Six years after the release of Sacred 2, Deep Silver have resurrected the series with Sacred 3. However, it is not the game that fans expected – rather than keeping to the fantasy RPG, open-world style of Sacred 2, Keen Games has moved into a more linear arcade style. Is Sacred 3 holy or ungodly in the eyes of its fans?
Actually, the reception with the fans hasn’t been great. Keen Games has taken the torch from Ascaron Entertainment, who developed the previous games in the franchise. And Keen have made some changes. Although we should always be open to change, it can be frustrating when the game you know and love has been tinkered with. Having not played Sacred or Sacred 2 personally, I can approach Sacred 3 with an unbiased mind, and lower expectations than die-hard fans of the series. And, whether said fans agree or not, I like it.
It is a little unfair to judge this game based on its predecessors anyway. Although it is a Sacred game like the other two, it is an entirely new game in its own right and can’t be looked through the Sacred lens with too much intensity.
As an arcade RPG hack and slash, the story is focused around the Heart of Ancaria, an artefact intrinsically linked to the fantasy world in which you brawl. The Heart is stolen by Lord Zane, lord of the Ashen Empire, who wishes to use the artefact for his own devious means.
You can either play locally or online, in an up-to-four-player coop play. You can play one of four Heroes to fight against Zane’s army of nastiness and recover the artefact; a warrior, hunter, paladin or lancer. The archer is the only player that really feels different in combat, being more focused on ranged attacks. The other three feel pretty similar. Let’s face it – these are certainly not original, or in any way imaginative. You’ll play a very clichéd character in a very clichéd story and environment. There is nothing so far in Sacred 3 that stands it out from the fantasy masses.
The narrative, set against beautiful artwork and cinematic scenes, is unfortunately a total let down. As a game highly driven by its story, Sacred 3 needed to punch above its weight with its narrative, but it is let down by failed attempts at humour, awkward scripting and cringe-worthy voice acting. What feels like an epic battle with an enormous ogre is demeaned by a cheesy joke voiced over the action. This is catastrophic for the feel of an otherwise excellent game. One-liners and unwanted comments are intrusive, and really grate on my nerves. I’m all for a corny joke, but I can’t even laugh at some of these. Yikes.
Gameplay is simple, thankfully, and the environments are varied and beautifully crafted. The animations and sounds are smooth, making battle feel non-repetitive and engaging. The enemies I fight are varied enough that I never lose interest in the combat. Combat flows nicely, and is all the more enjoyable with the two special abilities that you can choose at the start of every level. You can buy upgrades for your normal attacks, and these upgrades actually feel different, and are varied. There’s nothing worse than repetitive combat in a combat-reliant game like this, so Sacred 3 really pulls through on this one. Tactical combat is needed in places, but I never found myself stuck or wondering what the best move was. You can dodge or block incoming attacks, and rolling out of the way of a giant hammer falling at my head feels natural and fluid. You can use shield-breaking attacks on bigger and more armoured enemies to chip away at their defences, and so bring them to their knees, which makes for a satisfying victory. The learning curve for combat is gentle and doesn’t require all too much thought, so I am free to enjoy the motions of the fight. However, you will find yourself spamming your special abilities. Basic attacks become fillers for charging the special abilities which will win a fight. If you’re like me though, this isn’t too much of a hindrance. You’re pretty much just dropped into a mass of enemies and your single objective is to kill everything in your path. Story missions are meaty and long, but extremely linear – a long path filled with baddies, with a beasty boss at the end. This feels quite closed, and steps away from an open world environment. Classic hack and slash, with RPG laid aside.
And this is where we come to the real niggle in the game. More than a niggle, a gaping chasm of something vital missing from the genre. Loot. There is no loot. For me, and for many, loot is the single most important aspect of any RPG or hack and slash game. The prospect of fighting an epically difficult boss, just for the satisfaction of putting on that epic helmet you’ve been grinding for for hours. There is none of this in Sacred 3. And I find myself asking, what is the point? Where is my motivation for killing these mobs, other than for the sake of killing them? The gold from the enemies is used to unlock armour abilities, but it is so easy to attain that all sense of challenge and reward is all but entirely lost. The upgrades for your armour are few, and look a little pathetic in variety. More upgrades become available as you level up your character’s gear. The lack of loot is a very noticeable problem. It feels like it’s been forgotten, like the developers are slapping their palms to their foreheads as I type exclaiming, “I knew something was missing!” The idea is to lean more towards the arcade style of gaming, for quick and immediate satisfaction, rather than an RPG style. Although this does speed up the gameplay significantly, it feels incomplete.
The levels are varied, and there are side missions you can do to achieve pieces of special equipment like potions and bombs. Although it doesn’t really make up for the lack of loot, it diversifies your gameplay enough to keep you interested, and these items can prove extremely useful in later fights. In extra missions, you must – you guessed it – kill all of the things. Not really much variation here. There are also unlockable weapon spirits, which infuse your weapons with special abilities, and have voice-overs during battle (awful, awful voice-overs). You can swap between spirits between missions.
Visually, the game looks stunning. The cut-scenes, as I’ve mentioned before, are gorgeous, with minimal animation to allow the player to fully appreciate the hand-drawn style of the artwork that has gone into the game. The top-down view allows for a real focus on environments, light and shadows, and the interaction between the player and the surroundings. The locations of your missions are a mixture of in- and out-side, rocky or covered in foliage, day or night.
I must warn you – this game sucks on a keyboard and mouse. I highly recommend using a controller. I used an Xbox controller.
You can play the same missions over and over again, on different difficulties which can be unlocked. The Normal difficulty is pretty easy and doesn’t offer any kind of real challenge, but is perfect for a casual game. You can finish Sacred 3 in a weekend or less, if you are committed, which is another far cry from the previous games.
I really enjoyed Sacred 3. It is a good game, especially if you can emancipate it from the previous games in the series. It plays beautifully, the combat is simple and fluid and the visuals are spot-on. It is the perfect game for some quick, non-committed spurts of gaming, and appeals strongly to more casual gamers. It is very much an arcade game, and makes for a great hack and slash. But it’s nothing new, and certainly nothing special. Dire voice-acting and scripting and a total lack of loot really let an otherwise enjoyable game down. It sits hanging its head in the shadows of Diablo 3, and it is an entirely different game to Sacred 2. It is most definitely not worth the whopping £39.99 price tag it has on Steam, unless you are confident that you can see past a repetitive nature and truly invest in levelling up a single character by mashing a couple of buttons.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.