Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel CoverSacred 2: Fallen Angel
Developer: Ascaron
Publisher: cdv Software Entertainment
Platform: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Released: May 12, 2009
Test Freaks' Freak Score: 6.3/10
Let me start with a disclaimer: I’ve made it through less than 30% of Sacred 2’s main quest and I’ve seen less than 20% of Sacred 2’s world. After over 30 hours of play, though, I feel justified in posting a review.

Sacred 2 is an action-RPG loaded with hundreds of quests, thousands of items and a menagerie of monsters. Gameplay is combat-driven so don’t expect to sneak around like a thief and you pick the good or evil path before launching the game so there are no moral quandaries to get in your way. If you need to feel immersed in a fantasy world, then Sacred 2 isn’t for you – but if you’re looking for a game that offers Diablo-style action and WoW-level of addiction, I highly recommend Sacred 2.

In the fraction of the game I've seen, I've learned that there's some problem with elves and I'm guessing a Fallen Angel comes into play at some point, but I really don't care. Not that I'm not interested in being the hero who brings salvation to Ancaria, but I'm having enough fun investigating crop circles, attending rock concerts, and collecting troll hearts. Sure there's a plot to follow, but the flavor of the game comes from the multitude of side quests available. I eagerly scour cities looking for people with ? floating above their heads, never knowing if I'm going to be asked to wipe out a skeleton army or merely tell guests that the wedding's off.
Roaming the Wastes.
Just one more quest, I tell myself and then I get sucked into a mini-campaign or find a class-specific quest I'm compelled to do because I'm a good little Dryad. Yes, I am your typical wood nymph who longs to pepper enemies with arrows and cast her voodoo. She's one of six preset characters available. Avoiding Gauntlet-style archetypes, Sacred 2 opts for classes like an angelic warrior (Seraphim), a resurrected soldier (Shadow Warrior) and an automaton resembling the Egyptian god Anubis (Temple Guardian).

Each character has different combat skills and magic available to them (called Combat Arts and grouped under three Aspects). Using my voodoo, I can envelop enemies in thorns and use shrunken heads to summon ghosts. With 15 Combat Arts to choose from, in addition to Offensive, Defensive and General Skills to hone, Sacred 2 has a pretty deep RPG system. Combine this with the variety of armor and weapons available and, even though I can't change my character's gender or make her ears pointier, I still feel like I've shaped her creation.

There's always a concern that porting from the PC to a console involves a dumbing down of the interface, but the controller works great and allows for intuitive button mapping. You can assign potions to the D-pad and attacks to the face buttons and you can even use the trigger buttons as “shift” buttons letting you easily access up to twelve different attacks, spells, or combinations — in no way is the absence of a keyboard limiting. I have noticed that the controls could be tighter — the game doesn't always recognize that I want to shift from my longbow to sword. Also, targeting isn't precise — many times I've launched a flurry of poisoned bolts at a rat instead of the horrible monster next to it.
One of the class specific mounts.
Sacred 2 favors open-world exploration over traditional dungeon crawling. This isn’t to say that you won’t spend a fair amount of time in cellars, caves and sewers fighting subterranean fauna, but Ascaron has built a huge fantasy world and – by Lumen! – they want you to see it. Grassland, desert, mountain, jungle – name an ecosystem and you’ll find it somewhere in the world of Ancaria. This is an incredibly detailed world. There are remnants of battlefields, strange machines, ancient graveyards and other wonders which you just happen upon if you stray from Ancaria's network of roads.

Sadly, much of Ancaria's beauty is lost to me because I'm either running like mad or hightailing it on horseback. Sacred 2 doesn't have random encounters — it just has encounters. There's no patch of wilderness which isn't crawling with monsters who have the sense to travel in packs. It's cool happening upon goblins fighting spiders, but it doesn't take long for them to join forces against you. Once I barely stayed ahead of a pack of skeletons, bears, minotaurs, goblins, boars, and goblins riding boars.
Come on party people.
However, Sacred 2's deadliest feature is that you can't pause the game. While the single-player setup is perfectly fine for misanthropes like myself, Ascaron really wants you to enjoy the multiplayer experience (2 player offline or 4 players online) and has created a pseudo-perpetual world MMO type experience. The end result is that if you stop to look at a map, level up, or muck about with your equipment, it won't take long before something comes up and starts chewing on you. It's much safer to do any charactery thing in cities, where you're mostly safe. Luckily, the world of Ancaria is filled with transporters and respawny stones, so you can warp around to cities you've already visited and run to the blacksmith to have a magic necklace dropped by a diseased sheep welded to your quarterstaff to make it fiery.

I think Ascaron has a low opinion of my social life, because should I ever complete this massive game, I'll need to replay it to see where the evil path leads me. And then there's the other characters for me to try out and they each have their own quests. And I heard there's an expansion on the way, which is like hearing that Slartibartfast is adding a new continent when I haven't even seen Paris yet.