Sacred 3 tells the story of five heroes working together to stop the evil Lord Zane from retrieving the “Heart of Ancaria” and opening the gates of the Underworld and unleash its armies on the world of Ancaria. This is the third game in the series but the first under developer Deep silver who acquired the license from the original developer Ascaron Entertainment. This is my first time with the series so can it do justice to the popular series?
Sacred 3 is a top down Hack n Slash game that uses RPG elements in order for players to customise the combat style of their chosen fighter by using XP to level up abilities, weapons and armour as you progress through the game. From the start of the game you can pick from any of five cultures, each represented by a hero from the Seraphim, Safari, Ancarian. Khukuri and new to the series, the Malakhim. This culture will be included in the First Edition version of the game available on release day as DLC along with the ‘Underworld’ Mission pack which adds four missions which will see you fight your way to the top of a sinister tower where the Black Seraphim will be waiting, an evil not seen such Sacred 2.
Once you have selected your hero it is time to step into the world of Ancaria. I chose the newest Culture of Malakhim due to his dual blades combat style. You will have a guide throughout the game in the form of Aria who will provide tips on what needs to be accomplished and where to go during story missions. What struck me straight away is how the dialogue in the game does away with the cheesy ‘ye olde’ style of fantasy speaking and instead infuses the game with humour and comedy as Aria will both guide and entertain as the story unfolds around the action going on often with her interaction with the evil general of Lord Zane’s army you whose forces you are taking down during each location. The banter between Aria and the evil boss is further enhanced by the addition of the weapon spirits.
Weapon spirits can be used to infuse your weapons granting new abilities and bonuses such as elemental damage or increasing the potency of healing orbs. Each weapon spirit has their own personality which will show through the action as they will random speak to you often as a result of how well you are doing. For example the first weapon spirit you discover is the Battlemage. His backstory is one of a ladies’ man who came to an unfortunate end at the hands of an angry father of one young lady. This shows through in his dialogue as he breaks into flirtation with Aria the guide and his often cringe one liners during gameplay. Picking the right weapon spirit does depend on your playing style as some will help you at a character level and some will benefit the group if playing in co-op. My particular favourite weapon spirit is the Elf, who will sing every line of dialogue she has which is just very random but also very amusing.
For me it is the combat in the game that really makes it stand out. I loved the arcade style of just having to wipe out every enemy on screen as you progress through each location. The numbers and difficulty of the enemy builds as you make your way through and there is just so much happening on screen that the action is fast and fluid. Along with your weapon style you also have abilities and spells tied to the bumpers to help you keep the enemy at bay. It can get a bit button mash worthy at times but it is great fun just taking out hordes of enemies until you make it to the end of the mission.
New weapons can be obtained during play and can be enhanced once your character has reached a certain level using the gold you collect along the way to purchase them. Each weapon will have its own upgrade tree and making the right choice will influence how deadly those weapons can be. The game does allow you to roll back your upgrades allowing you to craft the weapons that best suit your play style. The magic spells tied to the bumpers can also be enhanced once you have reached the necessary character level in order to unlock them. What I liked most about this style of upgrading is that being tied to your own character level means you will not be too over powered too early in the game but based on your progression means you will be strong enough when you start battling the game’s main boss fights. It is a careful balance that both allows you to tailor the combat around what you like in combat but rewarding enough to keep you trying new things during the game. Armour will upgrade over time with enhancements unlocking to boost abilities. There is some visual change to the character but it is automatic with no option to personally customise how your character looks.
Sacred 3 allows for local co-op of up to two players but over Xbox LIVE you can have between two to four player co-op. With the right team combining the right combat styles, weapon spirits and abilities the action can be explosive when the battle numbers increase and it is a visual treat to just see so much happening on screen. I did notice some slowdown when big spells were in use both playing solo and with co-op but it was short and infrequent just noticeable when it happened.
Between the main story locations you will find smaller dungeon areas which will require you to clear the area of enemies in order to reach a large treasure chest. These are good for farming XP and gold to use when enhancing abilities later. They are very short though and can be skipped which makes them a nice option to play or not play depending on how you as the player feels.
The game has a beautiful soundtrack throughout with a lovely orchestral score running through both the menus and the gameplay. Visually it has a nice art style for the cut scenes which are animated boards rather than full blown CGI sequences. With the almost top down view of the action you never really get to go up close to the characters on screen but the locations you visit are well drawn and create the world and atmosphere of Ancaria really well.
The game did have some niggles for me. Character and ability upgrades can only happen between locations so anything new unlocked via discovery or levelling up will have to wait until you have completed that mission area or retreated back to the world map before you can use them. There is also no real pausing in the game. Pressing start will bring up the main game menu but the action in that mission will continue, so make sure you have killed all enemies on screen and are in a safe area before using the start button.
The dialogue between the weapon spirit and Aria the guide is never interactive. The weapon spirit will respond to something Aria says but she will not reply to them kind of leaving it out there. Aria only talking to you and not your weapon spirit does break it up the flow of dialogue a little as you would expect Aria to respond back especially with characters like the Battlemage who replies with a flirtatious tone that you would expect Aria to just smack him down with a course response.
Overall I really enjoyed Sacred 3. The action is fast and gives you enough to do either playing solo or with friends in co-op. It was nice to see the game offer local co-op which is something that is lacking in recent games and online with up to four the action can get big real quick. There is enough of a challenge throughout the game but at times the areas can feel linear and limited without really allowing you to explore the area, just offering a side path to find a mystery treasure which will only give a small amount of gold. The humour is kept to a level that prevents it from becoming too tedious or cheesy but enhances the story as you battle the forces of evil on screen.
If you like your hack n slash action to be customisable to suit your own play style along with friends who can do the same then Sacred 3 will deliver all that in spades. A good story with great presentation and Sacred 3 is a nice refresh of the series under Deep Silver and will have you coming back for more if only just to try out new characters.
Thank you to Koch Media for providing the game for review