Article first published as PC Review: ‘Sacred 3’ on Blogcritics.
Filling the lengthy gap between "Diablo II" and "Diablo 3," the original "Sacred" game made its debut a little over ten years ago and now. Released in 2004, "Sacred 2" offered multiple campaigns to play through and a large diverse world to explore. Though it lacked the polish of Blizzard’s iconic hack and slash isometric role playing game, "Sacred’s" developer, Ascaron seemed to be on the right track. Their valiant effort didn’t go unpunished, as the game’s long development cycle contributed to the company going under. With such a long gap between titles, the franchise’s new owner, Deep Silver last year, teased the franchise’s fans with "Sacred Citadel." A side scrolling beat-em up, "Sacred Citadel" served as a preview for the new, more substantial "Sacred 3."
Fans of the original "Sacred" and "Sacred 2" should probably look elsewhere for their RPG fix. Though "Sacred 3" looks like a classic RPG, it plays more like an arcade game. Where "Sacred 2" had players choose from a number of fixed-gender archetypes, the new game reduces the choice down to a handful of specific characters. As a matter of fact, Deep Silver doesn’t even refer to the game as an RPG at all. They actually sell it as an “arcade Hack n Slash.” The problem with this, is that an “arcade Hack n Slash” doesn’t justify the premium price they’re asking.
When "Sacred 3" starts up, players are immediately presented with a gorgeous high fantasy 3D video sequence that looks like something out of "Lord of the Rings." That impression is instantly shattered once the comic book-styled 2D animated intro begins and the narrator struggles through the script’s attempt at humor. Once you choose a character, another 2D animated sequence sets up a flimsy premise and sets you on your way. I found all of the voices but "Sacred 3’s" take on "Halo’s" Cortana, Aria grating, though to be fair, the script is pretty bad.
While "Sacred 3’s" script and consequently voice work are cringe worthy, the music is appropriate. Likewise, the environments and attacks particularly are pretty, as long as you can run the game on the high settings. The sets all have quite a bit going though and often you’ll lose sight of your character in combat. Of course, you’ll see a lot of the same characters but, "Sacred 3" actually does a pretty good job of balancing quantity and quality throughout the levels. Considering the game is only about ten hours long, there are plenty of different kinds of enemies and bosses.
In the theme of an arcade hack and slash, the controls are pretty simple. Each character has a basic attack and a break attack in addition to the ability to roll. The characters can also throw enemies and perform executions. There are also two more powerful magic attacks, but they require energy to execute. Besides a small amount of inventory to manage, you’re really just in charge of the combat. As your character advances, their abilities are all upgraded for you. While I tried this “arcade” game with a gamepad, I found the keyboard the superior input device, though both are problematic.
As an arcade game, "Sacred 3" offers both two player local and online cooperative multiplayer for up to four players. I personally found it difficult to connect with the online multiplayer, though once I did, it worked fairly well. Local multiplayer, while easier to initiate is physically impractical for many PC gamers and I was unable to use my Logitech PC controller effectively in the game. Add that to a both limited and needlessly redundant menu system, and you’re left with something that isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot of difference between "Sacred Citadel" and the new "Sacred 3." As a fan of "Sacred 2," I was really looking for a deep isometric, action RPG, but what I got, was essentially a "Dungeon Hunter: Alliance" experience for PC. "Sacred 3" admittedly tries to channel the arcade game "Gauntlet" more than the deep hack and slash RPGs its predecessor aspired to. Though it seems Deep Silver reduced "Sacred’s" scope with "Sacred 3," it doesn’t seem to have the polish of its arcade competitors, and the premium level pricing prohibits any sort of mass adoption.