Kieran is wary of the spirits in Sacred 3
What happens when you take the loot out of a predominantly loot heavy genre? Can that even work? Well, that’s what developer Keen Games wants to try and prove with its take on the Sacred series and I got to go hands on with Sacred 3 to find out how it is shaping up so far.
The most iconic parts of the Sacred series have been taking the Diablo loot-grind formula and making it bigger and crazier. Sacred 2 in particular featured a massive open world of near MMO size and so much loot it was almost obscene. Sacred 3, at first, feels a lot less ambitious than its predecessor, instead focussing on smaller more structured levels akin to Diablo 3. This change isn’t necessarily a bad one, the level design certainly benefits and the areas are a lot more interesting to explore and fight through than the sprawling world of Sacred 2.
Where Sacred 3 differentiates itself positively from the games before it is the controls. At first glance it appears to be a Diablo-like loot heavy Action RPG but when I started playing, it became clear very quickly that Sacred 3 is going to be far more action heavy than even that. Each class has a regular attack and then a heavy attack which can be used to knock enemies out of guard stances and can also disable traps around the levels. Then there are two skills, that you can change out and level up. I spent my time playing as the Seraphim, who had a large energy wave that pushed enemies away and did a ton of damage. The second skill was a ball of lightning that was slow moving but did area of effect damage to everything as it passed, by default. Everything controlled really well and ended up feeling almost like a top-down God of War style action game. This comparison is driven home further by the bigger enemies occasionally getting stunned allowing for a more powerful attack involving mashing a button over and over (although I found in most instances you could do more damage using regular skills while he was stunned). The controls are so responsive and fluid and the combat in general just flows so well when you get the hang of it. It’s really all about crowd control given the large numbers of enemies that are thrown at you; it’s all too easy to forget about one heavy hitter in a group of 30 smaller enemies but it’ll come back to bite you if you do.
The lack of “loot” in the build I played instantly felt strange. I got a couple of weapons from bosses and strange equipable spirits that give some bonuses like boosted damage or defence, but no longer do regular enemies drop anything but gold. In fact every weapon I got seemed to be gated entirely by the story with no way to even purchase or sell them. Enemies do however drop gold like crazy, which can be used to upgrade your skills and weapons as you level up.
Levels are joined from a lobby system even in single player, helping push the co-op heavy focus of the game. It’s also where players can spend money to upgrade their skills and buy items, although the only item available in the preview build seemed to be healing potions. There were several levels available which offered fun variations of level design and objectives. Most of them were story based but there were a couple of optional side levels that had objectives that seemed to all have different variations of ‘Kill all the dudes in this level’, which could be played through to gain additional gold and experience. The story missions definitely seemed to be the focus however, with larger levels and more interesting environments to fight through.
I enjoyed my time with Sacred 3; it looks really good and plays well. The only real worry I have about the full version is the structure of it. It feels in a lot of ways like a half-step, like this game was built to join the co-op resurgence that we’re seeing in the industry and wanted to hit a middle ground between Sacred 2 and Sacred Citadel (a surprisingly good beat-em-up that came out last year). The lack of weapon and armour loot could definitely limit the replayability depending on how well the full skill tree and leveling is handled. It’s definitely a game to keep an eye on, especially if you’re into co-op heavy games but in a lot of ways it could be disappointing if you go in looking for a direct sequel to Sacred 2.
Sacred 3 is due for release on 5th August for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360