The first time I heard of Orphen is probably similar to most. I was in a video game store not long after the PlayStation 2 was released. Among the launch titles was Orphen: Scion of Sorcery. Surprisingly to me, Orphen started a series of fantasy novels in Japan. Later, there was an anime. I enjoyed some of the anime from the late 90s, so it’s a bummer that this PlayStation 2 game ended up being mediocre at best.
If you don’t have any knowledge of the Orphen universe, you can still jump into Scion of Sorcery. It stars a young, brash and powerful sorcerer named Orphen. Along with his student Magnus and a tomboy tag-along named Cleo, Orphen spends his days living the good life and taking on odd jobs. He used to be one of the Tower of Fang’s best sorcerers, but an incident with his beloved caused him to cut ties with the organization. In Scion of Sorcery, Orphen and his friends find themselves shipwrecked on the mysterious Chaos Island. Along with some other passengers, Orphen needs to find his way off the island as he unlocks the secrets within it.
Chaos Island is a fitting name for where the marooned magician finds himself. The island is filled with monsters, mazes, traps, and puzzles. This premise makes Scion of Sorcery sound like an exciting adventure game. The interesting thing about the above mentioned monsters, mazes, traps and puzzles is that they’re usually separated from each other. During one moment, Orphen will be moving through a maze. He’ll reach a checkpoint, and then he’ll have to dodge axes swinging from a ceiling. Another checkpoint will be reached, and he’ll enter staged battle. After the battle, he’ll continue to explore another maze-like area of the island. Instead of Chaos Island being a blend of the features that combine into an adventure game, Scion of Sorcery feels disjointed. There’s no flow to the adventuring.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing the first time through. In fact, at times, it can be fun despite some vapid conversations that get sprinkled into the mix, and a camera that has a really tough time keeping up with Orphen’s speed. Combat is the most interesting part of the mix. You fight from a fixed position while attacking enemies with projectiles, elemental spells, and melee weapons. Your teammates fight alongside you and get controlled by the AI. Sometimes they’ll join you in a cooperative attack. Orphen will learn new abilities and acquire new gear as the game progresses. The real stars of the show are the boss battles. These cinematic clashes require you to use all of Orphen’s abilities to the fullest. Sadly, there aren’t many of these battles.
For a launch title, Orphen still looks nice. It’s not going to blow anyone away. But, if you go in with the mindset of “early PlayStation 2 title” then you’ll be surprised. The real star of the presentation is the collection of anime movies that are integrated into the story. Unfortunately, the voice acting is a real miss. Everyone sounds like they’re in a shouting match. Even heavy hitters like Jennifer Hale deliver their lines with a forced inflection that starts at high intensity and stays the same during the duration.
Scion of Sorcery’s biggest issue is repetition. After finishing the game, Orphen will be told to go back in time (i.e. the start of the game) and go through a different route on Chaos Island. It sounds like this could be mean experiencing new areas of the location. For the most part, you’ll be going through the same motions. The final battle is epic, but the effort to get there goes from good, to mediocre, to tedious.
Make no mistake that Orphen: Scion of Sorcery isn’t a bad game. At times, it’s fun. More times than not, it’s repetitive. Sometimes, it’s unpleasant. But, that’s what you sign up for when you’re playing a PlayStation 2 launch title. These days, it’s a cheap and easy way to spend a few hours on a dull afternoon. But, you’re not missing much by not playing it. If you really want to see what the world of Orphen is all about, then I recommend checking him out in his other mediums.
Overall, 5/10: Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is an adventure game that can be fun in small doses. But, the journey through Chaos Island’s entirety is tedious.