Since the original release in 2004, I have followed the Sacred franchise. Between the very first installment, to the Sacred Underworld expansion which added two new classes and a few other perks and their first console port Sacred 2, this series has been a little favorite of mine since my high school days. I discovered that Sacred 3 was on its way to PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 only a few weeks ago in my local Gamestop, and I knew I had to throw down a pre-order.
Starting from the get-go, I noticed when picking characters that the only class that’s carried over from the old games is the Seraphim; a battle-worn angelic soldier. As much as I love the Seraphim, I was disappointed to lose so many of my other favorites such as the Dryad (a forest-dwelling marksman who uses poisons) and the high elf (who uses elemental magic to decimate everything within range). However I was willing to give the new guys a shot. After reading their bios, (and starting a game with the Seraphim for nostalgia’s sake before really digging in) I decided to try Alithea the Ancarian Warrior who wields pole arms.
Right away a cut scene starts, introducing the story, which in itself is very straight-forward; the villain gets cranky, takes an ancient artifact and plans to use it against Ancaria (the continent the game takes place in). Very easy to understand and though a bit on the cliché side, is a good enough story for me to get behind and want to go kick some tail.
During this cut scene the first thing I noticed was the voice acting. Some of the characters sound a little on the forced side when they try to make jokes while the others seem natural with the quirkiness of their lines. And don’t get me started on Marak the Safiri. He reminds me of Aquaman from Brave And the Bold and it makes me laugh….and roll my eyes. The narrator makes me giggle from time to time as does Aria who is this game’s version of Cortana from the Halo series or Angel from Borderlands as she walks you through the game, describing the story as it changes to your actions.
Now for the game itself, I must say I was at the very least surprised. When I see the name Sacred I expect an open-world map where I can run up to guards and villagers and gather tons of quests, go do the things, and come back for equipment, gold and all kinds of booty. This is no longer the case as it seems as the new developers Keen Games™ have decided to point the gameplay in a new direction. You are rewarded weapons, new armor and combat arts for leveling up. The only things you earn at random in the battlefield are spirits that when equipped give you special boosts such as a dragon, a vampire and my personal favorite, the battle mage. As a long fan of Sacred, I miss the looting and upgrading my items by the choices I make of what to keep and what to sell. However after looking at the game as simply a hack-n-slash, it is still perfectly playable.
If you are interested in Sacred 3, I have this to say; if you wish to get the full experience, have some friends pick up their sticks and play with you. Playing solo can be fun, but only for so long, as can be the familiarity with a lot of the “KILL ALL THE THINGS” genre. In my own adventures in Ancaria, I found that having at least one friend to knock back the hordes with has been much more fun and rewarding than taking on the armies of evil on my own.
The Bottom Line:
Gameplay: Any Sacred fans will need to keep an open mind with this one. It can be repetitive as can a lot of hack-n-slash games and the story is relatively run-of-the-mill, but any fan of the genre will have their blood lust slaked. And the five heroes you can choose from (the fifth being a download that is definitely a fun member to add to your army), offer an array of abilities and personalities that are fun to play around with.
Solo vs Co-op: To get the full enjoyment from this game, have a friend or three drop in and wreak some havoc on some baddies. Solo is fun for the first lonely level or so, but can become relatively boring pretty quick.
Graphics: They have certainly updated the surroundings and character details since the last Sacred, however they are not anything to swoon over.
Worth It?: Unless you are a hardcore Sacred collector or a hack fanatic, waiting for a price drop or a sale may be the wisest choice.
Bonus Warning! Apparently the developers didn’t believe in having the option of pausing the game. There are safe zones, but it can be guaranteed that at some point when nature calls, you’ll be in the middle of a horde. And even the dashboard on the Xbox 360 can’t save you then.
Bringing out the inner nerd in everyone!