Recently, two different hack-n-slash titles have hit the market, and in a genre where titles can be seen as far too similar, these two offerings couldn’t be more different. I am looking at Sacred 3 and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Edition. The former is available on the PS3, while the latter has (finally) made its way to the PS4.
I am talking about both at once for this piece because I played Sacred 3 after playing the first version of Diablo III on the Mac (see the full review for Diablo III) about two years ago, and yet one of my main thoughts playing Sacred 3 is, “why isn’t this Diablo?” Diablo III is the gold standard for the genre despite being made two years ago, and Sacred 3 feels like a title that could have been made years before Blizzard’s game ever hit the shelves.
I worry that maybe I’m being unfair to Sacred 3, that a better comparison for the game is Gauntlet, because it plays a whole lot more like Gauntlet than it does Diablo. Sacred has the advantage over the brilliant 1985 arcade game in that there is some ability to advance your character/weapons, but it is at such an incredibly minimal level that to compare it to D3 is, perhaps, stretching.
At this point you will assuredly begin asking something akin to “but what about the goal of the title, what if that isn’t what it wants to be?” That is fair point, but only as far as it goes. Sacred 3 assuredly doesn’t want to be Diablo, it is far more tongue in cheek, as well as far more instantly open/accessible than Blizzard’s brilliantly crafted title.
However, even if you haven’t played a similar game before, as soon as you dive into D3, you quickly find yourself learning about weapon/armor upgrades, the best way to go after baddies, what is going to earn you a better reward, etc. It might be intimidating initially, but it’s an intimidation that’s quickly overcome.
Sacred 3 doesn’t care about that stuff all that much, it is just about going through the levels and slaughtering hordes of enemies. It is simply about moving from point A to point B. Unfortunately, as you play, that’s all you’re going to want to do – beat the level, get to the end of the game. That is all the offering seems to ask you to do, so why do anything else? In D3, you want to explore, you want to find all the little dungeons, do all the little sidequests, get all the upgrades possible. The game asks you to go out and find that stuff, and as a player, you respond. It pushes you to be better, and that is something great.
The problems with Sacred 3 don’t just lie in the point A to point B while slaughtering mentality, that can be done brilliantly and it can be done in an engaging fashion. Sacred 3 isn’t that. It is a middling example of the genre.
As an example, when I play these sorts of games, I like whatever the equivalent is of an archer-type class. I like to sit at a distance from the battle and shoot without ever getting in the thick of things. In D3, this means I play as a Demon Hunter and in Sacred 3 as a Khukuri. In D3, it all works as it should, I aim in the right direction and my character shoots the baddies in front of him (or her). In Sacred 3, it kind of sort of mostly works but not quite. Here, I have to be on the same level, not up or down a flight of a stairs, and there are a lot of stairs on some levels. Diablo III understands that you don’t want to shoot over the heads of the baddies, you want to get them and as you can’t aim up or down, it takes care of the up-down bit for you as long as you have the left-right part. Sacred 3 kind of assumes you’d rather fire warning shots over someone’s head or at their feet as opposed to killing them (even if there are no points for warning shots).
Minor quibble? I don’t think so. It means that one of the five character classes you’re offered in the game is instantly at a major disadvantage in some levels. You have specifically chosen a character who uses ranged weapons but you have to melee due to poor design. You made your selection because you trusted that game was offering you a fair choice, but it wasn’t.
Sacred 3 also attempts to have a sense of humor. It does this through the names it gives characters as well as what people say, particularly the voice that guides you through level after level.
Being funny is hard. Great comedians make it look easy, but it isn’t easy to be funny, and while Sacred 3 does manage levity from time-to-time all too often its jokes fall flat.
There is fun to be had in Sacred 3, but it is fun that exists in short, level-long bursts. It is not a game you want to marathon.
And then, as you may have guessed, there is Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Edition. For my money, this is the best edition of an already great game. I never played the console versions of D3, so I can’t say how the ease of this or fluidity of it compares to those, but it certainly does not feel dumbed-down in comparison to the computer.
It looks and plays in outstanding fashion. It feels, two years after the original game’s release, like it is still a new title. It is massively deep and yet easily accessible. Sitting for an hour playing D3 on the PS4, the time flies and you feel as though you’ve barely scratched the surface or done anything.
Is it perfect? No. For instance, upsettingly, my computer-based character cannot be imported to the PS4, and as I’ve spent hours on the character, that’s a little tough to take. But, if you’ve played D3 on either 360 or PS3, you can move your character their over (yes, the 360 character can apparently be moved to PS4).
Other than that, I stand by what I said in my original view of Diablo III, save for the complaints about the need for an always-on connection as that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue here on the PS4.
Sacred 3 is rated M for Mature by the ESRB for Blood, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. It can also be found on PC and Xbox 360.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition is rated M for Mature by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, and Violence. It can also be found on PC/Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00GLZQR96]