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Sacred 3 turns a beloved Diablo-like into a competent but bland hack-‘n’-slasher (review)

Above: OK, not all of Sacred 3's humor is bad.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

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Sacred 3 looks good, it plays fairly well, and doesn’t have many hiccups. So far, so good, right? Yet this hack-‘n’-slash game, as publisher Deep Silver and developer Keen Games calls it, isn’t anything like a Diablo clone that the series’ past games have been.

It’s now a bland slashfest, one not especially suited for playing with a mouse and keyboard at that (as I found during my review of this Xbox 360, PS3, and PC game). And I don’t care for this.

But where do you chuck aside your expectations and go with the flow, so to speak, when designers change a series’ formula? Is it fair to penalize them for doing so, even if what they built is competent and at times entertaining?

Let’s find out.

What You’ll Like

You can smash boats with your swords in Sacred 3, one of the few aspects of its combat that's cool.

Above: You can smash boats with your swords in Sacred 3, one of the few aspects of its combat that’s cool.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

Action is fast

Keen Games’ designers give you a sense of power as you tear through foe after foe. Your characters zip across the screen, and their weapons and powers fire off in a speedy manner. Your enemies are nimble, too, so combat never feels like a slog.

Some more things that make combat feel fast are throwing foes and execution moves. You can grab bad guys and toss them at other monsters, doing damage in the process (it can be a 2-for-1 kill sometimes). Your attacks can also lay a foe low, and with a button-press or a keystroke, you can leap on them for an instant kill.

Multiplayer works without any real hitches

I never experienced lag when another player joined, no matter how many enemies or effects were happening onscreen. You can easily join another’s game, as I started a stage one night to find, to my surprise, a second player in my game — playing the same character as I was. But I had no trouble keeping track of who I was, and I doubt you will, too, should a clone show up.

And considering how some of the fights essentially require a second party member (such as one where one distracts foes while another draws fire to a massive gate in order to destroy it), it’s great that multiplayer performs so well.

What You Won’t Like

It’s now a hack-‘n’-slasher

Deathwalker: This circle of destruction moves with you.

Above: Deathwalker: This circle of destruction moves with you.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

It’s a competent hacker, but that’s not what I play Sacred for, and I suspect many of you agree. I respect the series for serving one of the best Diablo-like experiences.

You won’t find any real loot here. I went two stages before finding a new sword. You don’t get new sets of armor to tinker with, boots to upgrade, or even junk to sell. You release some Weapon Spirits, some of whom give you boosts to your capabilities. You gain gold, which you spend on potions and other resource-replenishing items. You find experience orbs, which boost your skills.

And that’s it. No sets of armor. You won’t find three cool swords in 4 minutes and face the question of whether you should equip one for the bonuses it gives your stats or the other because it does more damage.

Your skill trees are limited as well. You swap out skills as you level up, similar to Diablo 3. But you don’t feel like you’re doing that much to customize your character or make it feel your own.

Even the maps feel overpruned. The fairly open-world design from Sacred 2 is gone, replaced by a fairly short levels with linear structures. You can pop into side missions between campaign levels, but these are short and don’t really do anything but add to your experience and gold counts.

All of the tinkering you expect from a Sacred game is missing here. And that’s sad.

Lame, sexist humor

If you could only mute text. The Battlemage, one of the Weapon Spirits, deserves a sexual harassment suit. He makes lame and lewd jokes as you adventure through Arcania, Sacred 3’s world. Clear out a Dynasty Warriors-esque group of monsters? “Sexy,” he declares. He spits out such drivel on a regular basis: “Oh, yeah,” “Sexy pants,” and in one of my favorites, he propositions you as you’re trying to crush the bad guys in a hellhole of a prison. As he’s the first you find, you have to deal with it.

Sacred has always had an offbeat sense of humor. Some of that returns — take the name of one of your first major enemies, “Karr Tel.” The good guys have a telepath, a “golden child” who’s your guide through Arcania, but her jokes stink, too.

Someone needs to slap the Battlemage with a sexual harassment suit.

Above: Someone needs to slap the Battlemage with a sexual harassment suit.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

Remember when you found battle-axes that looked like guitars, and once you assembled a set, the weapons took you and your companion and set up an impromptu rock concert on the battlefield in Sacred 2? Yeah, you won’t find any of that whimsy here.

Feels designed for a controller, not a keyboard

Controlling your warriors with a keyboard-and-mouse feels clunky at times. You don’t point-and-click to move, like you do in other in other action-RPGs such as Diablo or Torchlight. You use the WASD keys. And if you keep abilities mapped to the number keys, it can be difficult to get your character into the right position to then use a power. And you will want to change the defaults for some commands. Bash, which is key to breaking shields and interrupting attack routines, was set to … the Page Down key.

Checkpoint-itis

This PC gamer sees no reason why all games, especially those on computers, don’t have a “save whenever you want” function. You should be able to save your progress whenever, in case you need to get up to tend to other things, go to work, feed someone, and so on. Thousands of games do this. But not Sacred 3.

And the checkpoints stink. When you end a session, you don’t start at the nearest checkpoint to where you left off. You start at the beginning of the level. I thought this was a bug at first, but after a few tries, it was clear this was how the designers want Sacred 3 to work. It’s disrespectful of your time.

Conclusion

Sacred 3 is a fair hack-‘n’-slasher. It runs well, and if you’re into such games, I bet you’ll have some fun. But it doesn’t carry on its heritage as one of the most unsung action-RPGs franchises, and if you come into it with those expectations, you will only find disappointment.

I know I did.

Score: 55/100

Sacred 3 is out now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. The publisher gave GamesBeat a code for the purposes of this review.

More information:

Deep Silver is Koch Media's video game label. Founded in 2002, it has published and co-published some major titles. Deep Silver develops and distributes interactive games for all platforms. The Deep Silver label means to captivate a... read more »

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