The Sacred series has always been about exploring a massive open world through an extensive loot system. In fact the first Sacred had one of the biggest maps ever seen in an RPG at the time, and although they were never ground-breaking they were certainly enjoyable games. The developer of the first two Sacred titles, Ascaron Entertainment, has sadly shut down since Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, but Deep Silver now own the IP and have taken the third entry in the series in a new direction with developers Keen Games. The only problem is that the new direction seems to be towards oncoming traffic at full speed.
For some reason the developers thought that it would be a good idea to strip the loot system and open world elements that made the first two Sacred games so much fun, and instead have opted for a bare bones arcade hack and slash configuration. The mid game looting and upgrading has been replaced with a gold coin system that only allows you to upgrade at the end of each level. This feels like a bit of a step back from the previous titles, as looting is half the reason we play dungeon crawlers in the first place. There are still skill trees to upgrade for each character and even an option to imbue your weapons with various spirits providing certain powers but it all feels very basic.
Now I’m not saying that end result is a bad game, it’s just that the fans that have followed the series might be put off by its new watered-down approach. From the get go you will be given the option to select from four pre-designed stereotypical-looking characters, that have either tank or ranged abilities. Then your quest begins as you head off to destroy the evil Lord Zane and his army of demons. Lord Zane has the Heart of Ancaria which is a sacred relic of the land and whoever wields it will control immense power. So it’s pretty much your run-of-the-mill story about cleansing all evil from the land that is completely and utterly forgettable.
However some things are still sacred within this third installment such as the ability to play the campaign via local co-op. The only drawback is that it is limited to two local players with the option of letting another two players drop in via online. The multiplayer is certainly fun however, and in terms of controls and visuals Sacred 3 is very solid. There are plenty of great visual effects and some fantastic boss battles with some very detailed terrains. There are also plenty of things to smash with some impressive physics. The PS3 does struggle to keep up with all the smashing of monsters and barrels however, and frequent frame drops below 20 FPS are common, but due to the type of game it is it’s not really a deal breaker.
What is a deal breaker however is the terrible voice work. Now usually games that have poor voice work will hide it behind a couple of short cut scenes that are just bearable. Sacred 3 shoves its horrendous voice acting in your face every few seconds of the game. It’s such a shame because the game does a very good job of building an immersive atmosphere, that is ruined in mere seconds by the narrator breaking out in song or cracking a terrible one-liner for what I can only assume is supposed to be comic relief, yet it does not fit the tone of the game at all.
Sacred 3 does have its problems but as co-op dungeon crawler it is actually lots of fun. With that being said though, for some silly reason, that I will never understand, Deep Silver decided to release this game just days apart from the release of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition. Now this game certainly shares a few similarities to Diablo 3, so much so that some may call it a Diablo clone, however Diablo 3 is the far superior game.
So if you were interested in a co-op dungeon crawler you would most likely get Diablo 3. I just don’t understand why it was not released earlier in the year, instead of alongside its one and only major competitor that has the upper hand? Games like Sacred 3 are not as common as say an FPS title, so there are plenty of chances to take advantage of that throughout the calendar year. With that being said you now have two dungeon crawlers to choose from, and it’s not all that ‘sacred’ as to which one will win that battle.