Sacred 3 is a new direction for the dungeon crawling Sacred series. Rather than the open-world exploration of the first two games, the third game takes a far more linear approach, dropping you into a series of levels and arenas to “enjoy” its hack-and-slash combat and snide almost-so-bad-its-good humor.
Taking on el Diablo
There is little surprising about Sacred 3’s fantasy tale. The evil Lord Zane of the Ashen Empire wants to expand his dominion, but to do so requires the ancient McGuffin of destruction +1. Now, he is on the warpath with his minions in an attempt to capture this item of power (named the Heart of Ancaria), devastating everything in his path in a thoroughly un-neighborly fashion.
Fortunately for the general populous, a team of fantasy hero archetypes have been bought together to battle this evil – a fellowship if you will. They will travel the land, thwarting Zane, restoring piece, and making annoying out of place jokes.
Sacred 3 shifts the series’ focus from an open-world to a collection linear levels. This dramatically shifts the game's feel, removing its sense of exploration to focus on all out combat.
With the story and levels all doled out with mundane predictability, the sense of discovery and surprise quickly dissipates. Before long new levels and enemies feel like reskins – a problem made worse by having to grind out experience on earlier stages for a fair shot at tougher levels. True, crawling through a collapsing castle, avoiding unreasonable amounts of shrapnel and traps is interesting the first time, but repeat the formula ad infinitum and tedium soon sets in.
On the plus side, the game does offer four different characters to choose from: a dual weapon wielding warrior, a ranged archer, a speedy swords woman, and a midrange lancer. Each has their own combat style which - when combined with other character's abilites, the wide selection of items, and the different possible enchantments - creates a broad range of tactics that come in especially useful in the multiplayer.
Bring your friends
Sacred 3 has no shame in flaunting its action focused console ideology. From the outset it is clear that a controller is the way to experience the action, with the dual sticks offering a responsive way to directly control your character.
This focus on direct control bleeds over into the more traditional point-and-click mouse interface seen in titles like Diablo. While targeting remains within the purview of the mouse, movement and actions are tied to the keyboard. It still works well, but feels like a half step between two control systems which proves quite uncomfortable at first.
One positive upshot of this is that if you have a controller attached to your PC - along with a standard mouse and keyboard - then you can jump into some single-screen local-multiplayer. Taking on Zane with others (either online or on the same machine) is far and away the best way to experience Sacred 3, adding much needed spice to the grind. By mixing different ranges, skills, and abilities, you will discover a range of different tactical options to exploit the enemy's AI - with some players acting as a distraction while others pick them off from relative safety.
Earplugs of Silence +3
Sacred 3’s detailed medieval-fantasy environments look fantastic. The locked camera controls allow the game to play around quite nicely with your perspective, with the standard isometric view occasionally sweeping around to offer dramatic side-scrolling moments (at least the first time you see it).
Characters and bosses are similarly nicely formed, though the zoomed out view means that much of their detail is lost.
Where it starts to fall apart for me is the script and voice work. The series always featured some interesting, forth wall breaking humor, but Sacred 3 takes this to a new level. Your guide, Aria, communicates with you and your hero telepathically, but her one-way banter quickly becomes tiresome with her “sexy” and “noob” comments ill-judged at best. This combined with numerous other spirits and enemies chiming in with comments and taunts, results in a constant wall of inane chatter.
Of course this is personal, and some people apparently enjoy the dialogue. Certainly it did occasionally make me chuckle and (importantly) provides the experience with some personality. For me, however, it was all just too grating and added nothing to the flimsy narrative.
Sacred 3 is a solid enough game. The action is responsive and the combat is fun when played with friends. Unfortunately, its mix of grinding and linear levels mean that you end up feeling like you never have any freedom to explore its attractive world.
Ultimately though it will come down to whether you and your friends believe that Sacred 3’s “wit” is something you may actually find entertaining. If not, I would recommend that you steer clear.