Nothing is Sacred
On the surface, Sacred 3 looks like a fairly standard top down isometric action RPG, along the lines of Diablo or Torchlight . However deep down… well that’s actually not very apropos really. Sacred 3 isn’t very deep at all, and that’s its main problem. It’s more of a mindless button mashing hack and slasher than anything reminiscent of an RPG; more Gauntlet than Diablo , and if this was its only fault I could forgive it. After all, who doesn’t like a good dungeon romp now and again? But Sacred 3 is shallow through and through, from its mechanics to its story and everything in between.
The story of Sacred 3 is wholly forgettable. The Dark Elf Lord Zane, lord of Ashen, is invading peaceful Ancaria in order to obtain the powerful “Heart of Ancaria” a sacred relic that does… something? You see? I’ve already forgotten about one of the major plot points. Anyway it’s up to you, a random band of RPG stereotypes, and your telepathic strategist, to save the day by personally beating the crap out of each and every member of Zane’s forces.
The story kind of feels like a bad DnD campaign. It’s generic fantasy with a generic bad guy trying to get his hands on a generic magicy thing with generic good guys trying to stop him. The fact that a good portion of the story is told in voice over mid-gameplay doesn’t help. Usually you are too concentrated on beheading enemies to really hear what NPCs have to say.
This generic DnD feel bleeds over to the setting and environment. Locales that you visit feel more like a string of set pieces than a living breathing world. Maps are convoluted and wind back on themselves, yet still manage to be wholly linear. There are over 30 levels to travel to, but each one feels like the same progression of walk forward, kill some enemies, walk forward, kill some enemies.
There’s some light, and by that I mean very light, puzzle solving. Every so often you’ll need to flip a switch or charge an altar or finagle a doodly of some sort to get a barrier to drop and proceed onward. Usually this is accompanied by wave after wave of enemies, charging straight for your throat. Unfortunately, this means these puzzles are really more survival challenges than anything else. You aren’t taxing your brain as much as you are taxing your mashing thumb.
Then there are the characters, which all feel like players in a bad DND campaign. By that I mean, these characters pay basic lip service to the fact that they are on a quest to save the world, but they really spend most of their time making piss jokes and sexual innuendos like a bunch of sexually frustrated high school kids. Heck, even disembodied spirits inside your weapon make juvenile remarks in the middle of combat. Then the game turns around and tries to be dark and serious, like the DM went “come on guys focus, we only have another hour to play this game before my Mom picks me up!”
Combat is very, very dry. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, and very few skills or special abilities to choose from. The aforementioned disembodied spirits that you can put into your weapons produce some interesting passive effects, but that’s about all there is to character customization.
Character progression is wholly linear. Even though your character will have several abilities to upgrade, you don’t get to progress in whatever way you like. Instead, you simply get upgrades to your existing abilities at a predetermined level. Sometimes this means that you’ll have to wait 30 some odd levels just to fully upgrade the one cool first level ability that you are basically using all the time anyway. Your stats also increase automatically, meaning the only thing that really matters in the game is your level.
Unfortunately, the whole leveling system feels very unbalanced. You can basically go to any area of the game you like. However, if you are one level below the recommended level for the area, you’ll have an incredibly difficult time. If you are two or more levels below, it’s near impossible. Similarly, if you are one level above you’ll end up blowing through enemies easily and at two or more levels above the game is a cakewalk. The only time it feels like the difficulty is dialed in to where it should be is when you are the exact right level, and this rarely happens.
Complicating matters even more is the fact that there are more sidequests than there are main quests in the game. If you are a completionist, like me, then you’ll start grinding away on the sidequests as soon as you can. That’s great, cause it makes you balloon upward in level. However, you soon realize after two or three sidequests that you will now be at a higher level for the whole game and the difficulty level just plummeted. You can ignore the sidequests if you want to have a better gameplay experience, but then you miss out on all of the content. It’s kind of a catch 22.
The game plays best when played by other people. Note that this makes the game even easier but you kind of just let that slide when you are working together with friends.
Unfortunately, the game has a horrendous online mode, if only because of the netcode. The game intelligently uses a style of rollback netcode so you don’t experience lag in your button presses, but as a result, characters are constantly teleporting around. You’ll walk a good ten feet and then teleport back to where you started, and then teleport forward again, and then you’ll swing at an enemy and he won’t be there, and then the game will hang up for five seconds, fast forward like crazy, hang up for another 3 seconds, and so on. These problems are only exacerbated when your party size increases. I’ve had decent enough games with two players, but four player games were almost always unplayable.
I have never played a Sacred game before in my life and Sacred 3 is not selling me on the franchise. I admit I had some fun mindlessly hacking and slashing my way through enemies, but that’s all it was: mindless fun. If that’s all you want out of your top down RPGs, go nuts. But there are so many other great and honestly deep titles out there, from Diablo III to Torchlight 2 , to Shadowrun Returns , to Transistor . It’s hard to justify paying full price for a game that is this shallow.
In the end, I don’t think Sacred 3 knew what its own genre was. If it was self-aware that this was nothing more than a hack and slash dungeon crawler, it could have gone the extra mile and given it a refreshing arcade feel, like Dragon’s Crown did. However, Sacred 3 thinks it’s a serious ARPG, and as a serious ARPG it simply falls up short.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The graphics are OK, but sometimes there is just too much going on at once. 3.0 Control
The controls are shallow but they work fine. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
I’m not a fan of any of the voice acting performances and the script is horrible. 2.0 Play Value
The game is linear and is always either too easy or too hard. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best