Review: Sacred 3 (PS3)

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Title: Sacred 3
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.8 GB)
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Keen Games
Price: $49.99
ESRB Rating: M
Sacred 3 is also available on Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
When Sacred 2 was released for PlayStation 3 years ago, I immediately rushed to pick it up. It came at a time when games of its kind were not available on consoles. It was buggy and exhibited terrible frame rate but it was like drinking dirty water in the desert. I couldn’t care less about its shortcomings because I was thirsty for this type of game. I was playing online (and offline) with a friend, hacking and slashing my way through countless enemies, rarely knowing why I was doing it.

Now, Sacred 3 comes our way, a few weeks before Diablo 3 makes its debut on the PlayStation 4 (having been on the PlayStation 3 for a while now), and it no longer stands as the only game of its kind on the console. So I wasn’t going to be nearly as forgiving with bugs and poor performance. Fortunately, I didn’t have to be, as Sacred 3 can exist right alongside Diablo 3 and be it’s own entity, even bringing some interesting elements into the mix of hack-n-slash RPGs.

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For one thing, Sacred 3 is actually pretty funny. Characters speak quite a bit during battle, and some of their banter is pretty laugh-out-loud hilarious. Your narrator/guide Aria, is pretty dingy (yes dingy) and her narration varies from informative to outright ridiculous. At one point she marveled at a dungeon trap we sprung, only to feel guilty for her excitement (since we took damage from the trap).

Summoned companions break into songs as you battle “Share your battle cry and you’ll never be apart!” And even the main villains of the stage chime in with commentary that is witty and pretty hilarious at times.

This aspect of Sacred 3 was not expected, and admittedly, I’m pretty happy about it. As much as I truly loved Diablo 3’s story and darker tone, the meaningless killing in games like these, and the sheer nature of the hack-n-slash gameplay, makes for impatience when it comes to dealing with the game’s narrative. Sacred 3 kept things fresh and funny while I was busy killing legions of enemies.

Much like Sacred 2, and any hack-n-slash game that has come before it, Sacred 3’s gameplay revolves around the most rudimentary aspect of video games: button mashing. Your character is viewed (mostly) from a 3/4 birds-eye-view angle as you traverse the game map ridding the world of an entire population of monsters that exist solely to destroy you.

There is a purpose to your murder streak, and in the case of Sacred 3, the villainous Zane is out to take over your land, and you must stop him and his minions. You don’t ever question Zane’s motifs, or investigate whether or not he might be in the right. Such moral questions are reserved for games like Skyrim or Barbie’s Horse Adventures. In games like Sacred 3, you only need to know where the enemy is.

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The other purpose of your inflicted genocide is to level your character and earn money for upgrades. While Sacred 3 doesn’t even come close to Diablo 3’s robust level of upgrading skills and weapons, it still exists here, and you have a choice of which skills to equip and upgrade. There are even Skill Trees for each ability, as well as passive and active skills to level. Weapon upgrades are also not as robust. My archer would upgrade bows after a couple of stages, but I couldn’t loot some amazingly-rare bow from a chest.

Fortunately, you are able to replay missions over and over, allowing you to “grind” in order to earn cash and experience in order to take on the tougher levels. And “tough” they can get. I found my first playthrough to be pretty brutal. The enemies are relentless and they swarm. But after I realized that the game equipped me with everything I needed to fight back, the difficulty became manageable.

Sacred 3 has a block and roll button (similar to the roll ability added to Diablo 3 on consoles). Much like Kratos in the God of War series, your character can roll out of harms way. I found this to be essential to survival in most cases. It actually became a fun aspect of the game in that I couldn’t just turn my brain off and point and shoot. I had keep on my toes if I wanted to survive.

Unlike Diablo, you cannot travel back to town and restock on healing potions. If you start healing early in the level, you might find yourself hard-pressed to defeat a boss, so learning defense really plays a part in this game. And as soon as I realized that, things became more interesting.

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Visuals:
Top-down games like Sacred usually make for pretty damn-good graphics. Check out Champions of Norrath for PlayStation 2 and you will be treated to graphics that still hold up to today’s standards (HD reboot please, Sony).

Sacred is no exception to this. Environments are created with some pretty awesome detail and while the framerate isn’t silky smooth, the game is still playable even with two players on the same screen. Flashy particle effects compliment the action. The environments are quite a bit more linear in Sacred than, say, Diablo 3 but there is enough variety that you never quite feel like you’re replaying the same level over and over.

Sound:
Sound is the area where Sacred truly surprised me. Sacred is pretty damn funny. It’s not South Park: Stick of Truth funny. It’s not even Bard’s Tale funny. But it is quite a bit more lighthearted than most games in the same genre. As mentioned before, characters chime in with commentary, and Aria (your main guide) is not quite sure what she’s talking about half the time. Summons break out into songs as you slice your way through enemy armies. It all comes together with a pretty epic musical score. Overall a solid use of sound in a video game.

Online/Multiplayer:
Multiplayer is why most folks purchase a game like Sacred. I have always been a fan of the console versions of these games because (for the most part) you are allowed to play with your friends in the same room. Sacred 3 allows for two people at the same time. Not quite as awesome as Diablo 3’s four-player same-couch tour, but still a co-op experience.

Online you are treated to four player co-op and for the most part this works well. You are allowed the freedom to switch to invite-only, friends-only, or just open the doors to anyone who will join you. Since loot appears to be instance-based, you don’t have to worry much about hoarders, or unfair looters. Sacred 3 handles the load well enough. Although I did experience some framerate drop it was not game-breaking.

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Conclusion:
If you are craving some same-couch RPG action, be warned that while Sacred 3 provides the same hack-n-slash experience seen in games like Diablo 3 and Champions of Norrath (on the console), it is nowhere near as deep on the role-playing side of things. On the surface the games work the same, but digging in reveals more of an action experience, with little to loot and a shallow leveling system.

Still, judging it against what I expect it to be is not fair to what it is. Sacred 3 is fun, works well in co-op, and is pretty entertaining with its light-hearted characters and dialogue. Just don’t expect it to be much deeper than that. I would be doing a disservice to this website and all of its loyal readers if I did not mention that Sacred 3 also contains a level featuring minecarts. While that didn’t affect the score this game received… it almost did. It almost did.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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