Sacred in the test - review of Ascaron's action role-playing game

Author: Georg Valtin
Date: 2004-02-13 11:21:00
You sent Diablo and Baal back to Hell? Now you have to defeat a demon and his undead minions in Sacred. Free the lively fantasy world of Ancaria from evil in one of the best action role-playing games!

Once upon a time there was a powerful, sinister wizard named Shaddar. He lived in the most remote corner of the world, Ancaria, and practiced dark rituals all day long. One day he conjures up an evil Saqqara demon from the underworld. Because the long-nosed wizard overlooked a gap in the summoning pentagram, the hideous demon escapes. The stupid thing about it: Said Saqqara attracts the undead like a dog poop to blowflies. Result: Zombies and skeletons overrun the fantasy idyll, you have to avert the disaster!

Sacred is addicting from the start because it engages the same hunter-gatherer instincts that captivated thousands in Diablo 2. With a well thought-out skill and combo system, six fundamentally different character classes and a fantastic game world, Sacred Blizzard's reference product comes very close in terms of motivation.

Lively adventure vacation

As part of the long main quest, you have to collect ingredients for the ritual to banish the Saqqara demon. The tasks are only role-playing standard and the suspense has some slack in the middle of the game. As compensation, the adventure will lead you criss-cross through one of the most beautiful fantasy worlds that you will find in the role-playing travel guide. Despite isometric graphics (can be zoomed in three levels), Sacred easily outperforms 3D competition such as Gothic 2 and Morrowind when it comes to richness of detail. All houses are accessible and fully furnished. The individual objects are shown in such detail that you can even see individual types of sausage on the tables of the market stalls. It takes around an hour to search through all the buildings in the huge Krähenfels Castle for treasure.

So that you do not have to cover long distances in Ancaria on foot or on a horse you have bought, the developers have distributed transport portals throughout the country. Similar to the waypoints in Diablo 2, the transmitters bring you to the desired destination immediately after being activated once.

Polar wind and desert sand

The journey through Ancaria takes you through 25 types of landscape. At first you fight in tranquil forests and on green meadows. Later you will reach the icy north, the southern deserts, lava wastes and gloomy swamps on the paths of the main quest. The monsters differ depending on the area: Poison spiders and dark elves lurk in the moors, while blue frost giants live in the glacier caves and skeletons, zombies and orcs make the deserts unsafe. However, the developers should have built in more types of monsters, the few enemy species become monotonous in the long term in the very large areas. In addition, well-known monsters are often hidden behind a new name, only with new textures and attack values.

In martial arts school

In Sacred you take on the action-packed fight against the Saqqara demon with one of six hero classes. In order to master the flood of enemies, you use mainly special attacks and spells, similar to Diablo 2 (in addition to the standard attack). The program summarizes these activities under the name »Martial Arts«. Depending on the class, the type and number differ: while the magician learns 20 elementary spells, the gladiator as a thug master only uses eleven special blows and kicks. Seraphim and Wood Elf fight and perform magic alike, while the cunning dark elf prefers to lure careless opponents into traps.

The vampire lady is the all-rounder among the six warriors: in a colorful animation, she mutates from a normal person to a super-strong Dracula blend. In this form she summons bats and wolves to her side and brings defeated opponents back to life as submissive servants. After a short time, the transformation ends, and those who have not yet eliminated the strongest opponents will get a lot on the nose. Nice detail: each class initially does one or two special quests before the main story for all characters comes together at the military commander in Schönblick village.

Runesearch

To learn new martial arts or to develop existing ones, you need appropriate runes. The first of these can be found right at the starting point. You can collect more magic stones later as a reward for quests and as loot from monsters. This system makes character planning random and therefore more difficult than in Diablo 2, where you are guaranteed to invest one point in a skill per level increase. If you are unlucky, you will find no runes or only those of other hero types in Sacred for several levels. These are only useful as exchange objects in single player mode: If you give three runes to a combo master (which can be found in every larger settlement), you will receive a random martial arts stone of your character. For four you can even choose any class rune - with the restriction that strong martial arts are only available from a certain character level.

Combat combinatorics

As a specialty, you combine two to four martial arts into an attack sequence with the combo master in Sacred (for a small amount of gold). Since the combos have to recharge after each use, clever heroes only open the combat bag of tricks in certain situations. For example, when you flee from an enemy mob in a bad state of health or want to take down the dangerous wizard of an enemy group at lightning speed. For the latter problem, we used the Seraphim to create the four-stage sequence "will-o'-the-wisp", "combat jump", "hard blow" and "attack". We stunned the opponent from a safe distance, jumped in front of his feet in order to first hit him with a particularly strong blow and then finish off with a flurry of blows.

There is (too) much to do

Apart from the main quest, you will meet NPCs in need of help in all inhabited regions, who you can easily recognize by a question mark and exclamation mark above their head. These clients provide you with numerous side quests that discard experience points, gold, items and sometimes even runes as rewards. As soon as you have accepted a quest, a gray entry (yellow symbols stand for main quests) marks on the map that can be displayed, where you can find stolen goods, kill monsters or find the lost noble daughter in the forest and accompany her home. The rather small variety makes the quests monotonous compulsory exercises after 20 hours at the latest.

The mission design still deserves praise because the missions also work the other way around. For example, you can free a captured seraphim from the clutches of their tormentors without having to do it. In this case, you will then send a corresponding entry in the logbook to the client, who will then hand you the reward.

Spendable monster bosses

Overall, you will meet fewer monsters in the huge game world than in Diablo 2. This is a good thing because the martial arts have to recharge after each use. In addition to standard monsters, you beat up individual, difficult-to-defeat monsters. These beasts either deal with coarse melee or magic trowels or have so many life points that you can only get them down after long duels, even with special attacks. Often five to seven weaker opponents band together and pounce on you with united forces. These marauding evildoers are often commanded by a stronger leader, whom you can recognize by the red jagged circle around his life indicator. This symbol promises big booty, as the boys often leave large amounts of gold and many objects behind when they die.