Sacred - game review

Date: 2004-05-27 11:33:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Diablo fans have nothing to complain about. It is true that Blizzard does not intend to treat them with a new "devil", but there are "devil-like" titles on the market that are not inferior in quality to the original - the precursor of the hack'n`slash genre. Last year we had a very good Divine Divinity, the sequel Beyond Divinity (and Riftrunner) is on the way, and recently Sacred has been released. And it is the last of these games that I intend to devote to.

150 hours of gameplay, 180 tasks, 70 locations - the game developers' announcements looked very optimistic. It was hard for me to believe these words, because you know perfectly well how many such potential hits turned out to be products aimed at extracting money from players' pockets, with a minimum amount of work. However, now that I have played the final version of the game, I can say unequivocally that the producer's announcements were not in vain.

Every good game must have its own legend, story, story ... In this case, everything also promises to be delicious - so sit back and read. Once upon a time in the land of Ancaria, a Dark Elf named Shaddar ruled with an iron fist. Fortunately, the forces of good prevailed and the evil mage was banished to a tower in one of the cruelest deserts. Years passed, and people believed that the cruel man had perished in exile. But he was just waiting for his moment to come at last. The mage summoned the mighty demon Saqkara to help him return to the throne. It was only through a minor mistake that he managed to escape and wreak havoc on the world, reviving an ancient cult. Some will say that the scenario looks quite clichéd. But what can you come up with when so much has been invented? Fortunately, the plot develops interestingly later on and I cannot fault it.

We start the game by choosing one of six different characters. For those who prefer combat, the person of the Gladiator was intended. He is a large and muscular fighter, the toughest of all characters. Another hero (or rather heroine) is Serafinka - a heavenly exile. It impresses with speed and magical abilities, thanks to which it is really dangerous. Next up is the Wood Elf who wields his bow at least as well as the medieval Robin Hood. When playing as this character, it is better not to engage in direct combat. We can also find its opposite, the Dark Elf. He is an assassin who loves fighting with daggers and setting traps. The Battle Mage will certainly be the favorite of all admirers of magic. He uses magic to a perfect degree, and in hand-to-hand combat he works impeccably. The last of the heroes is the Vampire - a very dark character who can use swords perfectly, and being in his vampire form - is really deadly.

Each of these characters has been endowed with a number of attributes and abilities. There are six main characteristics: strength, agility, physical and mental regeneration. We can increase them after advancing to a higher level of experience. Then we also get points to upgrade selected abilities. There are many more (26 to be exact) - we have knowledge of weapons, disarming, meditation, stamina, setting traps and much more.

The world of Arcania, in which the story of the game unfolds, is one of the biggest my eyes have ever seen. Let this be confirmed by the fact that during the week of hard gaming, I visited only 10 percent of the country. It might seem that the game becomes terribly boring and tedious over time, but I can assure you - it's completely different. Maybe the game will seem like that to some people, but then you can not go into parallel tasks and focus only on filling the main plot. However, there are probably also those among players who will be pulled up by Sacred and will want to continue the adventure - there are a lot of side quests left. It is also worth mentioning the so-called "Easter eggs" (see the level with cows in Diablo), the creators of which have placed quite a lot here.

However, the most interesting thing about all this is the fact that moving between locations takes place without unnecessary data overload. You can forget about the "loading ... please wait" screens that we often see in other role-playing games. Everything is read while loading the save.

The speed in moving between the lands of the huge game world is made easier by horses that can be purchased in stables (we can find them in almost every city). They are not only "empty" animals, as they have their own characteristics. Not everyone can use all mounts and horse-riding skills must be developed for this. There are also 16 portals in the world of Arcania, thanks to which we can immediately move to another location.

As befits a decent "cerpeg", we are dealing here with a whole lot of magical artifacts, rings, swords, etc. Of course, the effects of individual items are random and it rarely happens that we find something with similar properties. As in the second part of Diablo, there is something like empty spaces where we can put scrolls, rings, etc., thus giving the item additional features. We cannot do it ourselves, so we have to go to the blacksmith to do this.

During the game, we find a lot of magical scrolls from which the character can learn interesting abilities. There are many of them in the game, and each character has a different list of skills. We can also assemble whole combinations (combos for short) of abilities, but this can only be done by special masters. Virtually in every city, we will also find buyers, from whom we will be able to buy useful items (such as healing drinks) and weapons and armor (the quality of items in their offer is average), as well as sell unnecessary items that take up unnecessary space in our backpack.

