Dungeon crawlers all have one thing in common, freedom. Most give the player the freedom to go wherever his (or hers) tasks take them, among the grounds of an ancient castle, deep underground caves, a daunting forest, but, what if it was all stripped away? What if you are forced to go where the game makes you go with only one path and one goal? Would the game still hold the charm held so proudly by many other dungeon crawling games? Developers Keen Games seem to think so with the latest entry in the Sacred saga. Sacred 3, published by Deep Silver, takes players back to a time where linearity was rife and the main aim of the game was kill kill kill. Whereas the previous games held many of the features seen in better known isometric adventure games like looting and exploration as well as dynamic combat, Sacred 3 seems to have gone back to basics with this arcade style direction. Can it mean that the game is a flop?
In Sacred 3, you choose one of five types of characters, the Seraphim, Ancarian, Khukuhri, Safiri and Malakhim all of which have a certain style of combat and special powers based on the elements. As your chosen warrior, you must stop evil ruler of the Ashen Empire, Lord Zane who has allied himself with the Demons to steal an ancient artefact that has kept the peace until now called the Heart of Ancaria. It’s a basic premise to a basic game dragged along with irritating dialogue. I mean when have we known any character from ancient times call anyone baby-cakes in an ditsy American teenager’s voice comparable to Taylor Swift? Remarks like these happens all too often in Sacred 3 which ruined any sense of seriousness to the situation at hand. Each character has uninspiring back stories explained at the beginning of the game but none tend to stick, which is a shame considering what an opportunity the games premise could have been.
The game-play sadly is no better. Keen Games have stripped away almost everything that makes dungeon crawlers so much great fun. The thrill of finding that Legendary item from the dead corpse of a beast that took great effort to take down, stumbling across an entrance to a potentially great side quest that could lead to an even greater find, learning new attacks and abilities based on your level and becoming more and more powerful as you progress, it’s all absent in Sacred 3. Instead we have a game which requires players to go from one side of the map to the other, hammering on the attack button until all is dead, maybe doing some tacked on sub quests then fighting a boss character at the end, after which, it’s onto the next via a Mario-esque map screen. Side missions can be undertaken which is recommended as doing them all quickly levels you up making storming through the game a breeze as each stage is level appropriate so zooming ahead means you will soon find yourself in deep water. Your chosen character has one normal melee attack and up to three special attacks corresponding to their element, for example the Seraphim is a wind character with a sword so her attacks are air based which are helpful in crowded situations. At the end of each level, your experience points earned goes towards your characters level to which earns you upgrade points to allocate to either your character, their weapon, abilities or armour. This simplified watered down RPG system may please fans of a more action packed romp but if you’re a stat freak, you will be left dissatisfied to say the least. Collectables are found from defeating enemies and opening chests which consists of yellow orbs for experience, green orbs for health and coins to spend on resources, so no sexy super bane of death or flashy cast iron mega armour. Saying all that, the combat is actually fun and satisfying. Your characters blows are nice and meaty and some knocked down opponents can even be finished off with a leaping pounce move and most special abilities are area of effect orientated. Something which is found that can be used is your Weapon Spirit which is fused to your weapon (apparently). Whilst granting a special perk to assist you, the thing never shuts up as it says the same thing over and over during play, there was many times I wished I could turn it off but sadly you can’t.
The visuals are pretty mediocre at best. The main characters look great and so too do the enemies however there’s nothing to tell them apart from one another making things seem they have been copied and pasted to horde the player. Environments are better rendered with nice looking scenery however in-game actions such as buildings falling down causes the game to stutter profusely for a short period of time and in the heat of battle, that’s the last thing you need. Boss characters are also nicely designed with them being considerably larger than your average grunt.
Sacred 3 takes the series in an arcade y action packed direction, stripping away everything that made its predecessors so charming. The combat is fun but hammering those buttons until the end certainly gets mundane very quickly. The lack of depth, the atrocious execution of the dialogue and the awful level design bog down what could have been a great sequel to a great series.
Story - 2/5
Graphics - 2/5
Game-play - 3/5
Overall - 2/5
Version reviewed - PlayStation 3