Appreciating Open Sorcery
[I don’t write reviews, but I do like to point out things that worked well in games I’ve enjoyed.]
Open Sorcery, from Abigail Corfman, is a mobile-app-wrapped Twine game where you play a sentient magical defence system.
Twine was built to support branching narratives.Classic branching narratives without any game-hybrid elements are a bundle of special-case IF/ELSE forks. These have advantages and disadvantages. They’re very straightforward for the player to understand, very easy to start building, fiddly to debug, difficult to scale. And they’re more like a guided tour than an exploration on foot. What if you want to revisit an early choice or progress at your own pace? You can’t. That’s not in the tour.
And that’s fine. Twine has created a huge and varied ecosystem of games by lowering the barrier to entry. Building a story with a more general set of rules is a much (sometimes much, much) more expensive endeavour, and generally offers less variety of experience. But I do enjoy games that leverage their mechanics to create a narrative effect, rather than hard-coding the whole narrative.
Open Sorcery is one of the minority of Twine games with an honest-to-goodness core loop. Your protag is charged with patrolling four locations each day and each night, scanning for menaces, and dealing with them. When a scan shows up menaces, there’s a simple exercise where you need to identify from the text descriptions what aspects (Order, Fire, Light, Fear…) the menace possesses. It’s not difficult, but it steps your brain up a gear, it suits the world-building, and it provides a reliable routine that serves as a game mechanic.
That mechanic serves as a means to explicate your character, and for you to express your character back. The repeated visits to the locations make them feel like places in a consistent world, not just paragraphs you pass through.
Android version here, Apple version here, web demo here.