The Sacred franchise can be best described best as a rough diamond. The games implement what’s to be expected from action RPGs from dungeon exploring, to loot grabbing and to endless waves of much stronger enemies for you to test your lovely new weapons on. Sacred has shown signs of promise, with the wonderful world of Ancaria to explore, the many quests to fulfil, the funny memorable characters whom you’d share your journeys with and the many battles you’ll be taking part in. Sacred had its moments and was great fun to play, however it still couldn’t quite compete with its rival the Diablo series. Even so, defunct developers Ascaron still managed to add exciting and fun additions to the genre with both Sacred 1 and 2 which have a large following even today and are still able to provide wholesome, exciting and action-packed role-playing entertainment.
Thus inheritors of the Sacred franchise Keen Games decided it would be an ingenious move to completely do-away with what made the Sacred games fun and instead release something which has become a kick-to-the-balls for fans of the franchise and of the genre.
Where to even begin…
There’s not much in the way of story at all. It’s just a case of stopping this one big evil entity from bringing more evil to this world. There wasn’t any care given about adding strong context to the gameworld and even less care given to the gameplay itself. It’s a Sacred game in name only, it completely shoves aside what the Sacred games were and it’s not even good at what it’s trying to be.
For starters the enormous and vibrant open world from Sacred 2 which stretched for miles on end and which was packed full of places to explore, quests to fulfil, bad guys to fight and loot to grab is now gone. Instead replaced with a mission map which takes you from one tedious, linear and boring mission to the other. Ancaria is no longer the fun-filled world for you to explore and where you’ll carry out quests, but a “mission-zone” where you’ll go to one place and clear out enemies. Go to another place and clear out enemies. Go to another place and clear out enemies. Lather, rinse, repeat.
For your character there are a total of 2 combat arts that you can use: heavy and light which are advanced further the more you level up and where each advancement is unlocked via gold. You’ll become ridiculously overpowered in a short period of time so upgrading to anything else becomes rather redundant. Also you can only use 2 at a time in each mission and you can’t switch arts during missions, instead only being able to change arts outside of missions, thus removing any experimenting and customisation options that any other good game would offer you. You can also equip weapon spirits which will accompany you and your friends, each of them including passive bonuses which improve your character’s attacks or regeneration abilities. Not that it makes a difference since you won’t notice much change that the spirits make even when they’re levelled up.
The fighting has been stripped down and butchered, with no depth and barely any combat system implemented. Sacred is now a hack & slash in the vein of games like Gauntlet, but it’s not even a good hack & slash game. You’re literally clicking the mouse button in the hopes you’ll hit something. The dull combat isn’t helped by poor controls either, since you can’t turn your character with the mouse button and have to use W S A and D instead. This makes aiming extremely difficult because the effectiveness of your attacks depend on which direction you’re facing and even area attacks become wasted if you’re not set up correctly. PC players will want to use a controller rather than keyboard and mouse (or better yet, not play the game at all). Speaking of attacks you’ve got a 3 hit melee combo, a block breaking move and your 2 combat arts. That’s it. And it’s the same for each character. Virtually no opportunity for you to mix and match combat skills or to implement any clever tactics for complete destructive dominance, just spamming and hacking, spamming and hacking, spamming and hacking. Enjoy.
Action RPGs such as Torchlight and Titan’s Quest would reward the player for all the areas they’ve explored and all the monstrous beasts they’ve fought with a treasure trove of loot from 1000s of gold coins to extremely powerful weapons and armour. As soon as they’d open a crate a plethora of goodies would shower the player as a token of the game’s appreciation for the player’s hard work and dedication. You don’t get that here. Most of the things you’ll find are tiny scraps of gold with some orbs replenishing your health and power levels and you’re given weapons as you progress. Unless you invest your time in upgrading these weapons to become more powerful they’re all literally identical to one another.
On the plus side is that the game does actually look rather good. The battle areas are bright, nicely detailed and vivid, character models look good, the hand-painted cutscenes look very nice and there are truly some impressive special effects on display as you progress. These nice visuals are completely wasted on this game unfortunately. The sound production doesn’t help either, with its bland and uninspired musical score, drab sound effects and worse of all, having to listen to the jarring, irritating attempts at the character’s “wisecracks” that will have you face-palming so hard everytime you’re forced to listen to them.
Sacred has gone from being over 100 hours in gameplay length to 10 hours. You might even smash through this game in less time depending on your character’s strength, if you can tolerate it for more than 10 minutes. Perhaps you could play the game again with a different character and organise more co-op gameplay with your friends, or just not play the game at all and do something better with your time.
Sacred 3 is bad. There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s shallow, it’s dumbed down, it’s dull and being charged full price for a game this rushed and empty is daylight robbery. This game might as well start-up with a big image of the word “SUCKER” decorated in dollar signs. Sacred 3 is an example of how lazy a developer can be when they initially have a fantastic concept but do not even try to do something special with it. This isn’t the game for you if you’re looking for the next best thing in action RPGs. In fact this isn’t the game for you even if you’re not. The Sacred series is now going to need divine guidance to come back from this train-wreck of a game.
This review is based on review code of Sacred 3 for the PC, provided by the publisher.