Sacred 3 Review

I knew what Sacred 3 was going to be like because I bothered to look into it. However, those who complain the loudest about the game’s departure from the hack-and-slash, open-world approach of its earlier numbered iterations are the ones who preordered or otherwise bought the game based on the name alone. If you blindly buy something without doing any research, you deserve to be bitten by it. That’s not to say that Sacred 3 is the most wonderful game ever made—not only was one of its few characters locked day-one DLC (unacceptable), but it can be a bit on the short and repetitive side. That said, I enjoyed my time with it and would definitely consider it a better overall game than Sacred 2.

Some will consider this heresy

The older Sacred games have a strangely fanatical fanbase, especially when it comes to Sacred 2. Because of that, I don’t expect to make any friends by claiming that 3 is a better game than 2, but someone needs to say it. Sacred 2 was a boring game, 90% of which was spent running around between two points because someone you had no reason to be helping asked you to. Every so often you’d slaughter a group of enemies, but that was only to spice travel up a bit. That was it.

Sacred 3, on the other hand, actually attempts to tell a story while maintaining the series’ trademark humor. It doesn’t succeed at this perfectly, but given the practically-nonexistent plots of the previous games, it’s easily the best overall story in the series to date. I played all three games for the first time back-to-back-to-back, so anyone who tells you otherwise is blinded by nostalgia.

And the best characters, too

The characters in Sacred 3 are outrageous. Whether that’s a good or bad thing really depends on your affinity for dumb humor, because there are plenty of stupid jokes to be found throughout the game. Some of these jokes don’t quite land, especially toward the beginning of the game, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at many of the others because of how unabashedly ridiculous they were. In fact, toward the middle of the game, I could swear that many of the jokes were heavily inspired by Mel Brooks’ movies.

I played as Claire the Seraphim, mostly because I played as a Seraphim in Sacred 2. Not only is her occasional voice acting infinitely better than in the previous game, but she actually has a personality in this game. This may not seem like a big deal to those who haven’t played Sacred 2, but character personalities were all but missing in the previous game, and even the excellent first game didn’t have anywhere near as strong of a supporting cast as Sacred 3. Most notably, you spend most missions being coached through the level by your teen telepath, Aria, who brings a certain level of amusing/adorable naivete to the dialogue. Like I said, the humor is often dumb, but that somehow makes it all the more endearing.

This is how many non-story missions play out.

This is a different genre altogether

If you buy this game blindly expecting it to be a carbon copy of the previous two games, you’re bound to be in for a rude awakening. Gameplay-wise, Sacred 3 has nothing to do with previous games’ focus on loot and open-world exploration. Instead, it’s a linear, mission-based game with limited customization options and gameplay that has more in common with “brawler” games than the aRPG hacking and slashing of previous Sacred titles. Defeated enemies don’t drop loot, instead dropping green health orbs, yellow orbs that recharge your special attacks, and money that can be used between missions to upgrade your weapons in limited ways. Sacred 3 is basically a more fun, 3D sequel to Sacred Citadel.

But with more varied combat

Sacred Citadel let you get away with the same combo over and over throughout the entire game. Sacred 3, on the other hand, actually makes an effort to push you out of your comfort zone with different kinds of enemies who have to be approached differently. While some enemies can be blindly attacked, others have to have their shields lowered by your secondary attack first. Another type will charge at you periodically, while magic-oriented enemies will cast spells that do area damage unless you disrupt their spell. It all comes together surprisingly well, and I found it much more enjoyable than the mindless combat in Citadel.

3 kinds of levels

There are three different kinds of levels: story levels that progress the plot, arena-like “survive X number of waves” levels, and “kill everything to collect the treasure at the end” levels. Story levels are preceded by a prerendered cutscene where you’re told what the mission is, and these levels are accompanied by unique comments by Aria and/or certain boss characters as you make your way through them. The arena wave levels and kill-everything levels, on the other hand, recycle their voice acting, quickly becoming irritating, and aren’t preceded by a cutscene. They also tend to be quite a bit shorter than story levels, existing mostly to pad out the length of the game a bit and provide you with valuable upgrades and experience. Even with their presence, however, the game is surprisingly short, only providing you with something like 15 story levels before the end.

Day-one DLC is ridiculous

I hate day-one DLC, and Sacred 3 is a great example of how to not do it. Not only was one of the game’s five playable characters locked as a preorder bonus (meaning I had to choose between four characters like in Sacred Citadel), but a couple levels on the word map are also locked, telling you to install the DLC if you want to play them. Yeah, I think I’ll keep those nickels and dimes, thanks.

