Also On: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Keen Games
While Sacred 3 does bear some resemblance to its predecessors, it also deviates in a number of ways. The most notable of which is the absence of loot, and the open-world exploration found in 2008’s Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. Of course some change is to be expected, with a new developer at the helm, and a new publisher as well. But few of these changes are for the better, leaving a bit too much on the cutting room floor for my tastes.
The story continues on from the events of the Sacred Citadel spin-off from last year, jumping nearly 100 years ahead, and a whopping 3,000 years past Sacred 2. You’re still in the world of Ancaria, and you’ll see some familiar references throughout, but prior knowledge of past story events isn’t necessary here. Also, the story isn’t the biggest selling point for Sacred 3. It emphasizes humor over lore more often than not, with lots of one-liners and groan inducing bits of dialogue from various characters in-between story missions. On occasion the humor works, but most dialogue gets repeated so often that any charm found early on will wear thin quickly.
Combat is easily one of the bigger improvements found in Sacred 3, and its clear that there was some serious work put into making the hack and slash mechanics fun. Across four selectable classes you’ll have access to melee and ranged attacks, dodge and block maneuvers, and the ability to execute downed enemies. Every class has a number of light and heavy Combat Arts–special skills that provide powerful but limited attacks designed around clearing out multiple foes at once. Fighting feels really satisfying in Sacred 3, even if it is pretty repetitive. Early boss encounters feel like real threats, but you’ll soon become overpowered as you level up throughout the story, which can trivialize the end game a bit on normal and hard difficulty settings.
Co-op is also emphasized with Sacred 3, featuring online 4-player co-op and 2 player local. I didn’t test local, but I did pal around with a few random people online. In my experience it was easy enough to find other players, or allow random folks to jump into my game. Like other ARPG’s, adding additional players will toughen up enemies, compensating for the added assistance. The Weapon Spirits, gained as you advance through the story, also benefit from additional players, allowing you to synergize with other players and the Weapon Spirits they have equipped. For single-player use, the reality is that a small number of Weapon Spirits will actually feel useful, but with more players in tow you’ll likely see the need to experiment more.
Another feather in Sacred 3’s cap is that it’s an excellent looking game. Outside of some random screen-tearing that occurs in the cinematic playing on the menu screen, this is a clear bump up from its predecessor. Even compared to Diablo III, I found myself preferring the more varied approach of Sacred 3’s art design and environments. There’s a fair amount of detail here, even if interactivity is limited and the stage design is generally linear. Of course the flip side of this excellent looking title is imagining how diverse and incredible it could have been had it kept the open-world setting of Sacred 2.
But unfortunately, the positives don’t outweigh the negatives here. Going in to Sacred 3, I was already aware of the changes made to the series with this entry. The absence of loot didn’t kill my interest in it, as I never felt like Sacred had a complete handle on good, compelling loot to begin with. The open world being reduced to a stage map was a bit more troubling, more so once I discovered how limited and confined the actual stages were. Just about every stage is a singular path, with occasional split paths that branch off for a few seconds before exiting out to the same spot. You’ll also find a few treasure chests tucked away, but with loot removed this only leads to more gold and health/energy orbs. It’s hardly a compelling reason to track your way to a dead-end and haul yourself back in the direction you came.
Even more egregious are the optional side-missions on the map, which consist of two forms. One is a five-wave survival mode, the other a short five-minute jaunt through two or three groups of enemies before reaching a larger chest filled with gold. That’s it! No variations, outside of the environment, and the only rewards are unlocked consumables that you’ll rarely use or have need for. The only other bonus to be had is the additional experience, but I didn’t have the patience to grind out levels on these missions due to how incredibly repetitive they were.
My final complaint stems from the way the limited gear is handled. Each character has just a few weapons that will unlock the further in you play. The weapons each possess varying degrees of proficiency in critical hits, overall damage, range, and a couple additional stats. The weapons, along with your singular piece of armor, will level up overtime, which isn’t something explained well within the game. What triggers this level up? Is there some sort of catalyst? It never seemed to matter which weapon I had equipped, as non-equipped weapons would still level. And they seemed to do so in the order in which they were unlocked originally.
As you level up your armor and weapons, you’ll be able to spend gold to unlock bonuses for each. However, the stat variants always felt small to me, and mostly insignificant. Outside of the occasional large critical damage or standard damage boost, dumping money into these skills didn’t seem to make a significant impact. Certainly less so than the Combat Art skills I could enhance in a similar fashion. Armor was especially disappointing, in that you only have the singular set, and no differentiating visual identity compared to other players of the same class. While I understand that loot is a thing of the past in Sacred 3, a bit of cosmetic customization wouldn’t have hurt
Unfortunately I found my time with Sacred 3 was predominantly disappointing. There are certainly aspects of the game I enjoyed, the co-op was handled well enough, and the combat was vastly improved compared to other titles in the series and genre. But I think stripping the game of meaningful stats, open-world exploration, side quests, and loot, really removed the parts of Sacred that fans identified with. Instead, you’re left with a competent hack-and-slash with a sub-par RPG experience tacked on the end. Overall, Sacred 3 isn’t the sequel that fans of the series were hoping to see, and hopefully Keen Games will pick up on the feedback offered across various outlets and forums if there are plans for another Sacred down the road.