I confess that I had to do some research prior to reviewing the latest instalment of the Sacred franchise. All I knew was that it filled in the hole that a lack of Diablo style click-based RPGs, full of loot, quests, you name it. What I uncovered was that reception at the time to them wasn’t phenomenal, but it did develop a cult following. It’s also been many years since the original developers shut down, meaning that the mantle has been passed onto a new studio. Sadly though, Sacred 3 is not even of similar ilk and may be the final nail in the coffin.
Our first warning sign is the game’s structure. Instead of a world where you run around beating monsters and finding loot; you select a level, watch a pointless story sequence, drop in, kill monsters and gather gold before leaving a level with a new item/perk just willingly given to you. Levels are too linear for their own good, with only chests full of gold to divert you from your path. For the first level or so this is fine, but it quickly becomes hopelessly dull and not even the story makes up for it.
There are four character types available, ranging from melee and ranged combat. However even the opening cut-scene spells a contradiction: who is the cool fire-wielding magic user? Is he an NPC ally? No, he’s playable – if you bought the collector’s edition. The coolest looking character is relegated to pre-order DLC. This wouldn’t be an issue if the other characters weren’t lame in comparison.
Perhaps the only saving grace is the limited enemy variety and traps that the games throw at you. Some will have shields, others cast devastating spells, and some even charge at you. The variety is welcome, but there’s just one problem: they can all be dispatched in the same way with little in the way of strategy. Even larger groups of foes drop like flies when you utilise skills, with larger foes falling over and open to an admittedly flashy Execute attack. This is an issue inherent with the genre, but the reason this is such a demerit is because the game relies on the combat rather than anything else.
Combat is limited to a basic combination attack, a disarming attack, and two skills that are interchangeable during level selection. While the skills do a variety of different things, other games out there allow you to change them during gameplay, meaning should you come across something where a particular skill would be handy like a dodge instead of block, you’re stuck with what you have. You can upgrade anything with gold, but beside a few extra elements these upgrades don’t do a great deal. You can also equip spirits that are slightly more interesting, granting a buff and debuff that share a common theme. There is also a coop only move that is used solely to help your allies, which would be fine if the focus was solely on cooperative play.
Visually it isn’t a powerhouse, frequently chugging at a low frame rate whenever it gets too busy on screen. This would be alright if it was just enemies that cause this, but sub-par fire effects and blurry background textures also make the game run at a snail’s pace at times. Cut-scenes look really nice however, looking as if they leapt out of a Magic the Gathering card. Music is your generic fantasy score, but it’s the voices and their never-ending sass that really grinds the lack of focus home. Usually there’s one stand-out character that players will want to shut up, but in Sacred 3, you’ll want all of them to!
Sacred has always been about the cooperative play, but here it is to the detriment of all the other past features. Having players hop in while you play is of huge annoyance as the game ramps up the difficulty while they’re joining rather than once they’ve connected. This means that by the time the player is in the game and moving around, you’re probably on a sliver of health. On top of that, there’s a “competitive element” that defeats the point of working together to defeat a boss, usually because while you’re trying to kill the boss, your teammate might be farming for score to try and beat your score. You can thankfully turn it off, but you will need to reset it after every level which is a massive inconvenience.
Let’s be clear, Sacred 3 is a gargantuan insult to not only fans of the genre, but also to the remaining group of dedicated fans who defended it for years. They might not have the greatest of settings, but the past games at least got what the genre is all about. Sacred 3 clearly doesn’t, not just because it has more ham and sass than Miss Piggy, but because it fails to see why the genre works so well. Gold alone does not tempt a man to roam the lands in high adventure, but treasures and relics kept those who loved Diablo and Torchlight coming back. We’re sadly witnessing the death of a franchise here.