|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ascaron Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: cdv Software||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Hack 'n slash dungeon-crawls are usually best left to the PC. After all, even Diablo, the genre-defining franchise, made one incursion onto the original PlayStation with mixed results - wisely, the upcoming Diablo III will be a PC-exclusive. That being the case, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, a series very much made in the Diablo mold, may just be a better game on consoles than it was on Windows-based platforms. Though technically not particularly well-executed, the scope and ease of co-op play along with a mostly-solid control scheme make Sacred 2: Fallen Angel a very enjoyable experience that any console RPG enthusiast will enjoy.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel takes players back to the world of Ancaria some 2,000 years before the events of the original game. Ancaria is a realm transformed by the taint of T-energy; a magical, glowing fluid that can be harnessed for good or ill. Much like Prometheus' act of giving fire to humans from Greek mythology, the Seraphim (female, elven-like paragons) gave knowledge of this power to the High Elves. Though T-energy makes a host of wonders possible, it is also a potentially destructive force. In fact, it caused the High elves to split up and hoard the energy from other races as well as cause the creation of horrible monsters throughout the land. Choosing from one of several classes and a two-sided campaign, players will fight to push the world of Ancaria toward the path of light or shadow through their heroic or nefarious deeds.
Unfortunately, the general narrative is far more interesting than the individual missions and specific quests with which you will partake. In fact, mashing your way through text bubbles and crude cinematics is part and parcel of Sacred 2. This game truly is a hack 'n slash, but, outside of combat, it never engages the player with specific quests that truly bolsters the overarching storyline. I've got a feeling this is due to the openness of the game. Rather than telling a compelling story through one hero, players are given freedom to make their own way through the game from the perspective of various factions on disparate sides of the conflict. While this seems like a great idea at the onset - who wants to be railroaded nowadays - it's left wanting for greater craft. As such, it never creates a story that matters.
Nevertheless, a lot of choice and options are built into the game; this allows players to craft their own experience. While the Seraphim walk the path of light, Inquisitors are evil priests that stop at nothing to carry out their plans. Players can also choose from four other classes including the High Elf, Dryad, Shadow Warrior, and Temple Guardians. All classes are distinct, with the jackal-like robot Temple Guardians being the most bizarre. As alluded to previously, your class selection will determine how the game plays out, as the stories are tailored to each. Additionally, each character can choose from several deities, which influences the kinds of powers and combat abilities that will become available to them. Though the story seems to be hampered by this design choice, getting to create your own adventure is still rewarding.
Combat in Sacred 2 is addictive and satisfying, though decidedly repetitive - this is a dungeon-crawling hack 'n slash, after all. Consequently, players will roam around the incredibly vast world, beating upon myriad beasties. Thankfully, this is done with the greatest of ease. While the PC version of the game utilized genre-standard clicks-of-death controls, this repetition was shunned by the developers for the console versions in favor of held button presses. As a result, rather than turning into a frenzied button-masher, players can calmly maintain a face button depressed until the beasties are dead. Moreover, attacks are easily varied by simply pressing on a different face button. The game uses a power and item mapping system that allows the player to assign their favorite skills and utilities to the buttons and the D-pad for instant access. By simply selecting a function key on the controller, additional slots are opened up, allowing players access to a total of 16 power and item slots. This simple control scheme makes Sacred 2 generally more enjoyable to play than it was on PC. However, area of effect and targeted spell powers are far more cumbersome. That's because you'll have to guide your spells with the left analog stick toward enemies that are constantly moving - it gets to be quite annoying, especially during boss battles.
Speaking of bosses, Sacred 2 does a nice job of mixing up the critters and the challenges they present throughout the game. Most caverns, dungeons, and fortifications are populated by a host of minions that are little more than walking loot drops. However, make your way to the end of the labyrinth, and you'll be confronted by a mini-boss or BBG that can be truly deadly. This mix makes you feel both heroic and tested at the same time. What's more, the character design and the sheer number of baddies are delightful. Making your way through countless miles of perilous terrain will reveal a host of monsters few other games can match.