Somebody somewhere is asking themselves, right now, "I love Diablo but why does it have to be so serious all of the time?" Well Keen Games has decided to answer this question with the latest entry of the Sacred series, Europe's answer to Blizzard's dungeon-crawling behemoth series.
Sacred never used to be as silly as this. Adventures in the world of Ancaria were fairly serious endeavours with lost of monster slaying in a similar-but-not-quite vein to the Diablo series. Sacred 3 changes all of that, offering a kind of dungeon-crawling light if you will to the deep dark pits of sorrow that fuels Blizzard's adventure.
In fact Sacred 3 is light in almost every sense of the word. Keen Games has stripped down the series to produce a more accessible action-RPG experience that plays as comfortably on consoles as it does on PC.
The story follows a group of four heroes as they seek to defeat the Emperor Zane and the Ashen Empire who have invaded Ancaria and stolen the Heart Of Ancaria, a powerful artifact that protects Ancaria.
The four heroes are Marak the Safiri Warrior, Vajra the Kukuri Archer, Claire the Seraphim Paladin and Alithea the Ancarian Lancer. Each character has their own special abilities mapped to the right and left bumpers as well as their standard attack and their shield-break stun attack mapped to the A and X buttons.
As characters level up more special powers are unlocked and players can choose which are mapped to the bumpers. When characters level up they also unlock options for upgrading attacks and even new weapons with different strengths.
Players can then spend the cash that they earn in quests to upgrade their powers and weapons to suit their playing style. There's certainly not as much depth here as Diablo III especially seeing as each character only has a choice of four different weapons but there's still enough depth across all the leveling-up options to provide some interesting options.
The most interesting part of the levelling-up process is the possessed weapons. There's a large array of spirits of characters, like a mage or an angry dwarf that, once imbued in your weapon to give it additional powers. Once inbued they can level up to level five adding extra bonuses on top of their basic bonuses. They'll even hit you with some comedy banter during combat.
The gameplay is quite similar to that of Diablo III on consoles but it drops out a lot of depth in favour of making the game much more arcade-like. Playing as Claire the Seraphim Paladin gameplay is actually fairly smooth and entertaining. Aside from special and standard attacks, players also have access to an execution attack when enemies have been knocked over which is quite cathartic to use making the hero crash down on a prone enemy with fatal force.
Single player is quite entertaining but Sacred 3 is actually built around a four-player co-op experience. Don't be mistaken in thinking that the game's four characters are designed to complement each other perfectly in combat. They're actually designed to compete with each other in creating carnage amongst the enemy.
Unless you choose to keep your games private players can jump in and out with ease and compete with you to be the most heroic hero of Ancaria. Each player in the party has a score next to them so that players can keep tabs of how well their're doing against each other.
For the most part Sacred 3 is fairly entertaining. The light-hearted humour helps distinguish the game from the competition although there are a few issues.
There's not a massive variety in the types of activities that each quest features and they end up feeling a bit formulaeic. There are side missions but they are either a five-wave arena-style mission or a kill-all-the-enemies-around-a-crate-and-then-take-all-of-the-loot quest. Given it's a linear action game rather than the free-roaming RPG that Sacred 2 was it's gets a little repetitive.
The dialogue is a bit shallow too and the banter from the spirit possessing your weapon can become very samey unless you change up the spirit every couple quests.
The game also suffers from the odd bug. The most crushing of which was a sudden disabling of the collision detection for attacks during a boss sequence meaning none of the attacks were striking anything. This meant reloading the level and starting right from the beginning again which was very frustrating.
Bugs aside it's not particularly demanding on PC hardware and it runs at 1080p with high details and anti-aliasing on on a machine with fairly low specs, probably because the game feels more like it's built for console hardware rather than PC.
Overall Sacred 3 isn't a bad game. There are some entertaining moments and the gameplay is pretty simple and cleanly designed. It doesn't have meny hooks or memorable moments though making it one of those titles that will probably pass most gamers by. It's all very middle of the road stuff which ends up leaving you feeling neither satisfied or disappointed.
Sacred 3 is out now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. It was reviewed on a PC powered by an Intel i3 3.4GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce 630 GT with 2GB of VRAM and Windows 7 64-bit edition.
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