Preview by: Dennis Sloutsky
Posted On: 12/02/2004
Shaddar is an immortal dark magician, once defeated by the forces of light and expelled into the desert. Expelled, for centuries he was seeking revenge, searching for the gate to the Realm of the Dead in order to find a Sakkara Demon, a descendant of Worganars the Demon Lord. In Ages long past, when the Gods still walked upon Ancaria, the Seraphim knew how to defeat such evil and destroyed the Demon Worganar, driving the hordes of lesser demons back to the hell from where they came... But now, who will save us now?
Sacred is an upcoming RPG currently in the works at German-based developer and publisher Ascaron, taking place in the fantasy world of Ancaria – a place where elves, goblins, vampires, dragons, and many more mythical creatures co-exist together with humans. As one of the six heroes from different background your task is to defeat the armies of evil and restore peace to a world in danger. I won't tell you much more about the story, as it will probably be more fun to discover it for yourself - all I can say is that Sacred is one of the games where the story actually does get interesting at one point or another.
Just like the popular Diablo series, Sacred takes a hack'n'slash approach to RPG games - it's noticeable when you start the game, as there's no character creation with stats allocation process present after selecting the single player campaign from the main menu. Instead, you're given a chance to select one of the following six heroes, some likely, some unlikely: a Gladiator, a BattleMage, a Dark Elf, a Wood Elf, a Seraphim, and a Vampiress - with the only customizable parameter being the character's name. That's probably even for the better, as each of the characters not only (obviously) possesses unique stats, attacks and/or magical abilities, but also starts the game with a different story, and from what I've seen later on has some unique sub-quests and obviously loot.
Probably the coolest part about the different characters are the spells and special attacks, most of which are unique to only one or two characters. Like in Diablo 2 , a certain number of special attacks can be performed in a sequence at ease. Taking a partial example from Ascaron's official website, that might translate into something like: as a Gladiator you take out a distant enemy with the special move "throw weapons", switch to another weapon instead of the one you just threw at an enemy, make a few quick slashes at the enemy closest to you, and seeing that you're running out of health points you finish off the last opponent with the devastating "hard hit" special attack. As you can see the Gladiator doesn't have any magical abilities, so he can only execute “special attacks”, not spells. In the meantime other characters can mix “special attacks” and spells while fighting. There are many such “combo attacks” for the various characters available in the game – and since there's an abundance of them, this potentially makes up for more strategic and ultimately more satisfying gameplay - especially when playing co-op multiplayer with a few buddies.
Gameplay-wise, Sacred has everything the "big boys" of RPG world have to offer - a huge gameworld, a big number of subquests in addition to the 30 main ones to explore, a vast number of weapons and items (as well as merchants where those can be purchased), a large variety of baddies to fight, computer controlled companions (whose inventory you can manage yourself), and much more. Speaking of the quests - a lot of freedom is offered in the way you can play the game - not only most of the sub-quests are not necessary to do in order to complete the game, but in most case you'll be the one deciding in which order you'd like to do them or even some of the main quests. Random quests are also available, as well as random loot. And if we're speaking of the inventory, a lot of original items can be modified by adding such additions as gems or rings into them, which makes it fun experimenting with different things in the search of the ultimate monster slaying weapon. More cool stuff is also there, such as the ability to ride a horse while fighting, but I'll leave the full description of the game for our review.
The graphics in the game are rich and vibrant. A lot of different areas are present in Sacred, each with its own unique feel, environment, inhabitants and special effects. Some of the special effects like the fog, magical attacks, or the water running down a river, are very impressive. Even if the graphics are your traditional top-down isometric pseudo-2D, a nice touch was added - like in the popular game Robin Hood you can zoom in and out almost freely, providing yourself with an either more detailed, or more remote view of the screen. The zoom in option is especially impressive because even on close zoom the characters and their surroundings look fairly 3D and lifelike, while some of the main (read: female) heroes look downright stunning. There's really a lot of detail in other areas too, such as character animations... This is really the first RPG game that I can recall, in which enemies killed by arrows (in certain situations) slowly fall down to the ground while holding on to their wound, and finally collapse before dying.
My first impressions after giving this late beta build a try are very good ones. While I was unable to test out multiplayer, the single player portion of the game looked like it will offer long hours to spend and some serious fun to gain for RPG game fanatics - if Ascaron follows the same traditional path of quality we've seen in all their previous games. While I certainly cannot predict the future, I'd suggest you to watch out for this game when it ships to stores, as from the looks of it Ascaron and Encore might have a potential hit in the making with it. And be sure to check out some of the 54 exclusive screens made for your viewing pleasure.