Sacred 3 is the latest game in the Sacred franchise, this time developed by Deep Silver (developers of Dead Island and Metro). Sacred is set in the world of Ancaria, a fairly standard fantasy world full of monsters, Wizards and Heroes. The story begins as the ‘Heart of Ancaria’ is stolen and 4 (or 5 if you pre-ordered) heroes are tasked with retrieving it. The tale then follows the heroes throughout Ancaria, featuring many different locales. Sacred 3 is an isometric hack and slash game, featuring 4 player co-op arcade style gameplay, similar to the Diablo series. Using Diablo as a comparison is fitting, as the two are alike in many ways but not equals.
Having some experience with past games in the franchise, the prospect of playing some more Sacred excited me. One of the main aspects I was looking forward to was the open world akin to Sacred 2, unfortunately that aspect was completely cut in favour of arcade style level selection. With this in mind, it was unsurprising to find the level of long term fan backlash was immense. Many hardcore Sacred 2 players are essentially disowning the third game completely as they feel betrayed by the changes.
The Hero’s journey through Ancaria is separated into Story missions and side missions. As there is no open world to explore, main missions are extremely linear forcing you down corridors from A to B. Every mission follows this format; run along a corridor, beat a few enemies, avoid some environmental hazards and defeat the boss. Fortunately, the bosses are all unique and challenging. Side missions are repetitive, and are either wave survival stages or shortened story missions with no boss at the end.
The entire game can be completed solo, but there is a strong emphasis on 4 player, co-operative gameplay. The tag line for Sacred 3 is ‘Victory is ours, Glory is mine’ which is to bolster the competitive spirit. This is all well and good, if the victor was actually rewarded for coming first. Each kill or special action the player performs is given points, with the total showcased at the end. I definitely felt a desire to beat my teammates, but I never felt rewarded once I did.
Gameplay is fast and fun, but sadly basic. You have a basic attack, a bash attack to interrupt enemies, a defensive move (dodge or block), an execution attack and ability moves. Abilities (unique to each character) are either heavy or light, but you are restricted to having one of each during battle. There is also an execution mechanic which enables you to insta-kill an enemy from a distance if they have been knocked down, generously rewarding players with many points. It turns combat, especially co-op, into a ‘who can execute the fastest’ race.
Another main aspect of previous Sacred games was the management of armour and weapon statistics, weighing up which loot gave the best benefits. Sacred 3 has again side-stepped that aspect by restricting the weapon variation each class has to 3 of the same type. Even at high level, you’ll only be able to choose between 3 swords/axes/bows depending on your character. Armour is also over simplified, as you no longer equip different armour pieces. You have one set of armour that aesthetically auto upgrades. Each weapon/armour has their own upgrade tree that you spend money on to upgrade, for example +10% damage. A unique gameplay aspect they have introduced is ‘Weapon Spirits’. Collected throughout your adventure, Spirits are discovered and bound to your weapon. These spirits grant you a range of different bonuses depending on which you use.
Dialogue is something I would never have thought I would be writing about, but I have to in this game’s case. I’ve been told I laugh at some strange and silly things, but Sacred 3 is something else entirely. Each cutscene and narration tries far too hard to be funny, using humour that feels unnecessary. This was particularly apparent when the main narrator in the game uses the words ‘Amazeballs’ (I genuinely facepalmed when I heard this). Alongside the frankly annoying Weapon Spirits that comment on your combat (who repeat the same lines hundreds of times) it remains my biggest complaint about Sacred 3.
The framerate was inconsistent on the Playstation 3 (version reviewed). The rate drops when encountering many enemies at once, which is a constant problem if playing with the full 4 teammates – as more enemies are spawned. Graphically though, Sacred 3 is pleasing to the eye. Despite the occasionally choppy frame rate, one thing Sacred 3 does brilliantly is loading times. In a 2 hour session, the wait between levels was barely noticeable.
If Deep Silver had released the game and not entitled it Sacred, then it would pass for a decent game. Considering it’s open world prequels, Sacred 3 feels like a dumbed down version. It would be like making the next Elder Scrolls game a corridor action game. People would still enjoy it, but it would be missing what made the series great.