Review: Sacred 3 Is A Definitive Step Back For The Series
Sacred 2 was a game that people either loved or hated, though the hate was often attributed to bugs. Sacred 3 aims to be a more polished experience, but is it for the better?
- Worth The Time?Only for the co-op.
- Things LovedThe combat is great, if unvaried. Co-op is mindless fun. The environments are stunning, especially for a last-gen game. It's more polished than its predecessors.
- Things HatedGameplay gets tedious after an hour of doing the same thing, the dialogue annoyed me to no end, most of the voice acting is nothing short of terrible, it tries too hard to be a more accessible Diablo and it lacks any sense of progression.
- RecommendationSacred 3 is what it says on the box: an arcade hack 'n slash game. It's not an RPG in any way, shape or form and the only reason you should even consider it is if you desperately, desperately need a new co-op game.
- Name: Sacred 3
- Genre: Arcade Hack 'n Slash
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online (2-4 players)
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Keen Games
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Price: R620
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
I love ARPG hack ‘n slash games. I always have. I grew up playing PC games and Diablo was always one of my favourites. When I was in high school and the only PC I had access to had no graphics card, Torchlight came along with its wonderfully low system requirements. Lootfest games like these have had me clicking my way through many a mouse and I’ve spent countless hours saving the world while sorting through inventory screen after inventory screen.
Unfortunately, my love for the genre made Sacred 3 a frustrating game to review. I went in expecting an ARPG but was greeted with a game that tries to take the Diablo formula and make it even more accessible, as if Diablo 3 didn’t already do enough of that. They way overshot the mark, sadly, leaving us with a title that’s far too simplified to provide more than an hour or two of entertainment.
One thing Sacred 3 has going for it is that combat, at least in the console versions, is tight. The basic blueprint has you mashing the attack button to take on hordes of enemies, occasionally using your bash ability to stun shielded guys and rolling out of the way of bigger enemies’ telegraphed attacks.
You also have access to two combat arts; basically a fancy name for spells. These are mapped to the left and right shoulder buttons. So while you do unlock more combat arts as you progress, you can never use more than 2 at a time. This doesn’t really matter though because there’s hardly any variety when it comes to skills.
I played the Seraphim class and every single spell I unlocked did nothing more than deal damage in a different way: one dealt damage and pushed enemies in a cone away, one threw an orb that dealt damage in a line and another made a circle around me that (you guessed it) damaged enemies that touched it. It didn’t help that every single skill’s visuals effect consisted of purple lightning.
Skill choice isn’t the only area that lacks variety, either. I was undecided on which class I wanted to play so I did the first mission with all of them and found they were all far too similar. The Seraphim hits with a sword, the Safiri uses a slow but high damage hammer and the Ancarian uses a longer range spear. The only different class is the Khukuri, who uses a bow. He’s also intensely boring because you have to stand still while firing. And just about all of their skills do damage in lines, cones or circles.
This isn’t even the underlying problem with Sacred 3, though. Most skills in Diablo and Torchlight arguably follow the same pattern, the main difference being you have access to more than two at any one time. No, Sacred 3’s biggest issue is that it doesn’t have any form of loot system.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the main reason ARPGs are so addictive is that you get a steady stream of new items while playing. Sacred 3 subverts this entirely by having you choose your loadout before starting each mission. Once unlocked, you’ll have access to a grand total of 3 samey weapons and 1 armour set. That’s it.
These items level up as you play but as far as I could tell, all it did was change them cosmetically. Every weapon, skill and the single armour set have skill trees that you can spend gold to invest in. These are a lot like Mass Effect, making passive changes with occasional branching choices. They’re all very small changes, though; things like critical strike chance, damage and duration increases.
You gain access to everything except higher tier upgrades by level 10. After that, the only thing you can unlock is passive changes to skills, weapons and armour. This left me feeling like I’d experienced everything the game had to offer before I was even a third of the way through. ARPGs tend to drip-feed you new skills up until the very end of the game for good reason, as Sacred 3 proves.
These problems may be a result of the game seemingly being designed around co-op multiplayer. No items means no down-time while players sort through inventory and simple gameplay means anyone can learn to play it within 2 minutes. This focus on co-op is most evident when bosses occasionally getting you into combo attacks that can only be stopped by an ally’s bash attack, even in single player. You also can’t pause. How a game can release in 2014 without the Start button pausing baffles me.
There isn’t much variety in mission structure and the level design isn’t particularly inspired either. You mostly just run along a linear path, killing enemies on the way. Combat encounters are occasionally interspersed with pointless, often repeated sections seemingly put in there to break up the monotony.
Sometimes you’ll have to dodge circles on the ground caused by catapults/earthquakes/volcanoes/explosive plants/trolls throwing rocks. Others you’ll have to turn a wheel 6 times/push a minecraft 6 times/destroy 6 catapults/destroy 6 gates. They really seem to like the number 6. Boss fights are at least entertaining, although they’re hardly challenging. It’s always a case of learning their patterns then dodging and slicing them to bits while they go through their ridiculously slow attack animations in the wrong directions.
After each main mission, 2 smaller ones are unlocked on the map. These fall into one of two categories: short “kill all enemies” missions or 5 wave arena fights. Both types can be finished in less than 5 minutes and are mostly there to fill out the game’s already short campaign.
For a last-gen game, Sacred 3 doesn’t look half bad. Environments are beautiful and far more varied than the gameplay, spell effects look good although each character only seems to have one type (Seraphim only uses purple lightning and Khukuri only icy things, for example) and enemy designs are great up until the point where you get sick of looking at them because the game throws the same few enemies at you up until the very end.
Story and plot, meanwhile are entirely throwaway. Sacred 3 is full of forgettable characters and events that seem entirely inconsequential. There’s an annoying teenage narrator constantly talking to you, throwing words like “noob” into the mix to make the game seem culturally relevant but failing miserably with every line. And the voice acting does nothing to make any of it bearable.
Horrible dialogue doesn’t stop with the narrator, though. Enemy commanders talk to you during missions, telling you how they’re gonna kill you for the most part. Each is more annoying than the last. One keeps telling you about food he wants to eat while another is “funny” because he constantly makes use of the wrong words. Your character also has a weapon spirit that enhances your abilities who also decides to pop up now and again to crack “jokes”. The one I used the most was a wizard who did nothing but talk about threeways and hit on every female character. Ugh.
I also feel obligated to mention that one of the characters on the box art is pre-order DLC. He’s only available in the First Edition but as I mentioned before, all the characters play so similarly that you won’t be missing out on much, especially since he’s nothing more than a dark version of the Seraphim character.
Sacred 3’s combat is good but isn’t explored beyond what’s available at the outset. Skills look awesome but are extremely unimaginative. A story exists but it isn’t particularly good. All of these issues leave Sacred 3 feeling half-hearted, like its direction was set by the board of directors and focus groups instead of the developers. It isn’t an awful game by any standards but I can’t help feeling like it could’ve been so much more.