Review by Nick H.
Sacred 3 was a game that everyone at DDNet was really looking forward to, thanks to the quality of the previous game, and given how long it has been since we had a new Sacred game (no, the beat-em-up, Sacred Citadel, doesn't count).
Certainly Sacred 2 had its flaws, but it was distinctive, huge, and so it was an enjoyably guilty pleasure. Unfortunately this latest iteration in the series is a let-down for many reasons. There's co-op, and it is perhaps the one redeeming quality in a production that otherwise largely misses the mark and tarnishes the franchise name in the process.
I am all for doing something new and taking chances with a video game. However, the changes made to Sacred 3 make it feel nothing like the earlier titles in the series. Sometimes this works, of course. Fallout 3 was entirely different to its predecessors, and it worked. Sacred 3 is the opposite, and is instead a cautionary tale about taking what was entertaining about a series and stripping those parts out without adding anything substantial to the mix to replace those pieces.
Almost immediately the low production values start to kill any excitement you might have had to play the game. The visual aesthetic is quite good, but the voice acting is really, really bad. The story never really grabbed my interest to begin with, but hearing it executed by people who couldn't possibly be professional voice actors, and were poorly cast amateurs to boot only served to rub me the wrong way. I used to play video games with the sound and music off and my stereo blaring in the background back in the eight and 16 bit days. I have not had to do that in some time, but that's what I did here.
Moving on from that, Sacred 3 is less RPG and more a generic fantasy hack-and-slash style brawling game. The open world that was such a great feature in Sacred 2 has been replaced with narrow and linear travel, while the joy in collecting masses of loot has been replaced with an adequate combat system that is functional and free of bugs, but completely lacks identity. Nothing about the way the combat works clicked with me. It's, at best, generic, and anyone who has played any game in this genre has already experienced it all. In short, as workable as the combat is, it's completely, painfully boring at the same time.
As I noted at the start, there is co-op, and this feature does allow Sacred 3 to function as a brainless party game. My son and I were having a decent time with it as we were testing the game for review. It's a genre we like playing together, and on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 we have sunk plenty of time into the likes of Diablo 3, Chronicles of Mystara and Dragon's Crown over the years. Any game, provided it's not mechanically broken, can be more enjoyable in local multiplayer, when the experience is as much about the human interaction than the actual game.
Sacred 3 seems like it was built from start to finish to enable that co-op experience, but even there it comes off as watered down version of its predecessor. If you are new to the Sacred series (and you may well be, it's not the most renowned franchise), and you come into the game without any specific expectations, then you may well find yourself having some kind of fun... until you realise that Diablo 3 is also available on these consoles, and it manages to be a fun local co-op game without resorting to gameplay that is more bland than eating gruel.
It is the sort of experience that tries to get by by looking pretty, playing fast, and assuming that there are friends in the room and the beer is free-flowing. In that context, it's competent, but I still felt the systems were too shallow and the voice acting so bad that it's going to be difficult to get people to want to even play it with you.
I suspect that if Sacred 3 had its own brand name and identity it would have been slightly more forgivable. But this is a game in a niche franchise, and it really should have been designed with the fans in mind first. Being absolutely nothing like its predecessors, Sacred 3 is borderline offensive, and if this game hasn't killed the franchise's commercial value, Sacred 4 better look more closely at why people actually want to play these games. It's not good enough to be dumb fun.
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