventurer as in Zork, your character in the Enchanter series seeks out spells and potions and then uses them to overcome obstacles and adversaries.
As a reward for saving the world from the evil Krill in Enchanter, you are made a member of the Circle of Enchanters, despite your young age and minimal experience. You notice that Belboz, the leader of the circle and your mentor, has been acting peculiar. When Belboz goes missing, it is up to you to find him (largely because everybody else has gone to prepare for the Guild picnic). You soon learn that a powerful, evil daemon named Jeearr is behind Belboz' disappearance. You must search for Belboz through the land of Frobozz and into the Great Underground Empire. There you must face and defeat Jeearr.
Sorcerer is a text only adventure game. It uses a text parser that accepts an intuitive subset of English commands. The location descriptions are very well written. They may be brief, but they provide a good feel of the locales. The parser is very flexible and is loaded with synonyms. I have, however, run across a particular parser problem. It cannot understand me when I try to "unlock" Belboz' journal with a key I have found. Instead, I had to "open" the journal.
The game is written by Steve Meretzky. It is based on the concept of interactive fiction told through a story interpreter pioneered by Infocom. The Infocom story interpreter is platform independent, and the game themselves are complied for a virtual computer architecture called the Z-Machine. There have been 6 versions of this game released since 1984 using Version 3 of Z-Machine. The last version is dated 1986. The game supports 84 rooms and 36 objects, with a vocabulary of 1,013 words and 8,963 opcodes.
As in Enchanter, magic is your primary tool to overcome the trials of your quest. Finding scrolls and potions and then using them correctly mostly replaces the standard adventure formula of finding objects and using them in strange or unpredictable ways. The magic does not completely replace the more mundane adventuring. The magic is sometimes indirect, leading to some clever puzzles and entertaining consequences ("Uh oh. Your left ear turned into a poisonous toad and ate your brain."). Sorcerer is basically a dungeon crawl, with little plot beyond the setup and the conclusion. Different from Enchanter, Sorcerer includes many red herrings and irrelevant locations that are not essential for the completion of the game. The challenges you face, however, are all part of a consistent world, not arbitrary obstacles thrown in only to slow you down. The puzzles are fun. Several puzzles require clever solutions, but none are overly difficult.
However, there are a couple of serious problems in the game design. First, there is a very long dead-end that is very easy to stumble into. You must acquire a particular potion very early in the game. If you fail to procure the item, you cannot come back later to get it and solve a puzzle that confronts you near the end of the game. You have a very limited time (number of turns) to get this potion initially, but you are not told that you must get the item so that it is very easy to use up the allotted time exploring other areas before events lead you too late towards this potion. You then realize what your error is when you are faced with the puzzle that requires this potion. Second, there is a dangerous fork in the road. Faced with 2 paths, if you take the wrong route you blunder into another long dead-end, unable to return to get an object you need to complete the game. In this case the correct path is the easier looking path, so you are less likely to get caught, but more adventurous gamers should beware.
On the high side, the puzzles in Sorcerer are truly entertaining and clever. They also play fair. The solutions require insight and do not require brute force thought (except for mapping). The location descriptions are very well written. They are brief yet evocative, and they do not become monotonous. On the low side, the long dead-ends can make the gameplay unforgiving. The missing potion dead-end is, however, acknowledged in the official hints. There is little in the way of developing plot. A lot of the background story is contained in material that comes with the game but not in the game itself. Some of the missing material is for copy protection purposes, but I like to have seen most of it appear within the game as well.
The originality of the puzzles in Sorcerer more than makes up for any design faults of this game. It is of interest to note that the previous game Enchanter is not written by Meretzky but Marc Blank and David Lebling. The change in authorship in the series is reflected by the darker and more serious tone in Sorcerer than in Enchanter. This is most unusual given the trademark humor Meretzky instills into his other Infocom interactive fiction titles. Regardless, it is fun to wield magic in addition to regular adventuring. Sorcerer is not a great game, but it is a fairly quick, enjoyable romp.