Sacred was a massive, innovative action RPG that impressed us enough to be proclaimed PC Gamer%26rsquo;s RPG of the Year in 2004. But, like all games, it was imperfect; most notably, its hack-and-slash combat quickly became repetitive, and controls occasionally felt imprecise. After finally playing some of its much-anticipated prequel, I%26rsquo;m convinced that Sacred 2 will address the gameplay faults that burdened its predecessor and deliver an even bigger, more visually impressive world.
Set 2,000 years prior to the events of Sacred, the story begins with critical levels of Magical T-energy leaking into the world of Ancaria, mutating creatures and causing environmental havoc. I was given the choice of either the Light or Shadow campaigns, where I%26rsquo;d either try to restore the T-energy to its natural state or seize its power. But just as compelling was the promise of being able to wander off to explore any of the 12 distinct zones, including a jungle that%26rsquo;s riddled with ruins; an inhospitable desert populated by scorpions; a volcanic crystalline island full of elementals; an undead-infested marsh; and a large urban city resembling Rome in its prime. The entirely hand-crafted world is so gargantuan, it actually dwarfs its predecessor%26rsquo;s sprawling landscape, and Ascaron claims it would take six uninterrupted real-time hours to traverse it on foot.
Four of the six available character types can choose either campaign path, but the angelic Seraphim can only select the Light path, and the sinister Inquisitor is locked into the Shadow path. I played a Shadow Warrior, who uses powerful melee attacks and an arsenal of necromantic incantations, including one that resurrects defeated foes to aid you. The other options are the High Elf, who has an affinity for elemental spells; the Dryad, who specializes in ranged combat and voodoo; and the Temple Guardian, a steampunk cyborg who resembles an Egyptian Anubis and can use technological weapons.
I was allowed to choose my character%26rsquo;s abilities right away, making me feel much more powerful out of the gate - although those skills start weak and increase in strength as you level. I could also specify the manner in which abilities improve - you can choose, for instance, to increase a Meteor Swarm%26rsquo;s effectiveness against groups of opponents, or instead, make it particularly deadly against an individual target. Finally, I had my choice of six gods to worship, each providing special quests with unique rewards. All of these choices help make even characters of the same class unique, and should increase Sacred 2%26rsquo;s replayability factor.