For a genre that is generally more suited to a keyboard and mouse, action role-playing game developers tend to shy away from trying to map dozens of commands to a controller. Inevitably, when developers do take that plunge, it means that they have to amend their game significantly to simplify it for consoles. Evidently, that’s been too much hard work for most developers to bother with at this stage of the PS3’s life cycle. It was never going to be an easy task for Ascaron to port Sacred 2: Fallen Angel from PC to consoles, but at least the Germany-based developer has decided to do something about that gap in the market. Though it isn’t going to win any words for innovation, Ascaron’s Diablo-style hack ‘n slash action RPG is a very decent effort, and should satisfy the needs of those gamers waiting patiently for the day that Diablo 3 is announced for PS3, if indeed that momentous day ever comes.
Impressively, Ascaron has managed to include all of the content from the PC version of Sacred 2 for the console port. The limitations of using a controller are immediately apparent, though, with a simplified user interface and a convoluted set of menus that can be awkward to navigate. Nevertheless, you’ll have plenty of time to get used to searching through menus and equipping your weapon slots as you traverse Sacred 2’s truly mammoth game world, which provides hundreds of hours of rewarding gameplay, if of course you’re willing to invest the time that this type of game demands.
Sacred 2 has a general back story rather than a captivating plot to drive the gameplay along. It focuses on a mysterious T-Energy that is currently under control by the High Elf race. Two factions of elves are now fighting over its ownership, however, and while they’re busy tearing each other to shreds other races try to muscle in and claim the force as their own. It’s all fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Once you get going, the only thing you’ll care about is finding some sweet loot and rising up the levels. Once again, the vast continent of Ancaria is the setting for hours upon hours of monster slaying, level grinding and trading as you cross vast deserts, lava-ridden plains, and large forests on various quests and looting missions.
Before the action begins you get to choose from one of seven character classes, ranging from the melee oriented Shadow Warrior to the magically adept High Elf. From this point forth it’s all about partaking in hundreds of quests, which generally involve slaying beasts and gathering loot while escorting characters or item fetching. Like other games that sport an experience-based leveling system, the gameplay in Sacred 2 can get repetitive, but it’s also extremely addictive. Leveling up comes thick and fast, especially if you find an area rife with respawning monsters. Seeing your character’s stats improve and moving up the levels is just as appealing here as it is in many other RPGs. There’s a decent mix of enemy types and plenty of different environments to explore too, so, aesthetically at least, gameplay doesn’t get too stale.
Combat itself is a bit of mixed bag, however. A few technical issues threaten to put a dampener of things with A.I. path-finding issues and targeting problems cropping up on occasions. In the game’s defense, commands have been mapped well to the controller, allowing you to switch between weapons, magical powers and combat arts swiftly and intuitively. The directional pad is used to take potions and use your Divine Gift, a unique and extremely handy skill that you choose during the character creation process. There’s also a wide range of different skills that can be unlocked along the way, as well as some entertaining powers and equipment that can be leveled up with modifiers. Though combat is definitely repetitive, the range of powers, weapons and equipment on offer ensures that there’s plenty to think about beyond simply sticking your sword through the midriff of an advancing Orc. Like any RPG, there’s a sense of achievement gleaned each time you level up and see your character advance in power and stature; it’s when you hit the higher levels that combat becomes a more enjoyable experience.
Despite Sacred 2 having many of the required elements that we’d expect from any good action RPG, it can be a lonely and monotonous experience when playing in single-player mode. In the early stages when you don’t have access to mounts, walking across the huge map can be a real chore despite the impressively rendered locations. Fighting monsters in two player off-line co-op mode or with four players online is far more rewarding; it’s always nice to share some of the loot and help each other to level up. Sacred 2 is a game that benefits enormously from the inclusion of multiplayer.
Furthermore, the bugs and glitches that have reportedly plagued the PC and Xbox 360 titles don’t seem to be as big an issue in the PS3 version. Though we haven’t compared the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions ourselves, the publisher even tells us that Sacred 2 on PS3 is the superior looking game. Though still technically unsound in places, if you are thinking of picking up Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, then it’s the PS3 version that will do the game the most justice.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is rough around the edges, but it’s still an extremely addictive action RPG. In a genre where console gamers currently have a limited choice, it’s a solid entry to the PS3’s software library. Be warned before you do rush out and get it, though: Sacred 2 is a game for hack ‘n slash, dungeon-crawling enthusiasts only. Others may tire very quickly of doing the same actions over and over again and find that the steep learning curve is a little too much to bear. Ultimately, while the overall Sacred 2 experience may not always be flawless, the good certainly outweighs the bad.