Sacred is a game that comes with a lot of history behind it. I had originally picked up Scared off a shelf at a now very long defunct computer store that we used to have which carried the obscure games as if they were the norm. I liked the way Sacred looked, and to this day I do not regret it what-so-ever. I bought Sacred 2 when it came out, hell I bought it again not only on the PS3, but also as a Gold Edition on Steam for the Expansion content. Needless to say, I’ve always loved the series with the Dark Elf/Vampiress as my favorite characters of the first, followed by the Seraphim and High Elf in the second. Sadly when Ascaron announced that it was closing its doors I figured that we would never get another chance to play a new Sacred until Deep Silver came along and produced Sacred 3.
Starting off Sacred 3 is nothing like it’s predecessors and instead goes about a different route for the continuation of the series. This alone has caused a lot of grumbling and dissatisfaction with a lot of long time fans. I’ve learned a lesson a long time ago with Radiatta Stories on the PS2, where I allowed myself to be swept up in the hype and all of the media coverage and once I got my hands on the game I was sadly disappointed because it was nothing like what I had been seeing. I’ve still got to go back and replay it with an open mind and no per-conceptions. Keeping this in mind since that day the closer a game gets to release, the less I pay attention to it so that I can make my own decisions. This is what I’ve done with Sacred 3, and while most of the reviews out there have been rather mixed, I don’t agree with “why” some of them are scoring it low. While yes Sacred 3 is a sequel to the series, it is also its own entity, from a different developer, a form of reboot in a sense and shouldn’t be judged by how different it was from 2.
While the first two Sacreds played like a Diablo-ish Hack and Slash meeting up with the open world concepts that we’ve seen in the Elder Scrolls with it’s own interesting invited playstyles, Sacred 3 plays more like a Gauntlet game with set levels. It has to be said that while yes most of what made Sacred 1 and 2 what they were are gone to make way for a much more streamlined approach, it creates a different style of experience for people to try. I could go on and on with what was removed but it’s what Deep Silver have done that makes Sacred 3 not only worth playing, but also makes playing Sacred 3 an enjoyable time either solo or co-oped.
Sacred 3 starts off with four playable characters to choose from (five if you pre-ordered or buy it via DLC) which handle differently from one another making it worth trying them all out. Out of the five available characters, four are different styles of melee, while the other is the only ranged option available. What separates these characters from one another are the styles of weapons (Sword / Axe / Spear / Bow / Dual-Wielding Blades) and the skills available by each. Each weapon style has different speed and power factors making it worthwhile to find which works best for you as well as which works best in a co-op situation. Sacred 3’s couch co-op is limited to only two players while a quick hop online can hold a maximum party of four.
As characters gain experience from defeating various enemies and level up, they unlock new weapons abilities as well as character abilities and skills that can be equipped between stages. Instead of finding random weapons and armours scattered throughout each level, they get unlocked and upgraded as players progress through the various stages. While some may find this annoying, I thought that in some ways it felt more appropriate as players could never truly get overpowered by obtaining the mother of all weapons and then just having a relaxed and easy time for the next while. Each of these weapons, like the character abilities such as dodging, blocking, resurrecting allies, and character skills, have upgrade trees that unlock at various levels and then must be purchased with gold that players can amass within each stage.
Characters have access to a limited set of moves in which can only be set prior to the entry of the stages. Each character has the standard attack that follows its own combo as well as a more powerful shield breaking move which can not only break shields, but also interrupt enemies as they use their own special abilities. These two attacks are followed by an action button that can rotate wheels, activate switches, and throw medium sized enemies at one another or even over the ledge to not have to bother with them. Where each character really starts to show off their differences from one another are the special abilities that use up their own storage of energy to perform some really awesome moves. Sadly, while these abilities are sometimes really awesome, players are stuck with only being able to have the abilities for the left and right shoulder buttons as the left and right shoulder buttons. The ability to mix and match the abilities together is not possible which can sometimes be a bit disappointing as some characters have better abilities for my play style set on the right side with abilities that I even forget about on the left. It might have been better to have the abilities in a list and allow the players the choice of where they wanted them to go.
As with the unlocking of weapons, armours, and character abilities, making your way through stages and defeating enemies will unlock a new feature to the series, Weapon Spirits. These spirits, along with everything else, will level up over time as you go through the stages and can only be described as double edged swords. While these spirits can give wonderful bonuses to either you or your party members, there is also a downside in which can sometimes be too much to warrant using them. Most of the time these are reasonable, but then there are some where you really have to think hard about if it would be worth it either in a solo or a co-op mode.
Gone is the massive overworld that could be explored at any time and it has been instead replaced with a world map styled hub that allows for the various stage selection. Now while I do miss the giant overworld, having the game divided up into segments allows for an easier time to manage the amount that a player spends playing. I say this because of two things.
The first is that Sacred 3 plays host to a scoring system that takes several factors into mind such as total damage and skill of combat to then crown a player victor of the level. The victor is granted an extra 10% to obtained experience and gold. I’ll be honest that while I was doing fairly well at the beginning and always coming out the victor… my better half demolished me as her Seraphim came into some fancy new abilities. Now while my Ancarian could deal out insane amounts of damage quick and take the lead in that department… I haven’t seen a victory screen since.
The second reason that the division isn’t a bad idea for what they have done, is that it allows for quick play sessions without seeming like the player has gotten nothing done. Stages are divided up into three categories in which players can decide how much time they have to spend. The first, and the longest, are the story levels that come with cutscenes and dialog. The second style is a survive the waves which send out a boss for the final wave that carries the word well as it surely is NOT a mid-boss being sent at you. The final and third is a destroy all the enemies type of scenario that play out fast enough. While the second and third play differently, they both grand players more experience and gold as well as new items and upgrades to the amount of items that a player may have making these smaller missions more than worth doing.
A slight disappointment was that Sacred 3 does not support a four player local co-op. While I don’t currently have access to a Player 3 or Player 4 (as they were out of town), it would have been nice to have them be able to join locally when they get back. Sacred 3 also seems to play a bit differently between Solo and Co-op. It occurred to me as I was catching up with a second character that as the stages went by fast, and by fast I mean taking less half the time. Now while this could be the case as the camera doesn’t require you to wait for anyone, it wasn’t as fun to do the levels solo, and the lack of at least second player could make some challenges harder than they need to as there was no one to cover you while putting your energy into a device.
The only real disappointment that I did have is that the enemy models just blend into one another after a while. The small, medium, and large enemies all look like one another and it looks like they were just palette swapped for the different environments. Thankfully this is more than made up for with the various interesting and entertaining boss fights that do put a fair amount of challenge into the game when trying to figure out exactly what to do like the Black Seraphim which was one intense boss fight.
Narrative has never been very high inside of a Sacred game allowing more for the characters to learn about the world through NPC dialogs and the various environments. Having moved from this over to a set top down view angel and specific levels, Deep Silver went with a much more narrative approach having the characters guided by a very chatty Seraphim. While this alone changed things, the overall tone of the game is not a serious one. Yes someone is trying to destroy the world, but instead of having very serious dialogs, most things are off the wall and hilarious more often than not.
Overall Sacred 3, while not quite being a true sequel to its predecessors, more than carries its own weight making for an entertaining experience. I do hope that Deep Silver continues on with the series and evolves it further either while staying within the current style or even to bring it back to where it used to be. Either way, I am glad that they made this and that it was not only fun to play, but more than entertaining to listen to with the various added dialogs!
Review by Pierre-Yves