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Sacred Preview

Sacred takes the action role-playing formula of Diablo and adds a heavier role-playing emphasis. Additionally, there's a vast kingdom to explore--on horseback.


For the past eight years, the action role-playing genre has been defined by one game: Diablo. For better or worse, Blizzard's 1996 smash hit--which let you hack-and-slash through hordes of monsters with a single character from a top-down isometric view--established the formula for a number of imitators that followed. Therefore it's not surprising that Sacred, the upcoming action role-playing game from England's Ascaron Entertainment, would borrow from this successful formula as well. However, the folks at Ascaron hope to entice players with the promise of a heavy emphasis on role-playing in a vast, living, breathing world.

Welcome to Ancaria. You can travel to virtually any corner of this vast kingdom.
Welcome to Ancaria. You can travel to virtually any corner of this vast kingdom.

Sacred takes place in the Kingdom of Ancaria, which encompasses 16 distinct regions that range from deserts to mountains. Towns and villages litter the countryside, along with dungeons, gladiatorial arenas, and more. The developers say they're shooting for a living, breathing world, complete with a weather cycle and a day-and-night cycle. Virtually every part of the kingdom can be explored. To help cut down on mundane travel time, Sacred will actually allow you to ride and fight on horseback. Besides looking cool, horses give you the ability to outrun enemies in a clutch.

The game has six different characters to choose from, including a dark elf assassin (who is a master of martial arts), a gladiator, a battlemage, a wood elf ranger, a seraphim (basically an angel), and a vampress. The vampress is one of the more interesting characters, since, during the day, she looks more or less like a regular person. However, at night she can transform into a vampress, thus becoming more powerful and gaining the ability to summon wolves and demons. Furthermore, she can bite enemies and turn them into mindlessly loyal thralls. In addition to the six main characters, the game presents more than 300 different nonplayer characters and monsters, including dragons, orcs, spiders, and hill giants. The graphics combine 2D backgrounds with 3D characters, thus giving the game a very lush look. There's a lot of detail when you zoom in close to the characters, and you can also pull the camera back to get a wide overhead shot of the surrounding area.

Like Diablo, Sacred lets you perform two basic kinds of attacks--physical and magical. The sort of weapons and items you can equip yourself with (including a wide assortment of swords and armor) will probably seem very familiar to RPG veterans. Your magical arsenal offers some powerful spells, like meteor showers that dramatically rain down on your enemies, for example. One nice touch is that you can create what are essentially combination strikes that let you execute a chain of physical and magical attacks. You can create your own customized attack combinations, though you'll need to hire a wizard in a town to train you in performing them. You receive upgrade points whenever you level up, so you can allocate them to various skills and abilities in order to customize your character as you go.

This barbarian is looking for grog--or maybe he's just looking for something to smash.
This barbarian is looking for grog--or maybe he's just looking for something to smash.

There's a heavy emphasis on role-playing in Sacred. The single-player campaign takes place over more than 30 main missions. From what we've seen so far, it looks like the main quests are personally tailored to each character, which seems to add a good bit of personality to the game. We're told that there are also more than 200 subquests and a limitless number of random quests that you can pursue at your leisure. These quests can reward you with valuable experience points, but they can also include piles of gold and even special items that you can't get anywhere else. Sacred will even support multiplayer play. In fact, we're told that there will be support for up to 16 players in some kind of player-versus-player mode and up to four players in a cooperative campaign game.

We won't have to wait long for the game, because Sacred is actually entering the final stages of development. If it stays on track, Sacred should ship sometime in March. Until then, we'll keep you updated on any further developments.

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