February 10, 2009 – Back in the beginning of November 2008, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel debuted for the PC. This action-RPG, dungeon-crawler, hack-and-slash (quite a mouthful) combined familiar mechanics from such classics as Diablo and Dungeon Siege with an immense and inventive world spanning 22 square miles.
The umpteen quests, beautiful world, limited load times, unique character progression, and inclusion of both “Light” and “Shadow” campaigns seemed to outweigh the repetitive nature of the click-fest control mechanic; CheatCC gave Sacred 2: Fallen Angel a very respectable 3.8 out of 5. The question now is, can the console versions of this game bump that score up to the lofty heights of greatness?
First of all, the fact that Sacred 2: Fallen Angel received such a high score is not much of a surprise to me. That’s because Ascaron Entertainment has been making quality PC games for quite some time; Patrician III is one of my absolute favorite strategy/management games and many of you may also be familiar with point-and-click adventures Dracula Origins and Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis. These titles, along with recent forays into RPGs, have positioned Ascaron nicely as the little developer that could. That said, will this wealth of experience in PC gaming translate well to consoles? If the early preview build is any indication, the answer may be yes.
Originally set for a February 17th console launch, the devs and cdv Software Entertainment have taken a step back, making sure they get everything just right, and will release the game on March 24th. The build we played was estimated to be about 98% finished, though it definitely suffered from porting issues and placeholder images. Nevertheless, I was thoroughly impressed with the simple yet engaging action-RPG gameplay, and I will be interested to go through the game with friends online.
Sacred 2 serves as a prequel to the original Sacred, taking place on the continent of Ancaria fully two millennia before the original. Much like the Greek myth of Prometheus, the story chronicles the monstrous fall out and horrific conflicts that stemmed from the act of the ethereal Seraphim race giving the secrets of T-Energy to the High Elves. The magical T-Energy, originally a source of unparalleled prosperity, was perverted by the splintering of the High Elven race. Warring factions began to arise, and as localized conflicts grew into all-consuming wars, other races stepped in to take advantage of the power vacuum. To make matters worse, the T-Energy has literally transformed the landscape and creatures of the continent into horrors, like some kind of ancient toxic waste.
Players have a choice to fight on either side of this conflict. The ability to choose between two campaigns should do a nice job of extending the already mammoth amount of content. As of now, there are about 100 main story quests and many more side quests! The classes from which you can choose are the classic Seraphim, and five new classes including Shadow Warrior, High Elf, Dryad, Temple Guardian, and Inquisitor. All these classes have different roles, play styles, and combat arts. Some can be used in either campaign, while others, by their very nature, are limited to one side or the other. From the build we played, initial customization outside of class selection is very limited; only the hair color and hair style could be changed – not even gender choice is an option. Hopefully, console players will be given a greater character creation tool – especially considering the games multiplayer features.
Thankfully, as players progress through the game, ability point dumps, interesting mounts, an amazing amount of randomized, upgradeable loot, and branching skill focus should help to keep characters unique amongst friends, which brings us to the game’s multiplayer modes. While the PC featured support for up to 16 players, consoles will feature drop in/ drop out campaign (PvE) support for up to two players locally and up to four players via PlayStation Network or Xbox LIVE. Also, consoles will receive competitive (PvP) support. These features should perk up RPG fans that have been waiting for MMO-style gameplay to hit their console of choice. Unfortunately, the build we played had not included any of these online goodies, so we can’t comment on their scope. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out in the final version.
Speaking of final versions, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel for PC was plagued with bugs right out of the box. Hopefully, the delay of the console versions until March 24th will alleviate many of these issues. That said, don’t expect this game to ship bug free. On the other hand, expect excellent support from the devs at Ascaron to keep the game running smoothly after launch. On that note, depending on the success of the title, I wouldn’t be surprised if DLC eventually factored in. After all, the original Sacred was given an expansion called Sacred Underworld, which included two additional classes (Daemons and Dwarves).
Finally, I noticed just how well the PC controls have been ported to the console controllers. Accessing spells, melee, and combat arts are a breeze. That’s because they are mapped to the D-pad and facebuttons for quick access. Also, additional skills can be mapped and accessed via a shoulder mod button. Subsequently, the fact that many different buttons are used during combat does seem to alleviate some of the repetitive clicking found in the PC version. Naturally, movement and camera controls are left to the analog sticks. I also really liked the ability to place area-of-effect spells with pinpoint accuracy and the ability to pick up items in my sphere of influence rather than having to walk over them.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel looks to be shaping up quite nicely. Hopefully, the game will look every bit as crisp as it does on the PC. Nevertheless, the multiplayer features should give console players a taste of MMO on their favorite living room system. Stay tuned for our full review when the game drops in late March.