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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: December 8, 2000
I have a confession to make. Since the days of the original Starcraft, my interest in the real time strategy genre has waned to near nonexistence. Almost every title released in this genre follows the same basic mould in that you gather resources, build units, and then lead your army forth to war — using tactics that will hopefully wipe out the opposition. Very few real-time strategy titles have deviated from this basic formula with any success. There are, from time to time, mild innovations like Dungeon Keeper 2 that provide normal strategic entertainment from altered vantage points, but few games in this vein could be touted as anything close to groundbreaking — until now. Shiny Entertainment was blessed with a vision of something that — if successful — would forever alter the standard by which real-time strategy offerings are made. Sacrifice is the culmination of this dream, throwing unique gameplay and unrivaled visuals together for a mixture previously unrealized in the electronic entertainment industry.
The world of Sacrifice is one of fantastic magical power and mysticism. According to the ancient texts, the Creator — in a strangely Biblical sense — gave some of his own life-force to give birth to the world and all its creatures. Everything was peaceful until the Fallen One predictably came with destruction and chaos in mind, somehow managing to overthrow the Creator, banishing him to the nether regions of the universe. Much of the land was laid to waste during this conflict, and things began to go awry, with horrible mutations springing to life out of the ground. In the midst of this peril, five new gods arose to fill the place vacated by the creator. Each of these gods has a representative ideology such as nature, order, or chaos that makes them stand out from the rest of the pack. Pyro, for instance, is the God of Destruction, yet he considers himself a bringer of light and truth that perpetuates the advancement of society through conflict, in which the weak die and the strong survive to become even better adapted. Each of the other four gods suffer from similar arrogance, believing that the one right and true way is the one which they advocate. Much like the Olympian deities of old, these beings are constantly bickering over who is the greatest, or who has the best philosophy. From the arguments often rise heated battles, wherein the gods send out their forces to battle. Thus far, no clear winner has emerged. Through a combination of courage and cunning you will attempt to win a decisive victory, for whichever side you decide to take.
In Sacrifice, you don’t actually play as one of the major gods, instead taking on the role of a powerful wizard who will pledge service to a particular deity; and in return receive potent magicks with which to carry out the bidding of your patron. There are over 13 character models you can choose from, each one with a very distinct look. Before you start any one of the multiple gameplay styles, creating a new character based on one of the existing models is necessary. These models all have suggested names, which are easily modified during the process of selection. Once you find a sorcerer who suits your fancy, you can begin a single player campaign or a standalone mission. The campaign will take you through an epic adventure that will reveal the reasons behind the quarrelling of the gods and quite probably determine the fate of the world.
Unlike most real-time strategy games, you will not rule from on high; giving orders to your troops while you stand back watching the outcome. Instead your wizard is the center of attention, and you maintain control from a third person perspective, while traversing the often-inhospitable terrain. Your wizard requires a link to one of the five gods to maintain power and cast spells. This ethereal bridge exists on the mortal plane in the form of an altar, which is easily your most important structure. So long as your altar remains intact, your character has virtual immortality and can be reincarnated after death if your magic level is high enough. Since the object of most missions is to eliminate all rival sorcerers, you must sever their ties with the gods by destroying their altars. Likewise you must take great pains to protect your own link with the divine. After defeating certain numbers of foes, your wizard will become more powerful with higher maximum health and mana levels. Upon advancing to certain stages, you will be able to understand and use better spells that inflict higher damage to your foes.
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