Word of advice – don’t expect Sacred 3 to play in the same manner as its predecessors did. You’ll probably be disappointed as there are but a few connections between the first two titles and the newest one. Now, what we have here is an amalgam of two distinct gameplay styles – both originating from the hack ‘n’ slash craze that’s been running the show ever since the first Diablo title. Now, I greatly dislike comparing games, but Sacred 3 is a hybrid that would be difficult to describe without doing so.
Instead of performing the same as the older Sacred titles did, the game we have at hand today goes a wholly different route. Gameplay-wise, the changes aren’t all that obvious until you actually get to control the chosen character. For example, instead of pinpointing the location you want your character to travel to or designating precise attacks at the highlighted enemy, the mouse is used simply to convey a very direct critique of your foes via two types of attacks. A simple slash/bash and a more powerful attack that ravages shields and throws enemies off balance. To move, you’ll use WASD, which is a very… unorthodox system in the given genre. The complete package is a game that controls very similarly to the latest Devil May Cry or Castlevania installations. In return, this means that hit feedback is much better than we’ve come to expect from games such as the previous iterations of the Sacred franchise. However, it’s also rather obvious that Sacred 3 is designed with consoles in mind, as the keyboard/mouse combo isn’t quite as precise as it should be. Case in point – by pressing „E“ next to a specific enemy type, your character can pick the poor sap up to either finish him off or throw him into his pals. You’ll have a hard time aiming in these situations. Also, some skills seem to completely disregard what you’re aiming at and propel you two or three meters in front of your target. I believe it’s clear that these deviations can prove deadly in some high-risk situations. And another thing that is as useful as its mind-boggling implementation is – the evade roll. Now, this is absolutely counter intuitive as the direction of your evade is dictated by what your mouse is pointing at. You’ve guessed it, it will be pointing at the furious flailing monsters whose attacks you’re actually trying to evade. So if you don’t want to jump headfirst into the fray, you’ll have to point in the direction in which you want to roll and then re-aim towards the ugly creeps. It takes away precious time in combat. Playing with controller solves all of these issues, because of course it does.
Disregarding the half-hearted PC specific controls, Sacred 3 plays nicely. Even without any cool loot, the game makes you feel like an absolute badass, throwing critters around as if they’re made out of cardboard. Hit feedback plays an important role here, especially when playing with melee-oriented characters. In Sacred 3, it’s all about streamlining. Instead of branching skill trees, each of the four (five, if you’ve preordered) characters has several combat arts at his/her disposal. On each mission, you can only take two, so you’ll have to choose wisely which skills work best with one another. This allows for some pretty great maneuvers when multiple players work together to take groups of creeps down. Indeed, CO-OP is the highlight of this game, and its implementation is actually nicely done. The transition from single player is as seamless as they get due to the fact that Sacred 3 is split in actual levels, instead of a coherent world. So it’s rather easy to get into a group of random players before each mission.
However, what worries me is the game’s longevity. Sure, there’s a fair number of missions available, and it does take a decent amount of work to haul through them, but there’s little incentive to do the whole thing again. I can disregard the balooney controls. I can play with others despite the fact that I prefer my roleplaying done solo (that actually sounded better before writing it down). However, I cannot forgive the absolute lack of loot I’ve witnessed while playing Sacred 3. Forget about customization. Forget about choosing from a vast array of weaponry and armour pieces. Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, a random boss will drop one of the several available items you will be able to equip afterwards. Not to mention that each character can only use a single weapon class. It’s linear, it’s boring and it troubles me. Because, once the dust settles, I can’t see many people hounding through Sacred 3 multiple times. There’s some additional fluff available in the way of weapon spirits that provide somewhat enticing commentary and some cool abilities, but these are also fixed drops, and you will be hard pressed to actually care about them at all.
Technically, Sacred 3 is a well-built title. Despite the fact that it looks very pretty, the game also runs extremely well even on older hardware. Expect loads of cool particle effects and good post-processing. Nothing that would melt your eyes, however. The music is okay-ish, but the voice-over is what’s important in the audio department. There will be times when some spoken sentences come out sounding too forced and synthetic, but for the most part, the characters sound really good. The dialogue is cheesy, but rightly so, and will probably make you chuckle on a regular basis. The story is also nicely realised, but isn’t all that special. A classical fantasy twist that likes to make fun out of itself every once in a while. It’s a pleasant experience, but most probably not one that would drag you right back into the given universe.
All in all, Sacred 3 isn’t a bad game. Hell, some of its traits place it several notches above its competitors, but there are too many flaws to overlook. The lack of content to keep players playing is what matters the most, but hopefully the next Sacred title will be a combination of everything that’s good about this one and everything that’s good with the rest of the genre. What you get here is a well designed romp that makes for a great party game, what with the short missions and all that. Sadly, I cannot recommend it to those who are hoping for a lengthy, fleshed-out hack ‘n’ slash.