With Sorcery! Part 2 ending on a great note after exiting Kharé (assuming you made the right choice), I had high hopes for what was to come past those intimidating gates. Entering the Baklands, the player, also known as the Analander, must forge through the desolate wasteland to Mampang. Servants of the Archmage, the Seven Serpents have caught wind of your search for the Crown of Kings and, while on their way to tell the Archmage of your quest, are hunting the Analander down. Each serpent has its own weakness one must suss out in order to successfully defeat them — though, like everything else, this is entirely optional.
Unlike Part 2, Part 3 had an initial sense of urgency following the revelation of the Archmage’s plans, but as I wandered the wide, barren lands and contemplated the looping paths, the feeling of needing to do everything right was quickly overcome by the perverse sense that there is no time to do everything right; so, instead, I focused on finding and eliminating the serpents. Perhaps Part 4 will reveal if this was the correct decision, as I took fifteen (!) days to travel through the Baklands.
Compounding the hopelessness of doing everything right is a new mechanic introduced in Part 3. In the Baklands, towers of old contain magical crystals which, when shined through a beacon onto land, revert the spacetime continuum of the lit area to that of an earlier period — a lush, thriving grassland with flourishing cities before it was cursed. Thus, every spot of interest on the map not only has a potential random encounter and/or murderous serpent, it could also offer even more encounters in a long gone past. As my mind briefly calculated how much time and traveling would be needed to experience all permutations of both the desolate Baklands and thriving meadows, it gave me a single result: does not compute.
Clearly, this is both a flaw and genius concept. I have no doubt in my mind that repeated playthroughs will net a better, quicker, and more comprehensive way to navigate both time spheres while defeating all the serpents. However, I have learned to ignore my completionist compulsions lest they rob me of my ability to be a responsible, well-adjusted adult and therefore settled for minimal rewinding and took a bit of a scenic, serpent-stabbing route. If you’ve read my impressions of Part 1 & 2, you’ll know that I came to the same conclusion then as well.
Visually, the game carries over the same style from Parts 1 & 2, but really the highlight is in the beacon shining — when swiveling the light from the lens across the lands, you can see the dry arid landscape instantly morph into verdant green, with crumbled bridges rebuilt and winding rivers materialized. You stop and ponder the same thing the Analander does: what could have happened to damn such a wondrous place into the wasteland it is now? The sense of melancholy and intrusion into a time long gone is heightened by interactions with the locals, who chitter phrases like “This place is wonderful, I hope it lasts forever” while I silently felt bad, knowing that their oblivious existence is entirely dependent on where the beacons fall.
Aurally, the game has received some enrichment in Parts 2 & 3 as they bring in composer Laurence Chapman to pen some tunes. Part 3 seems to have more sound effects, which are non-intrusive but likewise unremarkable. Again, this is not a complaint, as I enjoy the silence offered to imagine what things actually sound like, and I consider the book-centric experience a bonus for fans of the choose-your-own-adventure genre. Having sharpened my sword play skills (or perhaps the sympathy of the developers), the satisfying sound signalling the end of battle has become a confidence boost instead of a taunt in Part 3.
Sorcery! Part 3 offers more of the same, which is certainly the right path, assuming you choose the right paths. Yet, I can’t help but yearn for the urgency Part 2 instilled, where it seemed that your final choice really did matter (it probably didn’t), whereas in Part 3 the consequences of not killing all the serpents is nebulous and likely only to be revealed in Part 4. Still, Part 3 contains all the elements that not only make Part 1 & 2 great, but also the essence of choose your own adventures, albeit twisted in further permutations. Fans of the genre should definitely proceed down this path.