Price: £29.99 Developer: Keen Games Publisher: Deep Silver Platform(s): PC, PS3, X360 Version Reviewed: PC
Playing Sacred 3 is like being stuck on a carousel with the entire cast of the Big Bang Theory. What might initially seem an entertaining prospect quickly reveals itself to be a nauseating experience that spins monotonously around the same point, and is populated entirely by chattering unfunny idiots. The single joke and twenty-five minutes of interesting content Sacred 3 offers are stretched out way past the point of sustainability. It is, if I haven't made this clear already, not a very good game.
Frankly I want to leave the review at that, because thinking back to my time with Sacred 3, I'm struggling to remember anything about it, other than it was vaguely unpleasant. Maybe if I screw my eyes up and think really hard. Nnnnnnnnnng. Ok. It's an action-RPG that makes the truly bizarre decision to not include any loot, set in a generic fantasy world that offers nothing new or imaginative. And it tries to distract you from this with a script that jabbers relentlessly in your ear like an overexcited child who has just received a joke book as a birthday present, only there was a shipping error and the joke book is in fact Justin Bieber's autobiography.
It doesn't even look all that nice, which is almost an achievement in modern game development. It's interesting comparing it to Divinity: Original Sin, which was similarly traditional in terms of setting. But Divinity was bright and cheerful, its visuals rich and warm. Sacred 3 has its moments, but far too often it's riddled with dull, murky textures, like the monitor has been smeared with a layer of axle grease. Yuck.
Sadly unimpressive visuals are the least of Sacred 3's problems. I guess I should point out this is designed as a cooperative action RPG. Players are encouraged to form a party using the four available characters who make up the vanguard of The Resistance, a band of rebels fighting the Ashen Empire led by the evil Lord Zane. I had to look this up on Wikipedia because I couldn't remember anything about the world or story except there were orcs and zombies in it.
So how is it a cooperative game? Well, when you play with other people, the enemies are a bit tougher, and there are some powers and spells that encourage teamwork. This is more or less the sum of Sacred 3's cooperative experience. For this you sacrifice the ability to pause the game and save manually. Furthermore, the levelling system means you'll probably need to repeat some missions to stand any chance of progressing through the game, especially toward the end.
The cooperative aspect of Sacred 3 causes more problems than the entertainment it provides. But I have some good news! The "action" part of this action RPG is at least passably enjoyable. I opted to play as the Safiri Warrior, a Barbarian-style class with a little fire magic mixed in. Combat is slick and flashy. I enjoyed the Safiri's "Dash" power, using which he scythes through groups of monsters, scattering them like tenpins. Also, his ability to grab certain enemies by the neck and throw them into other enemies is particularly satisfying. That said, the standard attacks, which you use the most, lack punch and are exactly the same regardless of what weapon you're using.
Unfortunately, although Sacred 3's action is adequate in short bursts, it's burdened by several problems that prevented the game from retaining my attention for any length of time. The RPG systems are extremely rudimentary. This is most obvious in the lack of loot, where instead of discovering weapons, you unlock a small arsenal as you would skills or attributes, and all that you collect in game are health, attack energy, and coins.
I can understand why Keen Games have done this. It speeds up the game's pace because you aren't stopping every two minutes to compare new item stats. But the alternative they provide simply isn't as interesting. The different weapons feel like straightforward re-skins, and you've unlocked most of the skills on offer before level ten, with only upgrades available from that point onwards. Moreover, there's no way to combine skills to create unique powers as in, say, Diablo III. There's a little bit of customisation that unlocks around the mid-game, but it's hardly anything to write home about.