After its collapse and eventual bankruptcy, Ascaron’s swan song, Sacred 2, was bitter-sweet. Plagued with bugs at launch, it was quickly polished and became one of the few decent open-world hack’n’slash adventures. Deep Silver then picked up the series, and has released two Sacred titles to date, including this latest adventure: Sacred 3.
Sacred 2 wasn’t perfect, but it certainly set a high benchmark. The Sacred franchise has never been a AAA series, but it tried its darnedest. Creating an open world game is very difficult, then add on a huge number of weapons and armor with dozens of stats and skills to consider, hundreds of quests, and more Easter eggs than a bunny omelet, it was no surprise there were more than a few bugs in the mix. Fast forward a few months, and it was definitely worthy of praise.
When Ascaron went bankrupt, a handful of programmers and beta testers stayed on to finish the game off, and even release an expansion. Since then it was bought up by Deep Silver, which has slowly been working on a couple of titles. While hopes were high for what was to come after Sacred 2, it would seem the market has changed over the years; open world is no longer in fashion, neither are stat junkies, customization and hack’n’slash loot-fests… because Sacred 3 is none of the above. Welcome to the new-age genre-bending madness, as I present to you Sacred 3, the Arcade Dungeon Crawling Adventure!
I’m not going to lie, after playing for just a few minutes, something horrible dawned on me. Something I didn’t want to face after the misery that was Syndicate. Deep Silver has re-written the book on Sacred and morphed it into something it should never have been in the first place. The vast epic and sprawling landscapes and open world exploration was replaced by fixed dungeons with mob-clearing gates. Hack’n’slash remains, but without the loot. Loot has been replaced with gold and arcade style points. Customization has just plain gone, apart from a couple of binary selections on skills when leveled up. No side missions, no Easter eggs, but the developer did bring something new, Voice actors – with the most cringe-worthy puns and cheap one-liners ever compressed into a single game.
The following video should give you some idea of what to expect. This was a new character with all the cutscenes played. The player that joined at the beginning was random and unexpected, but you can see some of the co-op play at work.
There’s got to be a saving grace somewhere… isn’t there? There is, but in order to get to it, we need to do something drastic. We have to change the name of the game. This is not Sacred 3, this is an imposter, trying to cling onto the fans of the past with a name-drop. With the name and game as it is, it was just setting everyone up for disappointment, and that’s all the fans will see. This is not Sacred. However, peel away the deceit, the bitterness and the name, we are left with a rather odd, but sometimes fun arcade style slaughter-fest.
What remains of the game is a very simple, but tight arcade adventure. There is a lot of emphasis on co-op too with both 4-player online and local (one player on keyboard and mouse, the other using a controller). It’s very much a console style game that’s been made to fit on the PC. This doesn’t mean it’s a console port in the classic sense, as it runs perfectly smoothly and the keyboard controls are usable… well, at least they were to begin with before a patch landed. During the early release, the character would point in whatever direction the mouse was pointed, with WASD keys providing movement – then a patch just before launch killed mouse support and players were forced to look using WASD, which made precision aiming impossible. Why the change? No idea, maybe a bug, but ever since I have been unable to return it to how it was.
There are also very few bugs that I came across (in terms of actual gameplay), but that’s mainly because there is so little to do. There are two standard attacks, two skill attacks, plus the usual auxiliary controls such as interact, execute – and here’s an oddball, you can pick either dodge or block, not both. Skills can sort of be customized, but only at certain levels, and they are typically limited to either more damage, or more range… yay.
When it comes to non-gameplay issues, there are plenty of annoyances. Some reports have noted issues with the game crashing to desktop randomly, and this did happen to me a couple of times, and of course it happens at the end of a boss fight before the game saves. There is also an infuriating issue in that, if you press Esc to skip the intro splash screens… the game quits. Also, when you hit the title screen, it says press any key to continue, but pressing Esc quits the game. To make all the controls even more odd, when flicking between menus in the character options, the button layouts keep changing from back to details, to next, all seemingly random.
The game defaults to an ‘always online’ state, making all games public, every time you launch. Changing settings in game only changes them for the session, so if you prefer to play solo, you’ll often have people joining you every time you launch the game. However, if you are playing solo, but online, and you get disconnected from the server, don’t worry, a huge splash screen covers the interface letting you know, while at the same time, mobs continue to kill you. To make matters worse, the game has its own voice chat, which is always on by default – but don’t worry, the game also defaults other players to mute, but it leaves your mic always on with no obvious way to mute in-game.
Moving back to gameplay, weapons are given to you as you progress (all three of them), and are of predictable nature. Armor changes appearance as you level, but only a couple of times. There are a grand total of 4 characters you can play (5 with the DLC), all with fixed genders and appearances… OK, there really isn’t a lot to this game at all.
Combat, the heart and soul of the game, is mostly fluid, except for the difficulty curve. Some levels are really easy, while others are frustratingly hard. It does become rather repetitive after a while as there is a limited model pool and tactics enemies use. The only thing that really changes is the number of mobs and how hard they hit. There just isn’t enough variety.
Graphically, there is nothing really to fault. Varied environments, lots of flashy effects and attack warnings, but nothing special. The camera can be a real pain sometimes, as it’s a fixed view, but occasionally shifts with the terrain, often leading to some blind spots and enemies shooting you from off-screen. There is no zoom, either.
As written in the intro, there be voice acting… lots of really cheesy, punny, and cliche voice acting. Sometimes it’s funny, most of the time you just want the characters to shut up, especially the weapon spirits that you collect throughout, spouting the same lines over and over again (the battlemage shouting the same pickup lines, the dragon constantly being afraid, and the vampire being ‘drunk’).
In all, Sacred 3 is really a disappointment. From a hardcore, open-world, stat obsessed, loot-fest, to a casual, arcade dungeon crawler; the mighty truly has fallen. If the game had been called anything else, it might have gained a better reception, but in this case, the name really played against it and set unrealistic expectations. With a launch price of $50, and to be given a casual game that can be easily completed in 10 hours, it makes you wonder where the money went. I do not like to give negative reviews, but in this case, it’s hard not to. Perhaps it should have been called Sacred Citadel 2.