There’s always something pleasant about a game which, while not necessarily breaking new ground in its chosen genre, still manages to entertain in spades. Sacred 3 is one such title that falls into that category. A more than competent riff on the timeless Diablo formula, this third entry in the Sacred series will keep hack and slash fiends enraptured for a good while with solid gameplay and a bespoke sense of humour, but just don’t expect Deep Silver’s latest to have any grand designs on rebooting the genre.
The narrative backdrop to Sacred 3’s horde smashing gameplay revolves around an immensely powerful artefact called the Heart of Ancaria. As it turns out, a particularly nasty villain, the brilliantly named Zane Ashen, intends to obtain the magical trinket so that he can destroy the world and generally spoil everyone’s day in the process.
Sure enough, it isn’t the most compelling story ever told and the characters themselves are mostly forgettable, one-dimensional types but the yarn that Sacred 3 weaves is sufficient to ably support the simplistic brutality of the baddie smashing and loot grabbing gameplay that sits on top of it.
And really, Sacred 3’s premise is as simple as you’re likely to find. With your chosen hero in tow, the game adopts a slanted top-down perspective as you hack or blast away at incoming foes, loot chests, defeat huge bosses and smash up the scenery.
Speaking of foes, the enemies that the developer has crammed into the game are a varied if unattractive bunch. Looking like rejects from the latest Hobbit movie, the player can expect to tangle with all manner of grim-looking orcs, goblins, trolls, strange forest creatures and everything in between.
The variety of enemies that the player will encounter on their journey also happens to tie in quite nicely with the scenery too. Ranging from cities under siege, to enchanted forests, pirate infested beaches and dilapidated strongholds forged out of cracked stone and twisted iron, Sacred 3’s locales always manage to offer an aesthetically fresh backdrop for the player to do their killing and looting against.
Rather than acquiring new equipment from killing enemies and opening chests, Sacred 3 does things a little differently by only allowing players to buy and equip new gear at the end of each mission, rather than during it. In truth, this diminishes the allure of the looting aspect of Sacred 3 since all the player can collect are health and mana replenishment orbs, gold and nothing else; effectively robbing much of the need to smash every piece of the scenery as would normally be in the case in the recently released Diablo III.
Another way that Sacred 3 falls a little short when compared to Blizzard’s opus is in the manner in which quests are given out. Each mission is effectively a whole quest in itself, and unlike Diablo, there are no NPC’s to speak to in order to take on optional quests for extra reward. Instead, Sacred 3 has optional side-missions which can be tackled away from the main story, which while nice to have, lack the organic feel of having side-missions that can be completed within the main narrative itself.
If there is one other complaint about Scared 3 it’s that the game can sometimes push the aging PlayStation 3 hardware a little too hard. With the screen often filling with enemies, combined with all of the spell effects flying about and the complexity of the environment, Sacred 3’s framerate tends to drop quite sharply and while it doesn’t affect the gameplay to a substantial degree, the slight fall in responsiveness during these busy periods remains noticeable nonetheless.
Still, for the areas that Sacred 3 is found to be lacking, it manages to raise its game elsewhere. From the start, players have a real motley crew of different antagonists to choose from with each of them subscribing to a particular style of play, ranging from the brutish and fiery melee focused Safiri through to the ice-cold and detached Khukuri archer. In short, there’s a character for every playing style and the presence of multiple skill trees and evolving unique abilities allows players to diversify and specialise even further from their initial class selection.
Beyond its myriad skill trees, Sacred 3 permits further diversification by allowing players to imbue their weapons with a variety of different spirits with each providing a different and progressively stronger set of buffs and bonuses.
So far so Diablo you might say, but while Sacred 3 doesn’t deviate far from the beaten path, it does make everything feel a little fresher with a hearty injection of good old fashioned humour and laughs. With much of the dialogue having tongue firmly planted in cheek (see “Oh is that an earthquake? I thought I was falling in love.", among many others) and the narrator infusing every sentence she utters with acerbic wit, Sacred 3 feels much more welcoming than its decidedly stuffy, more po-faced Ilk.
Like any game that subscribes to the hack and slash, loot and dash template, Sacred 3 is an experience that is best enjoyed with friends. To this end, the game offers both local and online co-op modes across the entirety of its campaign. Cleverly, the game difficulty also scales dynamically depending on how many players are participating in a particular mission, with enemies becoming more numerous and difficult to vanquish the more friends that the player brings along.
Make no mistake; Scared 3 in co-op multiplayer is a lot of fun.
Even better, both local and online co-op modes include drop-in, drop-out functionality. This allows players to join in on a game in progress and get stuck right in without any faffing about waiting for a new mission to start. The only slight drawback to Sacred 3’s admirable co-op credentials is that while up to four players are supported in online play, only two are accommodated in local co-operative play.
A confidently solid and humorous, if uneven take on the hack and slash formula; there is a lot to like here. Sacred 3’s ambition might be lacking in grand design, but look beyond that and you’ll find a game that is both accomplished and easy to have fun with.