It's been a while since I've ventured into the world of action RPG's (aka “hack and slash”). Not being a big PC gamer, quality offerings have been few and far between. I have very fond memories of Baldur's Gate 2 on the PS2, where I spent dozens of hours with a mate hacking and looting away, and have waited for a similar offering on my beloved PS3. When I first saw the preview for Sacred 2: Fallen Angel I thought “At last something worthy has arrived”. I was further enticed when I went to pick up a copy and had to go to four stores to find one, as they were sold out, and the sales assistant said to me “That's a great game.” Great expectations, but could it live up to the hype?
Set in the land of Ancaria, on the eve of a war that will determine the future of the realm, you are presented with the task of choosing either the path of light (and averting the war), or deliberately plunging Ancaria into further chaos.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, the basic premise of a hack and slash game is that you're given quests that have you running around a huge map going from town to town and basically killing everything in your path, collecting the loot they drop, while gaining experience points. When you get to the towns, the loot is sold, new weapons/armor etc bought and new quests given. It makes for a basic if not addictive gaming experience. One thing Sacred 2 does give you is plenty to do. With a maximum character level of 200 and hundreds of quests, not to mention the range of different characters, it is not the sort of game that casual gamers will conquer easily.
On starting a new single player game a scene plays out to create a context for your character's quest. I found the intro uninspiring. I found myself not having any vested interest in the characters, and after a while you can only have so much purposeless solo killing before things become repetitive.
So no strong storyline, but that doesn't matter as long as the gameplay mechanics are solid, right? The controls for basic moves are obviously placed - left stick for character movement and right for camera. The directional pad and face buttons are slots for potions and actions, with alternative action slots available by holding down the shoulder buttons. A mini map is available in the top left hand corner which can be brought up with select, and shows the location of quests and towns. From here the learning curve takes a steep turn. There is a confusing list of character attributes, relics, combat arts and runes that have almost no tutorial as to their setup and use in game. Seasoned gamers will figure it out, but the casual pick-up-and-play gamer will find it a challenge that may put them off. The good news is that once you get beyond that point, the system works quite well. After a while I was upgrading abilities, popping them into slots, and using them in combat effectively (often with a smile on my face as a combo of sword swipes and spells destroys everything around me). Hordes of enemies attack with close quarter and long-range attacks, and with a flick of a button you can move from taking them out with a bow and arrow, to a double handed sword as they move in closer, and switch to magic as you get surrounded. It really is satisfying just how much destruction your character leaves in their wake and surprising how addictive it is!
The only other problems with combat were the collision detection with enemies, and traversing terrain. Sometimes I found myself swinging away at some beast with no contact being made (often 8-10 swings before my character did any damage). Secondly, with so many quests you will find yourself exploring vast territories, and an annoying issue that should have addressed in play testing is the clarity of the map guiding you to your destination. On several occasions I would be heading through a forest or along a mountain that appears to be open, only to come up against a dead end and spend 5 minutes trying to find a way around.
So if hacking into hundreds of enemies is fun on your own, you better believe its better with your mates! Multiplayer games can be run on the one console with two people, or alternatively online in a four player game. In the online mode the player that starts the game acts as the server so a fast, stable connection is essential. Disappointingly there isn't an option to have more than one player on the same console while playing online. Action RPGs shine in multiplayer mode, and Sacred 2 is no exception. The AI automatically adjusts the number of enemies; loot etc to the number of players to avoid glory hogs monopolizing the experience. This game is definitely more fun with friends, so if you're going to drop your coin then make sure a mate is willing to come aboard too.
Sacred 2 is a mixed bag in the graphics department. Characters are modeled well enough, but won't blow you away. The tones and texture of skin leaves something to be desired, but the armor and weapons have a reasonable level of detail, and spell effects look good. To be fair, this game works better from a pulled back, overhead view so you won't be zooming in and checking out close-ups of players and enemies too often. Although the locations aren't exotic or imaginative, they are beautifully detailed. The lighting is excellent, with changes over time as night falls, but it's never difficult to see your character or enemies. As the environments aren't particularly varied it does get a little repetitive, but never to the point of being taxing on the eyes.
Some graphical bugs made their way through to the final product, with loading times in cities holding up progress. I also experienced a few instances of lag when lots of enemies were on screen. For the most part these were minor issues and didn't detract from the gaming experience too much.
In an RPG that will see the player potentially spending dozens of hours immersed in it, the music needs to add to the mood, and not be annoying or overpowering. Unlike other games that are often broken up with story cut scenes, or have totally different music for different stages, these open world games require the music to flow and change tempo with the events going on around the character. Sacred 2 does a good job of this, although in a seemingly unorthodox mix. The background music is interspersed with a metal soundtrack when enemies are engaging. This seems strange on paper, but works well in the game. The obligatory comments from the main character when they are disposing of enemies are expectedly corny and poorly voice acted, but mercifully don't happen as frequently as I've seen in other games. The sound of weapons clashing and enemies dying is satisfying and accurate. An obvious omission is the lack of voice acting from NPC's when giving sub-quests, but given the voice acting in other areas of the game, that probably isn't such a bad thing.
If you measure a game's value by the number of hours you'll get out of it, there's no doubt Sacred 2 is great value. With multiple character types, each with their own special abilities, players able to level up a single character to 200, hundreds of quests and multiplayer Its feasible that you could keep coming back for more and get over a hundred hours of gameplay.
So did Sacred 2: Fallen Angel live up to my expectations? Sadly, no. It had some issues that prevented it from being the hack and slash I was hoping for, but it still delivered a solid gaming experience. The learning curve is steep, and will likely frustrate casual gamers. The lack of storyline makes going solo a bit repetitive, and the problems with load times, collision detection, and navigating cause intermittent headaches. Once you figure out the menus and controls the gameplay is good old “hack and slash” fun, with hundreds of quests, thousands of enemies, and an overall decent looking game. The most fun and value is to be had in multiplayer as giving your mates a ribbing because you stole the loot from the monster he killed, is always fun.
AAG Score: 7/10
- Hundreds of quests ensure plenty to do
- The core game play of killing and looting is solid
- Multiplayer with friends is great fun
- Weak storyline
- Steep learning curve
- Some graphical issues
Reviewed & Written by Khye Davey