Sacred 2: Fallen Angel Xbox 360, PS3
Ever since Phantasy Star Online slashed its way into my heart, I’ve always had a thing for a good old dungeon crawl. Strike the balance right between the action, variety and that OCD need to improve your character and get bigger, better weaponary and you’re on to a winner; with Diablo, Titan Quest and the aforementioned Phantasy Star Online all being more moreish than cocaine flavoured Pringles. Get this crucial mix wrong, however, and you’ve either created a shallow action game, a repetitive “grind-fest” and, quite possibly, one of the most boring games in existence. Did someone say Too Human?
It is safe to say that Sacred 2 does fall into the former category, for the most part. Sure, it does have its fair share of problems (and we will get into that later) but it does do a good job of masking the mindless repetition of quests with some interesting character development and the never-ending search for LOOT. You pick your character from a choice of six different races and some paltry customization “options” – you can literally change the female characters hair colour and select one of two possible styles – then choose whether you want to embark on the good or evil story path, both of which will take an ungodly amount of time to carve through. Factor in thousands of sub-quests, four difficulties featuring tougher enemies and better drops and the multiplayer, which strips the game of the story to offer a free-roam world where you and up to three others can battle together, and you’ve got quite a lot of game for your hard earned cash. If it gets its hooks into you, you will find yourself coming back over and over again, levelling up and getting more awesome stuff to strap to your character.
Right, that’s it softened up nicely. Gloves are off now, boys. If you worked on this game, probably best you stop reading now. Quit while you’re ahead.
“If it gets its hooks into you.” It is a big IF, especially when you consider the mire of pure awful you’ll have to wade through first. The port from PC to console has not been a smooth one, and Sacred 2 is poorly optimized. The main thing that has suffered is the framerate. I’ve not seen this much stuttering since the mass-electrocution at the 3rd Annual Gareth Gates impersonator conference. Even when you have nothing on screen but your character and GRASS, things still get eye-breakingly choppy. It is unacceptably poor, and just one of a myriad of problems that Sacred 2 suffers from.
Visually, its an absolute pigsty. Characters are poorly designed, poorly animated and just plain poor. The world of Ancaria, although impressive in size, is essentially just a series of RPG clichés, shown from an awful viewing angle that means you spend most of the time looking at the floor, all created from a bunch of ugly textures and some terrible art design – a weird combination of laser firing Egyptian style beasts and machines mixed with your usual orcs and elves fantasy setting. Ugh. The presentation is shocking, just a bunch of cumbersome menus that clearly benefited from keyboard and mouse control. Doing simple things that you will need to do regularly, such as comparing items found in the shops or your inventory is an awkward process that most other games can manage in a button press. The music is an interesting point, as in the 360 version that I had to hand a strange piece played whenever I was in combat or had just finished a quest. In the PS3 version I was sent to review, nothing played, ever. Very strange.
The gameplay isn’t much better. Sacred 2 has an MMORPG style combat system, where you gain a bunch of skills as you advance through the levels and once you’ve set yourself to attack an enemy can activate them providing they’re not charging and you have enough magic energy. Stripped of the PC keyboard and mouse control scheme, everything has been mapped to an awkward series of face buttons, d-pad and trigger presses. This was always going to be an issue when you port this kind of game to a console, but that is hardly a valid excuse when most battles don’t get much more exciting that holding down a button while your chosen character listlessly hacks away at an enemy.
Missions, although plentiful, are the usual fetch quests or extermination missions that plague this entire genre. One of the worst variants available are Sacred 2’s escort missions. These people you are tasked to get to a location must be the most fearless, gung-ho characters in the entire game. Should an enemy even wander into the same TIMEZONE as you, they will suicidally dash into battle with them, regardless of how tough/gigantic they are. This usually ends with them being killed without mercy, and you fail the quest. Can you take the quest again? Of course you can’t! Can you cancel the quest once you’ve taken it? OF COURSE YOU CAN’T. Most of the characters you get these quests from have some arbitrary dialogue, none of which needs following unless you have an interest in the fairly dull overall story or you ACTUALLY want to know why you need to kill 10 bandits. Should you choose to give it a read, you’ll at times be confronted with some of the most painful attempts at humour committed to disc since that Jim Davidson one that stabbed you in the kneecap every time he said something a bit racist. You remember the one? There is even a “CAKE IS A LIE” reference early in the game, which even only a mere two years after Portal’s release, represents the death knell for any title’s attempt at comedy. Combine this with some of the more serious, high fantasy parts of the main quest and you’ve got an awkward mix that, in fairness, sums up the entire experience.
Hell, Sacred 2 even crashed my PS3 completely, and the game wouldn’t even boot until I had deleted my save and reinstalled the game to the hard drive. Perhaps it was my PS3, but either way, this experience is fairly indicative of the complete lack of polish on display here.
Thing is, if you go over that initial, more positive paragraph, there is definitely something worthwhile here in Sacred 2. Despite the tedious missions, wonky controls and piss-poor visuals, it can cast a strange spell over you. Even now, I find myself being drawn back to it, just to have a game where you shut off and just mindlessly progress, whether it be reaching a new level or finding some magic sword, there is always something to aim for. Using an analogy I’m already regretting even as I write this, Sacred 2 is kind of like finding the perfect guy/girl for you, and then finding out, upon inspection, that they are made entirely from human excrement. Now, if you’re willing to put up with that, or you really, really, really like that sort of thing, then you may find satisfaction with Sacred 2. For the rest of us, no matter which way you put it, it is STILL poo.