Sacred is a hack'n'slash in the full sense of the word. During the fight, we only think about which opponent to hit and how to do it (and this is usually done using the strongest "combo" or ability). There is nothing like "active pause" here, so forget about developing your combat strategy - you'd better focus on watching it :). Sometimes it is hard to choose the enemy you want - it mostly happens when you are fighting with more of them. Fortunately, there is a circle under each character that makes it easier to recognize them and also shows how much life they have left.

I liked Sacred's sense of a certain nonlinearity. Of course, the quests can be completed in any order (except the main quests), but some of them can be solved in several ways. For example, I will give you a quest called Nucquam Astralis. A man orders us to cleanse his villa of the ghosts that infest him. In the underground under the cemetery, we find the ghost of a deceased woman, who tells us that it was our client who killed her. Now we have to choose - whether we want to neutralize her or maybe help in revenge on the murderer. Of course, there are many more similar examples throughout the game. Nonlinearity also manifests itself in the following way: in every city we come across running children who have their own opinion about us, which depends on our actions. When we talk to one of them, we will hear such answers as: "You are strange", or "You look strange" (when we are a new person in the city), or "In the future I want to be like you" (as we have already done a lot for the local residents ). It may not be a breakthrough, but it is certainly an interesting innovation.

It is a pity, however, that the gentlemen from Sacred did not think about developing conversations with the NPCs. In games like Baldur's Gate or Planescape: Torment, we have a whole lot of dialogue options to choose from, and here ... Exactly, in Sacred we have no influence on the course of the conversation. Dialogues are limited to listening to what a given character wants to tell us and to accepting or rejecting the task offered by them.

The visual setting at first glance resembles Diablo painfully, but after a few minutes we notice the differences. The biggest of them is certainly introducing the characters into full three-dimensional, thanks to which the game meets the latest standards of computer entertainment. It is a pity that the models of the heroes have been made more carefully than the NPC characters, which is quite noticeable, even for a layman. The backgrounds were made in 2D graphics, but this is not a disadvantage of the game - the surroundings are accurate and pleasing to the eye. The special effects also look very nice. The eye is pleased with the multi-colored flashes accompanying the casting of spells or the phenomenon of fire, which illuminate the nearby area. I am also happy to take care of the details, such as bunnies running in the clearings or deer wandering along forest paths. Thanks to the three levels of zooming the screen, we can fully enjoy them (even at the closest zoom, the game looks tolerable). The authors also thought about introducing weather effects (rain or snow) and the day and night cycle to their work, which additionally makes the graphic design more attractive. Unfortunately, the game has quite high hardware requirements and to be able to enjoy smoothness - you need good hardware. The remaining ones are changing the graphics quality to low.

As for music - it does not come to the fore, but is the background for our actions. When we visit peaceful cities - she is calm and melancholic, but when an enemy appears nearby - she gains momentum and becomes more dangerous. The soundtrack gives the game a specific atmosphere. You cannot attach to the sounds either. The sound of jamming swords is as it should be, and the people uttering spoken sentences have been fitted very accurately. Our character often comments on the situation, and what's most interesting - each of them does it in a way that is characteristic for them. I'm only interested in how the Polish version will be made, because Cenega is certainly not one of the masters of localization.

The multi-player gameplay is as good as the single player mode. It was equipped with a server resembling the "blizzard" Battle.net. We can of course also play via LAN connection. A maximum of 16 people can participate in a multiplayer game.

Sacred would certainly be a lot better if the producers didn't post a few bugs here. They clearly screwed up the save issue, because when saving the game, the first slot from the top is automatically selected. There would be nothing wrong with that if it wasn't for the empty slot at the very bottom. Therefore, I advise you not to write reflexively, as it may end up with a very frustrating ending. Fortunately, there is a quick save option which saves you having to go into the game menu. It also happened to me a few times that the object I indicated did not work.

A few people may not like the large number of "easter eggs" that make the game downright comical in places. Fortunately, most of them - like a holiday resort for Orcs - have been hidden very carefully. However, it is not difficult to come across e.g. tombstones with humorous inscriptions carved on them. I personally have nothing to do with this type of music, but some may hold it against the creators.

Sacred is a very well made "cerpeg" and one of the best hack'n'slash I have played. It speaks for a very large world, some interesting characters, lots of tasks to do, good audiovisual setting. Unfortunately, the creators also managed to include a few bugs and a schematic fight (after all, it's a hack'n`slash :-)), which somewhat balances the game's advantages. However, it does not change the fact that it is a game that can provide many hours of decent entertainment. Diablo fans will be delighted, and other connoisseurs of the genre should play Sacred, because they will not be disappointed.

Artur "Arthek" Dąbrowski