Sold as a co-op hack and slash RPG with a healthy dose of humour thrown in to make things different to the rest of the co-op RPG hack and slashers, Sacred 3 arrives on the outgoing generation of consoles hoping to pick up a few fans late in the day. But with a very thin RPG element can this compete with similar titles? The answer is tricky, but ultimately Sacred 3 isn’t really want you might want it to be.
The story of Sacred 3 revolves around the Ashen Empire, a rather nasty organisation led by Emperor Zane who decides to steal the Heart of Ancaria and use its power to turn himself into a super-powerful god. As part of his evil plan he sends out his fellow bad guys to deal out as much death and destruction as they can manage. The godly protectors of Ancaria naturally object to this, so bring four powerful fighters together to go out and thwart the baddies and restore peace to the land. That’s pretty much all you need to know throughout the game – little updates between levels help you to know why you’re about to do what you’re about to do (and it’s during these moments that the game’s humour creeps in), but as long as you know you’re out to save Ancaria and need to kick plenty of ass to do it, you’re sorted.
As you’d expect by now, you’ll be taking charge of one of the four characters drafted in to do the kicking of aforementioned butts. The selection is pretty typical for a light RPG, offering an Archer, Lancer, Paladin and Warrior, each of which have their own skills and abilities, but ultimately will result in you playing the game in much the same was as any other. There’s nothing by way of customisation either, so what you’re given is what you get. Streamlined, but a little out of date.
Visually Sacred 3 isn’t too bad at all, with some nice looking and varied locations setting the backdrop to the mayhem that will inevitably ensue at some point in the near future. The traditional hack and slash RPG diagonal viewpoint is in full effect, with a camera which behaves well and only very rarely stops you from seeing what you’re meant to be doing. The action is generally pretty smooth, but there is considerable slow-down when things get excessively manic on screen, which will happen every now and then even if you’re playing solo. It’s also a bit tough to see who’s doing what when playing with others, but there’s very little way to get round that in a game of this ilk.
After a while you realise that despite the simple combat you’re actually having a fair bit of fun, especially if you’re utilising the often-ignored local co-op options. Let’s face it, multiplayer games are always more fun if the other players are in the same room. In that same while though, you’ll realise that all of the loot you were expecting to find dropped by mighty enemies or tucked away in chests just doesn’t exist. All you get is health boosts, or gold, or something equally bland. Where’s my super-sword with extra attack power? Where’s my bow which fires 561 fire arrows at once? Well I’ll tell you: you can buy them between levels. Well, sort of.
Between ending one level and selecting the next from the large map of missions, you can enter the shop to upgrade your equipment and skills. With enough cash you can buy certain new skills, abilities or weapon upgrades, provided you meet the level requirement for each one. Don’t expect your Level 2 character to be wielding a weapon designed for Level 11 players, oh no. You’ll need to save the cash AND earn the XP before getting hold of the good stuff. It’s a bit frustrating, but gives a leaner experience which takes the depth from the RPG elements, making it too slim for some but also more accessible to others. There are spirits you meet too, which attach themselves to you and let you have additional skills – the Vampire, for example, reduces the usefulness of health pickups, but gives you a small health bonus every time you kill someone. These are upgradeable too, but in the same way as the weapons and skills are limited to your character’s level.
Each level though is much the same idea – hack your way through dozens of enemies (which have a nice variety on them as you progress) using your range of attacks as well as dodging out of the way when things get nasty. Reach a safe area for your team to catch their breath, and it’s on to the next brawl. Larger enemies and shielded bad guys mix things up a bit, as do various traps scattered around to slow you down, slice you up a bit or belch fire at you so a bit of careful planning might be needed when approaching larger groups later in the game, but it’s still ultimately the same thing on a rinse and repeat cycle. Disappointingly “later in the game” also arrives quicker than you’d expect, with Sacred 3 not being the longest game in the world, but if you’re having fun with others it’s still a decent ride.
Sacred 3 had a lot of promise, and could’ve delivered something pretty spectacular, but everything feels a bit overtrimmed and samey after a while and as such you might end up feeling like you haven’t quite experienced a full game, especially if you go through alone. But rope in a few friends (or even random online folk) and you’ll enjoy things a lot more. It’s restricted as an RPG, but decent fun as a hack and slash game while it lasts. If you’re a fan of the genre and find this with a few quid knocked off, then you might just want to give it a punt. Anyone else though probably won’t really get the most out of it, and might be better looking elsewhere.
Reviewed on PS3