7.8

Sacred is a "Diablo-esque" action role-playing game, set in the world of Ancaria.

Sacred is a "Diablo-esque" action role-playing game, set in the world of Ancaria. The combat system is similar to the Diablo series, hack-n-slash the enemies as fast as you can, gain experience to kill the tougher "boss" enemies, and increase your attributes and skills until you can dominate all opposition. Having over 300 unique NPCs, 30 main quests, and 200 sub-quests, Sacred promises to be a very highly replayable, large-scale RPG.

Overview

You, the player, are destined to explore an expansive, lush, and diverse world, rampant with sinister trolls, ogres and fearsome dragons. You will travel across sun-baked deserts, a tropical archipelago, dense forests, and icy mountains. Sacred's single-player scenario is dauntingly large at first, but the game eases you into the role fairly gently, slowly teaching you the skills needed to progress through the rest of the game. The multi-player aspect of Sacred looked very promising at first, and proved very enjoyable, the only complaint I had was that for whatever reason, not very many people are playing Sacred online, hopefully that number will increase, as this game deserves a wider fan base. I personally (1mbps cable connection) experienced only slight lag while playing online (Closed Multi-player), but the game remained playable and the players themselves seem very friendly and willing to help for the most-part. Sometimes the players are just too busy hacking and slashing away at the hundreds of enemies, to hear your pleas for help, and you’re left to fend for your meager self. By far the most alluring multi-player aspect to me was the co-operative mode. Games with well implemented co-operative play modes are few and far between on the PC. The last enjoyable co-op game I recall had to be Quake 2, even on 33.6k I spent hours upon hours fragging with buddies. Sacred's co-op at first glance looks extremely rewarding, and for the most part it is, except the minor network lag and number of players issues. The internet multiplay aspect of Sacred takes you through the standard account creation, character creation, and login sequence familiar to Diablo 2 players. You find yourself in the lobby, which can be confusing at first. But the sections are set up to cater to beginners and veterans, a level 200 can't join a beginners game and vice versa. There is also a Local Area Network (LAN) mode for those of you with a home network.

Graphics

Graphically Sacred is up to par, but nothing revolutionary. The graphics are pretty, although the animation is sorely lacking at seemingly the most crucial times. One interesting feature is the ability to zoom in and out so you can see much more of the area around you. It has 3 zoom levels, the default, zoomed in (shows you and the immediate area around you), and zoomed out, which shows more but likely will bog down slower systems. The v1.7 Patch is to be released soon and is supposedly going to address some frame rate issues. Diablo 2 only let you "zoom out" if you had installed the expansion pack Lord of Destruction which allowed you to use the 800x600 resolution, effectively increasing your field of view (giving an unfair advantage in multi-player as well). I ran the game comfortably at 1024x768x32bpp on an Athlon XP 3200+ with 1,024MB Corsair XMS 2-3-2-6 DDR-400 and an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro All-In-Wonder using Catalyst v4.2. Even zoomed out the game ran smoothly, though I would expect it to run sluggish on lesser systems I cannot verify this first hand.

Gameplay

The control system is basic yet advanced, while remaining familiar to PC action RPG players. You left-click to attack, and right-click to use your selected special ability, but Sacred makes constant use of the hotkeys. Keys 1 through 5 are your melee or ranged weapons, 6 through 0 are your spells and abilities. The equipment screen is very simple, made even easier by simply right-clicking any weapon, shield, or ability and automatically equipping, or learning it in the case of a spell or ability. Only minor complaint is the path finding is horrible, you click to walk and your horse goes in 50 different directions, yet in the correct one, which makes attacking enemies quite difficult as the screen is jerking all over the place. It is interesting to note that the Armor and otherwise "worn" items are shown on the right side of the Inventory screen when equipped, on their respective places, i.e.: helmet (on the head), boots (on the feet) etc. Weapons and shields however, are put in the 5 sockets at the bottom left of your screen. You may have 1 shield and 1 weapon in a slot, or 1 two-handed weapon. At the beginning of the game you start with one weapon slot and one skill/spell slot. I played as a Battle Mage, one of 6 fairly unique character types you can choose from. You can also purchase a horse to cover great distances faster (very handy for the long walks between towns, but they seem to die too easily.) Among these classes are; Dark Elf, Gladiator, Vampiress, Seraphim, Wood Elf and the Battle Mage. As a Battle Mage you begin with a standard Staff that glows eerily and leaves a trail as you move (nice eye candy I thought). You can whack your foes with it and it enhances some stats. You also start with a level 1 Fireball spell. You learn more spells by reading "Runes" which are little square pages that remind me of the spells in Dungeon Siege. As you learn the same spell repeatedly it gets stronger, instead of paying points into it you simply learn it repeatedly as you find more runes of the same type. The same goes with special abilities of other classes. The fireball you begin with does little damage, but more than you physically beating on the enemies with your staff. In the beginning you fight mainly small goblin-type enemies and wolves. By themselves they're no match for your furious thwacking of the staff and fireball combos, usually a couple whacks and a fireball takes down most enemies in the beginning, however to my initial dismay, 2 or 3 enemies at a time can easily reduce your measly hit points to zero, causing you to reload a quicksave (you did save right?). Once you get the hang of the combat system it becomes very enjoyable. Later on as you gain levels you get up to 5 slots for weapons and spells. This becomes extremely important for spell casters, making use of your hotkeys will be the difference between failure and success, and there are many many enemies to dispatch along the way so get used to your hotkeys early on. I have it set up so 6 is healing, 7 is an ice spell that slows the enemies down plus deals some damage, and 8 is a flaming ring that burns them to cinders while they're slowly trudging through the ice towards you. One other interesting thing to note is the Combo system, while I have yet to figure out the intricacies of it, in theory you can attach up to 4 abilities or spells to one combo, one right click could cast 4 spells in succession, the possibilities are numerous.

Sound

The sound in Sacred is nice, rivers bubbling, horses clopping, children laughing. However (this may be due to my onboard ALC650 audio), the voices of some people who I believe you are supposed to be able to hear, as an ambient sound, seem so faint you can barely make it out. Other than that, the combat/voice system sounds just fine. Again up to par with the genre but nothing that stands out as amazing.

Conclusion

To say I enjoyed the open-ended gameplay of Sacred would be an understatement. At the time of this review I have just reached Act II, which left me with a feeling of achievement, yet there is much to see and do in the world of Ancaria. Battling a dragon at level 15, that could kill me within 1 second, and succeeding put a big smile on my face. Sacred is not the best RPG of all time by far, but it is a very enjoyable and replayable game I’ll keep in my collection for years.

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