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Review by: Keith Durocher
Published: April 16, 2004
Swords. Magic. Elves. Dragons. What is it about these clichés that ignites such fires of passion in people across the world? We might never know, but then again, does it really matter? Is it a bad thing that we’re continually immersed in mythical pre-history? The German development crew known as Ascaron certainly doesn’t think so, nor do they feel it’s problematic in the least to embrace the best of the best as role-models. With this in mind, they’ve created Sacred, an old fashioned action-RPG chalk full of supernatural mysticism. If you’ve been searching for a new title to whisk you away to a medieval alternate reality, it could be just what the doctor ordered.
Sacred will strike the casual observer as being awfully similar to Blizzard’s triumphant Diablo and somewhat like Microsoft’s Dungeon Siege; however, I don’t entirely feel it’s fair to call it a clone. It does use a top-down, three-quarters isometric view, and it does use the standard fantasy template as its format. It also uses a blend of pre-rendered background maps and real-time 3D character models, allowing for a very detailed world. To its credit, there are stronger role-playing mechanics than Diablo or its sequel can boast. “Clone” is a word I like to reserve for titles that have no merits beyond those which have been lifted from a previous title. While there’s no arguing that this release is cut from the same cloth that Blizzard wove eight years ago, it has enough details and class to stand on its own, out from under the shadow of Tristram, as it were.
Set in the mythical land of Ancaria, Sacred is more than just a romp though the woods on a scavenger hunt for better loot. The movie that starts the game could easily double as its sub-title: “Why sorcerers should never trust details to an imp.” I don’t want to leak spoilers here, so suffice to say things go disastrously wrong for a certain arrogant practitioner of the dark arts. If there’s anything years of sitcoms have taught us, it’s that one simple blunder usually spills out of control and serves up much hilarity. The same is true of this particular summoning error; however, the laughs are somewhat on the sparse side. The timing couldn’t be worse for Ancaria; world-consuming evil is the last thing the kingdom needs considering the internal power struggles already threatening everyone’s peaceful way of life. The King is on his deathbed, the Prince hasn’t had a chance to prove himself or consolidate power, and the Marshall of the Ancarian armies is a power-hungry schemer with aspirations to the throne. What a great time for the Orcish tribes to start ravaging across the lands as they flee something much more frightening than their women.
This is the tumultuous political situation into which the player is thrust. You know the crown is desperate for reliable agents when they’ll call you to service no matter what your previous occupation was. “You’ve been feasting on the blood of innocents for 500 years? My, what your diary must look like. How do you feel about reporting to the militia of the Prince?” Sacred offers six character classes from which to choose: Gladiator, Seraphim, Wood Elf, Dark Elf, Battle Mage and Vampiress. Each of these choices has a different approach to combat: gladiators are masters of multi-opponent close fighting, while seraphim are somewhat more martial in their approach, using quicker, lighter weapons in conjunction with divine magic. Wood Elves are masters of ranged fighting with longbows, whereas Dark Elves are assassins and rely on venom-coated blades and traps. Battle Magi unsurprisingly wield a wide arsenal of destructive magic; however they can and do use staves to great effect when the chips are down. Finally, the Vampiress is skilled with a longsword, but doesn’t really shine until night falls and she can morph into her undead form without fear of damage from the sun. At this point, she sprouts claws and becomes a savage hand-to-hand fighter who can call on a wide assortment of spooky creatures to creep out her enemies.
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