Sacred 3 is aimed directly at your mindless horde killing, loot collecting, levelling up craving. But with any game that scratches those particular itches there has to be something to keep us coming back. In Diablo III it was a good looting system plus plenty of levels and abilities to unlock and customize a character with. So which part of Sacred keeps us coming back for more many hours into the game?
After a brief introductory cutscene it becomes abundantly obvious that it’s not going to be the graphics. Environments are defiantly passable but it’s unlikely you’ll ever stop and take a look around for longer than you need to. Unfortunately the same can be said for the character models too. Both your avatar and your hordes of foes are jagged and the whole thing just looks low res. And even then the frame rate isn’t exactly smooth. The particle effects from execution moves and some of the specials look nice but they intentionally take up most of the screen which can lead to some infuriating moments when you can’t see anything at all behind the effects. It’s particularly bad when you acquire a new weapon or upgrade as on occasion once you return to the action you’ll find that you’ve been beaten for the last 10 seconds by something you couldn’t see.
So if not the visuals the core fighting mechanic then. Which certainly has its entertainment value. At the start it’s likely you will be using the simple attack button a lot. There’s a dodge which allows you to roll out of harms way, which can later be replaced by a block if you choose, and a stun move to handle shielded enemies and knock others back. There’s a simple methodical nature to the combat. This enemy is defeated with that move and that one with this move all the while frantically bashing away at ‘x’ in between.
Which is fine for a couple of hours. But then it starts to lose some of its appeal. There are a few abilities for each of the four characters which can be upgraded as your level increases. And the upgrades make a significant difference but I never really got the feeling I wanted (or needed) any of them. Despite my increasing boredom endlessly pressing ‘x’ I never felt that my special ‘combat arts’ would help or were even necessary. This wasn’t helped by their limited use. Even though you pick up orbs that refill your energy more than enough I tended to ‘save’ my moves for something that needed them. And that never really happened. And when you do finally unleash a combat art you’re greeted by a move that does little damage above your standard attack and is usually more difficult to hit with. Back to pressing ‘x’ then.
Another problem is that the enemies rarely offer you much of a challenge. Shielded enemies require you to press ‘square’ to stun then and break their defence so you can kill them before they even get a hit. Standard enemies just require you to hit them mindlessly until they die. Any attempts at more advanced combat would require a much more responsive control system. And that’s not the only reason the controls need to be more responsive.
One enemy spins at you blades extended like a weaponized Crash Bandicoot. The only way to stop him is to, again, stun him. Except aiming your character is quite rigid and as your foe bulldozes his way towards you as you struggle to turn and perform your attack in the right direction you find it easier to head straight in, tank a little damage, and stun him to open him up for attack and an inevitable death. So the only challenge I ever really felt was when the controls were stiff or unresponsive. On its own this wouldn’t be such a problem but as Sacred has enemies that ideally require you to be precise and quick it feels like the game is working against you.
Periodically you will collect some loot in the shape of weapons, armour and souls that can be assigned to weapons to grant different benefits. All of them can be upgraded with gold collected on your travels and again the upgrades feel significant. Except, this time it’s far more important as your weapon effects the all important basic attack. Different weapons have different sets of upgrades and there really is plenty to unlock. On top of that you can equip a soul that adds additional effects. For example you can have a chance to fire a lightning bolt to cause extra damage to enemies. Or you might increase the potency of health orbs for the team, but reduce their effect on you. They’re well balanced and often require some thought as different souls will work better with different equipment.
The soul will also talk to you during a mission and on occasion they even contribute to the conversations between the main characters. They also make general comments during combat but it’s particularly nice that they have relevant things to contribute. Some of them are completely over the top characters, others are cynical and sarcastic but they all work with the humour of Sacred. And it is actually funny. The humour is understated which stops it becoming embarrassing. And then on occasion a brash character will chip in like a cross between Stan from American Dad and Buzz Lightyear. It won’t leave you in hysterics but because of that it never becomes brazen and embarrassing.
Sacred 3 is a fun romp for those wishing to satisfy the need Diablo III fills. It’s not particularly good looking but it gets the job done, although I would’ve liked a smoother frame rate. What I felt lets down Sacred is the repetitive gameplay. Without much loot killing enemies can only keep you entertained for so long particularly as your special abilities are so underwhelming. The upgrades feel meaningful but with only two equip-able ‘combat arts’, that often don’t help at all, everything begins to feel a bit futile.
Playing with friends helps alleviate some of the potential tedium but not enough to keep Sacred interesting down the road. Sacred 3 is good fun for a short play but the replay value is almost nonexistent, especially compared with games like Diablo III. With a bigger roster of abilities and character upgrades Sacred 3 might be great but as it stands it’s decidedly average to play.