Sacred 3 – Preview
Diablo II was one of the games that shaped me as a gamer. In fact, some of my earliest gaming memories involve endlessly looting and clicking-related wrist injuries. Well, perhaps not actual injuries, but it felt like there should have been with the amount of clicking going down. Since then, Diablo and I have gone our separate ways – it went into dormancy for a dozen years, and I moved towards console games rather than the sticking with the PC games that I had grown up with. When it finally re-emerged from its slumber with the release of Diablo III we had grown too far apart, and though I was immensely tempted to pick up a copy and attempt to run it on my seriously inferior computer, common sense eventually prevailed.
Thankfully, over the years that Diablo has been entrancing loot hunters, it’s inspired more than a few games that have grown into fantastic series; when Sacred was released it quickly gained a reputation as ‘Diablo for masochists’, and soon had its own following and a selection of favourable reviews. Another instalment in the series soon followed and an isometric fantasy series was born. The original Sacred was released about eight years ago, and the sequel was released four years later, and so it’s no surprise that another four years on another Sacred game in the works, and is looking superb to boot.
Like the other games in the series, Sacred 3 takes place in the fantasy world of Ancaria -one of the biggest game worlds I have come across. The country is under the control of the evil Ashe empire; control that the land itself contests. The mystical heart of Ancaria calls out to the greatest heroes in the world to help overthrow the Ashe Empire and judging from what we saw, they responded. Although the story is a bit bizarre, Ancaria itself is a stunning location to explore. We were shown a couple of levels, and not only did they look fantastic, but were organic and interactable, and as the players wandered through a dark fortress and through some intense battles, we were also treated to some very good looking combat.
The action is conducted from the isometric viewpoint that Diablo popularised all those years ago, with the player presiding over the combat from above the ground. This particular viewpoint allows players to truly appreciate the spectacular moves that the characters can unleash – their scale is impressive, and the open viewpoint also allows for one of the most important facets of Sacred 3: co-operative play. The entire game has been designed with co-operative play in mind, and so the gameplay mechanics are designed to encourage that. In fact, the whole focus of the combat is centred around the idea that players who work and attack together will be rewarded with better damage, and the combinations shown off during the demo gave us some spectacular results. We were told that the focus while constructing the combat was to create a expressive, rewarding combat experience, and there is no doubt that they have succeeded. The two players present combined silkily to take down obviously tough to beat enemies in moments, thanks to clever combinations of abilities and powers that provided some visually striking moments along with some serious damage.
We were only given a glimpse of a couple of the classes that will be available in the final game, but what we did see was a pair of unique and differing characters – in terms of appearances as well as ability. The first class we saw was the Ancarian Lancer, and though there was a brief explanation of her abilities they flew right past my head; I was distracted by what was happening on screen, with said Lancer dealing out some serious destruction with the help of some neat combat artes – what Sacred is calling what are essentially powers. In the case of the Lancer, her combat artes are focused around the use of earth, which means that she can do some nasty area affect attacks as well as some moves that leave the opponents reeling.
The other character that we saw, a Safiri warrior, focused on attacks that used the power of the sun to rain fire down upon the heads of his enemies. He also used a selection of dashes that left him wreathed in flames, which also boosted some of his more damaging moves. He worked very well alongside the Ancarian Lancer, who stunned enemies and left trails of poisonous fumes for the Safiri to light with his flames, and during their partnership there were huge blossoms of fire taking over half the screen at a time, as well as enemies being tossed around like rag-dolls. With up to four players playing at a time there is no doubt that the action will be phenomenal, and though the idea is that the game will be co-operative, there is still the spirit of friendly competition, instilled mostly by the scoring system. The more impressively the player takes down the enemy the more points they can achieve, with bonus points being awarded for a variety of reasons, such as using the environment to kill the enemies or killing enemies in co-operation with your partners. At the end of each stage the player with the most points is awarded bragging rights, and unfortunately that seems to be it.
Sadly, there will be no local co-op mode; the wave of disappointment that greeted this announcement was almost palpable, and a hasty explanation only served to take the edge off, because the game was essentially too awesome for a local co-op mode to work. Because of the visuals that will be accompanying the big moves that you can dish out, there is not enough space on-screen to allow two players to keep track of what is happening. Extraordinarily, though I am a firm believer in local co-op I can see their point, as the splashes of colour and visuals that were popping on-screen constantly would soon confuse me if I were trying to keep track of what multiple characters were doing on a single screen.
By the time I walked away from the session I was suddenly in love with a game that I never even knew existed. Built for all consoles rather than exclusively for PC, Sacred 3 takes full advantage of its isometric viewpoint to provide one of the most visually-impressive games that I came across during Gamescom. It’s been in development for a while, but there are no promises about when we might see it out, which is disappointing, as it can’t come soon enough for me, and it definitely looks like I’ll be strong-arming as many people as I can into buying this game and playing it with me.
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