Sacred 3 is the latest instalment in the Sacred franchise, which originally premiered on the PC back in March 2004. Back then the series was a Diablo clone packed with quests, deep character customisation and loot hunting in an expansive open world. Sadly for fans of the cult series creators Ascaron Entertainment have since gone the way of the dodo, leaving ownership of the brand in the hands of publisher Deep Silver. For better or worse Deep Silver have decided to take the franchise in a more casual direction, as evidenced with the 2013 spin-off brawler Sacred Citadel. Sacred 3 sees the trend continue with the third instalment resembling a hack-n-slash title akin to Gauntlet rather than a stat heavy RPG. Does this dumbing down of mechanics result in a more fun and accessible game? Let’s find out.
The game’s plot revolves around a nasty chap named Emperor Zane who has pilfered the sacred Heart of Ancaria, in what is a first step towards global domination (insert sinister cackle here.) The Seraphim (holy guardians of the land) must now retrieve the stolen artefact, smack Zane’s demonic minions and save the day before the malevolent lord (who is no relation to actor Billy) is able to amass godlike powers. To foil Zane’s ambitions the Seraphim have recruited a skilled four-man team who are disappointingly not the A-Team. Instead players will be able to control either a muscular chap with an axe, a goatee-sporting archer, a winged celestial swordswoman or a barely clothed babe who uses both hands to grip a pole…arm.
Veteran fans of the series will note that instead of having a big world to explore this particular adventure is broken down into short levels selectable from a map. Over the course of the story the heroic quartet will battle through a varied range of environments including cities, jungles and ruins. In addition to the standard levels, where you fight your way to the boss blocking the exit, there are also optional stages were you vanquish waves of enemies in exchange for an item. Story levels are introduced via cut scenes that boast nice artwork and humorous dialogue… although the clips will seem less funny when you replay the stages in multiplayer and are forced to re-watch them in their entirety (just because your annoying teammates refuse to skip them.)
At first glance Sacred 3 appears identical to the earlier games in the series with the action being presented via a traditional isometric perspective. Once combat begins however it becomes apparent that the similarities are only skin deep. Defeated nemeses drop gold and energy replenishing orbs, but no gear. Rather than harvesting weapons/armour from fallen foes your character’s equipment simply upgrades automatically once you hit the prerequisite level. This severely restricts how you develop your character, although you can at least use the funds you accrue to purchase/improve skills. This, along with the passive bonus spirits you find on your travels, gives players the option of tinkering with a warrior’s abilities so they match their play style.
Combat wise Sacred 3 feels a lot like a less taxing Baldur’s Gate: Deadly Alliance. For the most part you’ll bash the attack button to smack enemies and occasionally you’ll use a knockback move to interrupt incoming attacks faster than Kayne West interrupts acceptance speeches. When things get especially hairy players can decimate a legion of creatures by expending energy to activate one of their mighty combat arts. The battles are good fun although they can get repetitive after a while, especially as the levels you navigate are fairly linear. The only variation to proceedings comes in the form of traps that have to be avoided and locked doors that are bypassed by locating keys or manipulating pulleys.
My rating for Sacred 3 is a three out of five. Overall it is a fun, albeit unspectacular, action RPG. If you are a diehard fan of the earlier games I do however suspect that you will not approve of the title’s more casual approach to character creation or the story’s goofier narrative, which isn’t anywhere as funny as it thinks it is. I can forgive those faults though as Deep Silver’s take on the franchise does succeed in delivering mindless action, which is particularly enjoyable with a group of friends. The four player co-op can be a hoot and at the time of writing finding people to play with is a doddle thanks to the online lobby. I’m not sure that the content on offer justifies the full retail asking price, but if the game goes on sale it’s certainly worth a go, especially if you have grown weary of Diablo 3.