Dragon's Dogma; Grade: 3.5 stars; Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Genre: Role-playing; Publisher: Capcom; ESRB Rating: M for Mature.
The gaming industry loves dragons and knights doing battle. I mean loves it, like a dog (or a man) loves bacon.
It is hard to take a new franchise and break into a genre that is vastly overpopulated with great titles from established franchises (Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, etc.). Like an eager upstart, Dragon's Dogma does wonderful things while also failing at times, just like a greenhorn is bound to do. Thankfully, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Things start rather ominously. After all, it's hard to find the joy in a dragon ripping out your heart. Plot details aside, you traverse the lands with an ever-changing band of fellows (some smart, most of the time sack-of-rocks dumb) who help you complete fetch quests and ward off enemies.
Everything revolves around earning and spending coins, which sounds just normal until you discover how wickedly expensive even basic items cost, and soon you're penny-pinching like a fiend.
All of this whets the appetite for the main show, the big set-piece battles. Enormous gryphons, hydras and, of course, dragons are mesmerizing to behold. They cannot be felled easily, so prepare for some annoying backtracking and defeats just as victory appears at hand. Other frustrations show their ugly heads, like the lack of a decent fast-travel system, or that character decisions that certainly feel weighty at the time have little impact later.
If you can survive the bumps and bruises, Dragon's Dogma results in one of the more pleasantly surprising games to come along in some time. My expectations were admittedly low, but the game cleared the bar with plenty of room to spare. Gamers should not shy away from grabbing this game.
Sorcery; Grade: 1 star; Platform: PlayStation 3; Genre: Action; Publisher: Sony; ESRB Rating: E, for everyone.
I'll start with a completely unfounded and wild accusation: Sony is colluding with the orthopedic industry to create a wealth of new clients for wrist/elbow/shoulder surgery.
Go ahead: Brand me an Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy theorist. I can take it. I'm tough.
At first glance, Sorcery is what the Harry Potter games should have been. You fire up the Move controllers, flick your wrist or arms at your TV, and lo and behold: You are casting spells all over the place. You solve puzzles, and confound beasts and demons with your wizardry and cunning -- it's all rather refreshing.
Then the pain creeps in, and it lingers. The longer you play, the more the game seems determined to cause you anguish. Boss battles drag on much longer than they should, and the poor targeting system means you're constantly hurling spells into the ether, hoping one hits.
I realize with each passing day that I am getting older, but good grief! No gamer should have to experience this rough combo of frustrating gameplay and physical pain.
Rather than actively standing in front of your TV whipping spells at enemies and relishing the adventures of this boy wizard at your command, you'll most likely end up sitting on a couch alternating heat and cold on the throbbing ache in your wrist.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter: @Campbler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.