Games don’t have to be complicated. Sometimes, you just want to sit back and slaughter hordes of foes without having to worry much about silly things such as “motivations.” Even better is finding one of these games that manage to have a sense of humor and realize just what it really is. Sacred 3 is a prime example of a game that just refuses to take itself seriously, while offering a fairly enjoyable escape from reality. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t more offered within.
Sacred 3 picks up shortly after the events of Sacred 2. Following the defeat of the Dark Elf Matriarch, her son Zane has sworn vengeance against the people of Ancaria, mostly because he wanted to kill them first. The Seraphim, guardians of the legendary Heart of Ancaria, have watched as Zane has pillaged the land and won’t allow it. Finally, Sister Telari has returned from her journey bringing new allies to fight back against Zane, in addition to Aria, the first child of immortal parents capable of seeing the future.
The story itself isn’t all that interesting, truth be told, however, the way it’s presented becomes the real selling point here. Sacred 3 refuses to take itself seriously in the slightest, and is closer to 80s cheesy action films such as Big Trouble in Little China than anything resembling an epic RPG adventure. It’s a design that works quite well, too.
This tongue-firmly-in-cheek approach is on full display when it comes to the voice acting and dialogue. Each of the main characters has his or her own very distinctive personality and they apparently never have a thought enter their head that they won’t share with the world. This usually involves some sort of horrible pun or one liner, but it’s just so damned lighthearted that I couldn’t help but chuckle as I played. Zep’tik, one of Zane’s three henchmen, stands out as my personal favorite character. His Skeletor-esque voiceover, paired with writing that highlights a villain with a loose grasp of the language, leads to such statements such as, “Curses! I will de-feet you! And debone you! I have the technology.” Sure, it’s stupid, but it’s charming nonetheless.
The sequel’s insistence on not taking anything seriously continues on to its main characters and its 10 unlockable weapon spirits (which we’ll get into later in the review). The four selectable characters round each other out as far as personalities, with the standout for me being Vajra the Kjukuri Archer, who can’t resist being “that guy” and trying to one up the situation by telling stories from his village. The Weapon Spirits, however, end up dragging the system down just a bit. While their little one-offs relating to story cues are usually pretty entertaining, they’ll be sure to make their presence known every time you finish a kill streak or start a power move. While hearing a cowardly dragon scream in terror after an impressive kill streak is cute the first few times, the lack of variety becomes fairly grating after a while.
As much as I enjoyed this title’s presentation, if a game isn’t fun to play, it’s all for not. In practice, Sacred 3 plays out in your standard ARPG format, but it seems to have stripped away a lot of what makes those games special. The standard affair of clicking things until they die is still very much there, as is the traditional isometric camera, but you’re limited to using two abilities at any given time out of seven options. Levelling up allows you to buy upgrades for your skills, weapons, or armor using the gold you’ve picked up, but doesn’t offer any sort of stat management. And the most sacred of sins: there’s simply no loot to be found. You’ll find two additional weapons as you hit early levels, but without that driving desire to keep going in hopes of finding that legendary piece of armor, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep playing at times.
Your abilities and weapons do have a short skill tree with six steps, but only two of them offer any sort of branching. It’s a very simple system, and in a lot of ways feels like it was an afterthought. Even games that have been considered “dumbed down” ARPGs, such as Diablo III, have offered more customization and flexibility in terms of building your characters. In many ways, Sacred 3 feels more like a brawler than a proper ARPG.
The Weapon Spirits are about as close as you really get to choosing how your character is going to feel, and even that seems dictated. The ten Weapon Spirits are unlocked and upgraded seemingly at random as you play through the game, each coming with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you equip the Dwarf, you’ll have a 30% bonus added to your critical hit chance as well as a 15% bonus to critical hit damage at level one. The tradeoff is that you’ll take 20% more damage from enemies.
Sacred 3 was built to be a co-op game, and while you can play it single player, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Areas that I struggled to handle were an absolute breeze with a buddy by my side, even with the game adding difficulty for each player. Luckily, Sacred 3 has made it exceptionally easy to get friends involved in the action by offering four-player online co-op, two player local co-op, or even a combination of the two. Couch co-op isn’t very common for PC games anymore, so it’s always great to see that as an option.
Sacred 2 was plagued with bugs upon its release, so it’s fantastic to see that there weren’t any glaring issues during my playthrough. The only two real problems I had were an instance where my mouse curser refused to show up, and a time where my keyboard wasn’t being recognized at all. Both of these situations occurred after repeated alt-tabbing, so it’s hard to fully blame the game for this. Outside of that, it was a fairly smooth experience.
Sacred 3 fails to be a fantastic ARPG, there’s no doubt about that. The game is extremely linear, a lot of the features from Sacred 2 were cut, and so much was streamlined from the actual gameplay that it feels like it lost sight of what really makes this genre great. Add that to the fact that we were able to complete the story and a good portion of the side missions in under 7 hours, and this is normally a game I’d advise everyone to pass on. However, while the humor may be heavy handed, it was enough to get my buddy and I to laugh (or groan) our way through and enjoy our time. This certainly isn’t a game for everyone, but if you’re just looking for a simple and funny brawler masquerading as an ARPG, you could do much worse.
This review is based on a PC version of the game given to us for review purposes.