SAN FRANCISCO--If it seemed like checking out Sacred 2 at the Game Developers Conference felt a bit like déjà-vu, that's because it was. We saw this upcoming action role-playing game at last year's GDC. There wasn't a lot to see then, as the game was still early in development. This year, developer Ascaron has something a lot more polished and impressive to check out. The impression we got of Sacred 2 is that it's a bit like Diablo, with a huge, seamless world the size of Oblivion's. That's an intriguing combination.
For some key features about Sacred 2, check out the big update that we got on the game late last year. The one thing that the developer wanted to hammer home is that this isn't a hack-and-slash-style game, like Diablo. Sure, there's plenty of combat, but there's also more exploration and role-playing. To that extent, the world of Sacred 2 will feel like a living, breathing place. The citizens of the world all have daily schedules. Hang around town in the evening and you'll see them head to the pub for dinner and a drink.
The impressive thing about the demo was when the dev showed off the sheer size of the world. We're talking about an area that's about 27 square miles in size, full of cities and villages, woods, mountains, deserts, and more. And delve beneath the surface and there are plenty of dungeons, sewers, and caves to explore. Here's where it gets really cool: The PC version will support up to 16-player cooperative gameplay, which means that you and 15 of your friends can wander around the world at the same time. (The Xbox 360 version will support only up to four players in co-op mode.) You don't even need to stick together; you can all be spread out miles from one another. It's like a very small-scale massively multiplayer online role-playing game in that regard. Whenever you play, even if you're playing single-player, the game is always online. That means that if your friend has the game and starts playing while you're playing, he can seamlessly drop in and out of your game if you want.
We also got a glance at some of the cool mounts in Sacred 2. Every character type will have access to basic mounts, mainly horses. But each character has his or her own unique mount. The shadow warrior can ride a hellhound, for instance. The most spectacular mount will be a dragon, which it sounds like anyone can ride, though at this point the dragon may fly only along a predetermined route--sort of like the flying mounts in World of Warcraft. However, the designers told us that they were considering making it possible to unlock the ability to control the dragon directly.
If you like Diablo-style action role-playing games but wish they had huge, coherent worlds to explore, you should definitely keep an eye on Sacred 2. It'll ship for the PC and Xbox 360 in September.