Filling the lengthy gap between Diablo II and Diablo 3, the original Sacred game made its debut a little over 10 years ago. Released in 2004, Sacred 2 offered multiple campaigns to play through and a large diverse world to explore. Though the game lacked the polish of Blizzard’s iconic hack-and-slash isometric role playing game, Sacred’s developer, Ascaron, seemed to be on the right track.
The valiant effort didn’t go unpunished, as the game’s long development cycle contributed to the company going under. With such a long gap between titles, the franchise’s new owner, Deep Silver, last year teased the franchise’s fans with Sacred Citadel. A side scrolling beat-em-up, Sacred Citadel served as a preview for the new, more substantial Sacred 3.
Fans of the original Sacred and Sacred 2 should probably look elsewhere for their RPG fix. Though Sacred 3 looks like a classic RPG, it plays more like an arcade game. Where Sacred 2 had players choose from a number of fixed-gender archetypes, the new game reduces the choice to a handful of specific characters. As a matter of fact, Deep Silver doesn’t even refer to the game as an RPG at all. They actually sell it as an “arcade Hack n Slash.” The problem with this is that an “arcade Hack n Slash” doesn’t justify the premium price they’re asking.
When Sacred 3 starts up, players are immediately presented with a gorgeous high fantasy 3D video sequence that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. That impression is instantly shattered once the comic book-styled 2D animated intro begins and the narrator struggles through the script’s attempt at humor. Once you choose a character, another 2D animated sequence sets up a flimsy premise and sets you on your way. I found all of the voices but Sacred 3’s take on Halo’s Cortana grating, though to be fair, the script is pretty bad.
While Sacred 3’s script and consequently voice work are cringe-worthy, the music is appropriate. Likewise, the environments and attacks particularly are pretty, as long as you can run the game on the high settings. The sets all have quite a bit going on though, and often you’ll lose sight of your character in combat. Of course, you’ll see a lot of the same characters, but Sacred 3 actually does a pretty good job of balancing quantity and quality throughout the levels. Considering the game is only about 10 hours long, there are plenty of different kinds of enemies and bosses.
With the theme of an arcade hack-and-slash, the controls are pretty simple. Each character has a basic attack and a break attack in addition to the ability to roll. The characters can also throw enemies and perform executions. There are also two more powerful magic attacks, but they require energy to execute. Besides a small amount of inventory to manage, you’re really just in charge of the combat. As your character advances, hir or her abilities are all upgraded for you. While I tried this “arcade” game with a gamepad, I found the keyboard the superior input device, though both are problematic.
As an arcade game, Sacred 3 offers both two-player local and online cooperative multiplayer for up to four players. I found it difficult to connect with the online multiplayer, though once I did, it worked fairly well. Local multiplayer, while easier to initiate, is physically impractical for many PC gamers and I was unable to use my Logitech PC controller effectively in the game. Add that to a menu system that’s both limited and needlessly redundant, and you’re left with something that isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot of difference between Sacred Citadel and the new Sacred 3. As a fan of Sacred 2, I was really looking for a deep isometric action RPG, but what I got was essentially a Dungeon Hunter: Alliance experience for PC, but at almost 10 times the price.
Though it seems Deep Silver reduced Sacred’s scope with Sacred 3, it doesn’t seem to have the polish of its arcade competitors, and the premium pricing prohibits any sort of mass adoption. What’s left is a game without an audience.
Sacred 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB Blood, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.