You NEED a controller for this game

Sacred 3 is borderline unplayable with a mouse and keyboard. Simple as that. If you don’t have a controller, then I’d recommend holding off on the game until you do, because the controls work exactly the way you’d expect on a controller: left stick moves your character, and pressing attack or dodge does so in the direction you’re facing. With the mouse and keyboard controls, however, you attack or dodge in whatever direction your mouse cursor is relative to your character. That means if you’re trying to attack down-left but your mouse cursor has wandered to the top right of the screen, you’ll attack the air behind you instead of the direction you’re facing. Dodging faces the same problem, forcing you to keep an eye on the location of the mouse cursor at all times, and while that may be an easy enough task early in the game, later levels become so chaotic that it’s easy to lose track of where your cursor is. It’s just a needless, inconvenient step that makes the game incredibly unenjoyable unless you’re using a controller.

Upgrades and spirit shards

Coins are the currency of the game, gained from defeated enemies and the rare chests you stumble upon, and they can be used to upgrade your weapons (though weapons will also upgrade themselves as you progress in the story), armor, and special attacks. However, upgrades have level requirements, ensuring that you’re never able to upgrade more than one or two things every couple of levels. Upgrading is pretty much an afterthought, then, being something you can do every once and awhile, but not anywhere near as important an element as in previous Sacred games. This is doubly true because of how few weapons and items you gain over the course of the story. I finished the game with something like 3 swords I could choose between, and these were obviously scripted drops.

I found spirit shards to be far more important than weapon/armor upgrades, honestly. These are an all-new element in the game, being characters who have been forged into weapons by your enemies and who decide to join your weapon instead once you’ve beaten them (or something along those lines). What this means is that you can choose one spirit shard character from a bunch of them to provide you with a certain benefit at the cost of a certain weakness much like the cursed bone charms in Dishonored’s DLC. You can, for example, choose the vampire spirit shard who grants you a small amount of health when you attack most enemies, but at the cost of health orbs recovering less of your health. Different shards come with different pluses and minuses and are leveled up as you play based on random upgrade drops from enemies, and choosing one that complements your play style can make a huge difference in the outcome of a level.

QTEs and other weirdness

QTEs are almost never fun, and Sacred 3 has QTEs. Both breaking free from certain traps/environmental hazards and using special attacks on bigger enemies when they’re stunned are performed by mashing a certain button/key (on the gamepad, it was Y). This never makes for enjoyable gameplay, and while it’s not especially egregious since traps can be avoided and you can simply choose not to start the special attacks, the presence of QTEs doesn’t do this game—already viewed negatively by many—any favors.

There are also a few repeated tasks that get a bit old after awhile. Sure, it’s great fun the first time you have to spin a wheel X number of times or charge an energy lock by holding Y between waves of enemies, but these elements repeat a bit too much given how short the game is. What’s most annoying, though, are the unique challenges that pop up, with the one that stands out in my mind the most being a section where you have to stand near a door so that enemies throw rocks at you, accidentally breaking the door open in the process. Naturally, you’re being attacked by swarms of enemies all the while, so you’re having to roll around and try to guess when you need to be standing by the door. I enjoy the general gameplay quite a bit, but strange requirements like that just aren’t fun.

Instant-death spikes suck, especially when they bug out.

I didn’t face many bugs, but…

As you can see in the video above, spikes are weird. Some spikes kill you automatically regardless of whether you have health potions or not, while others (like the ones in the video) allow you to heal yourself once your health has been depleted. Of course, that distinction didn’t matter much when Claire got stuck in the latter kind of spikes and was unable to move away from them. This was the only bug I faced in her playthrough, though while playing through a few levels as one of the other characters, I did have a mob fail to appear, forcing me to reload the level entirely. Still, I was fairly impressed by how bug-free the game was compared to the notoriously buggy Sacred 2.

Pausing doesn’t actually pause

If you press start to pause a game, everything should stop. That’s the whole point of the pause button, and it’s important for when real life rears its ugly head and forces you to, say, separate your pet from the upholstery. Sacred 3 doesn’t actually pause the game, though, and while you can safely walk away once you’ve beaten a mob in an area (they don’t respawn once you’ve cleared it out), being unable to freeze the game at any time is a huge inconvenience.

The graphics are pretty good, actually

Though I liked the graphics of the previous two games overall, they were still kind of bland and same-y. Sacred 3, on the other hand, has a great art style that complements the world, and as a result, it’s definitely the prettiest game in the series. It’s not the kind of thing that will blow you away or anything, but it’s still a pretty big step up from the previous games.

The music reminds me of the first game

Sacred 2 had some really great music. Sacred 3, on the other hand, seems more inspired by the drum-and-orchestra music that was so forgettable in the first game. To be fair, some of the tracks are actually pretty good when listened to outside of the context of the game, but it was all lost on me while playing for whatever reason. I think the craziness of the combat (and all the noise it makes) just about drowns everything else out, which is a bit disappointing.

Here’s what you should do:

Sacred 3

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