Paper Sorcerer is a first person rpg reminiscent of similar games from the 80s and 90s, but with a polished modern feel. The story is relatively straightforward-you play as an evil sorcerer who has been trapped in a prison as a result of your wicked ways and you're trying to get free. Interestingly your prison is a book, and freeing yourself requires you destroy its bindings. There are nine cell blocks in total, each divided into 3 main floors with a boss on the 4th. Additionally there are 6 upper floors, including one with the final boss.
It took me 15 hours to play through on normal difficulty, which I was not expecting for the game's size. But it never really felt like it was dragging along, and I was as happy to sit down and play for 20 minutes as I was for 2 hours. The difficulty curve was pretty much spot on too, with most of the occasions I had to retry fights being on the last few levels.
Players are given a good introduction to the controls and basic gameplay at the start, then it's off to fight for your freedom! Character customisation doesn't go much past choosing the gender of your character, but that didn't really worry me. Players can initially summon 3 allies to accompany them, with others being available after completing side quests. I went for a supernatural dream team-ghost, werewolf and vampire, and was pretty happy with my choice. There aren't any skill trees or abilities to choose, you simply gain skills as you level up. Each character ends up with about 15-20 active skills, with some passive ones also. Additional passive skill levels can be purchased from a skill trainer. Each character can equip a variety of different weapons and armour, with plenty of items to keep things interesting.
The combat is turn based, with each character choosing from a normal mêlée attack or skill at the start of the round. Combat is by no means a spam fest and it's probably the game's strongest point. Choosing the right allies and equipping them appropriately is critical to your success, and if you don't have a well-balanced group you'll have a tough time making it through. There's a great variety of enemies too, all with their own abilities to contend with, so being smart about the way you fight is really important. Fights went pear shaped for me a few times, but you can easily do over from an earlier save, and there's always a little fistpump moment when you finish off the more challenging enemies. The combat is dynamic, you never know what moves your enemies will make, and the order of attack changes every turn. I found myself settling into a particular rhythm after a while, but that can easily get thrown out the window depending on your enemies' moves. Flexibility and forethought is key.
I'm definitely a fan of the art style, which is quite striking. The palette is mostly monochromatic, with the occasional tinge of muted colour through a watermark type effect around the edges of your vision. The lack of colour really makes you feel as though you're in a prison, and the often stark swathes of shadow through the background make the levels even more atmospheric. I did on occasion find myself wanting a little more variety in the graphic design, but overall the game looked great. I loved the music as well, especially during fights, which is really up tempo and helps keep the pace moving along nicely.
Aside from the dungeon crawling there is a hub, called Sanctuary, where there's a place to rest, a merchant (who just happens to be a zombie), a skill trainer and it's also where you can follow up on side quests.
I had the odd glitch crop up during play, but nothing serious or persistent enough to put me off. The devs have been really responsive with getting updates out, and also with player interaction on social media. Having said that I am finding it a bit annoying to have to reinstall the game each time an update is released. Sure the download isn't huge, but it adds up, especially if you're not a heavy internet user.
Paper Sorcerer is certainly a game I'll be going back to. It reminded me a lot of rpg's I played as a kid, but with a more responsive interface and dynamic combat system. There's an interesting enough story to keep you going, and you're never stuck thinking 'wtf am I doing?' The hand drawn art style is also really lovely, and the music is pretty darn awesome. The game ends with a bit of a twist, and I love how you get a little summary of what happened to each of your companions-my vampire turned into a total emo! Paper Sorcerer is $5 well spent and I'd definitely recommend it.
(A demo is available on the devs website.)