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Sacred 3 review

Troubled
AT A GLANCE
  • Easy to play with simple controls and seamless co-op
  • Cool visual effects and diverse locations make for a good-looking adventure
  • Frustratingly repetitive
  • Offensively bad writing and poor-quality voice acting
  • Balance issues cause frustration, especially for solo players

Call the Gaming Police--we have a case of corpse desecration on our hands. Publisher Deep Silver has dug up Sacred, a deceased action RPG series with a small but devoted cult following, and allowed a new developer to play Dr. Frankenstein. The result is Sacred 3, a game that will have series fans digging out their pitchforks and everyone else playing an utterly forgettable co-op monster-smasher.

It will be immediately obvious to Sacred fans that this isn’t the game they're looking for. The first two games are known for their extensive open worlds, Diablo-style looting with even more customization options, and complex skill systems that have players carefully balancing power with flexibility. Start up Sacred 3 and you'll be thrown into a gauntlet of linear levels, discover that you can't loot weapons or armor, and find a watered-down skill system that only pays lip service to customization. It's a barebones action RPG with little on offer outside the realm of easy-access co-op play.

It's a shame, because Sacred 3 generally makes a good first impression. The gameplay is simple but initially satisfying: pick a paladin, warrior, lancer, or archer to play, hop right into a co-op session with friends or strangers, and start mindlessly hacking away at hordes of monsters. Uncomplicated controls, simple character customization, and an easy-to-use multiplayer interface makes jumping into the action painless.

It's quite pretty, too. Environments are big, bold, and varied, replacing the genre's usual drab dungeons with seething swamps, grand temples, and perilous volcanic mountain ranges. Visual effects, especially lighting, are also quite well-done. That autumnal forest looks refreshingly shady, green gas wafts up from poisonous plants, and damp rocks have a wet gleam to them. Similar action RPGs don't always pay attention to visual variety and detail like Sacred 3 does.

Once you start playing, you'll find movement and combat to be responsive and somewhat enjoyable (as long as you're using a controller--the keyboard and mouse controls on the PC version are very awkward). The game does a good job introducing players to the basics over the first five or so levels, so you'll soon be tossing foes and bombs around, performing shield breaks, and unleashing powerful special attacks with ease. Devious traps add difficulty and interest to gameplay as well. For a time, at least.

Sadly, after those early stages, the shine begins to wear off as repetition sets in. You'll discover that there are only three basic enemy types in the entire game: small shock troops, medium-sized enemies that require you to press the shield break/interrupt button, and large boss monsters that have far too many hit points. After a few hours of killing the same things, battles lose even their basic appeal. Similarly, the traps and the various activities you'll have to perform in the levels start repeating until no new surprises remain. You've pretty much seen it all during the first hour or two of gameplay, and what starts as a fairly entertaining experience quickly becomes an exercise in tedium.

Depending on your sense of humor and tolerance for terrible writing, you might quit the game in annoyance before you succumb to boredom. I don't know if there was a failed sitcom writer on staff, or if somebody decided to cover up the game's bog-standard “save the world from an evil villain” plot by making it a comedy RPG, but the dialogue is bad enough to sink the game all on its own. It feels like attending Amateur Night at the Fantasy Improv, with characters exhibiting poor comedic timing, mouthing decade-old MMO slang, explaining their own jokes, or sporting vocal performances that fly over the line of funny-bad into just plain-bad.

More Info

Release date: Aug 05 2014 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action RPG
Published by: Deep Silver
Developed by: Keen Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence

Even if you can stomach the low-grade attempts at humor, several balance issues round out Sacred 3's problems. It focuses heavily on co-op play, but artificially makes life difficult for solo players in the process. Often, you have to stay rooted in one place while performing mundane busywork, like spinning a wheel or charging up a magic shrine while mobs of monsters attack at you. That's not fun either for the solo player or the co-op participant who ends up on wheel-spinning duty.

The game's difficulty levels are also a bit unbalanced, with no happy medium between cakewalk and two-shot-by-the-boss-monster territory. Because the monsters and challenges are essentially the same throughout, it also suffers from being at its most difficult at the very beginning, when players don't yet have access to their most useful offensive and defensive skills. Later on, the tedium of repetition is compounded by a feeling of lessening challenge. Fights become more mindless but last much longer because monster hit points scale with your growing power.

Fans of the Sacred series should definitely give this one a pass unless they're prepared for massive disappointment. People looking for a co-op time waster can wring a bit of fun out of Sacred 3, but will probably get annoyed by the bad comedy or bored of the repetitive gameplay long before it's over. If this is the best that Dr. Frankenstein could do for Sacred, the poor dead franchise should have been allowed to rest in peace.

Sacred 3 has the skeleton of a fun co-op hack 'n' slash experience, but it's marred by too much repetition, balance issues, and the worst comedy routine this side of Open Mic Night at the Middle of Nowhere Comedy Shack.

This game was reviewed on PC.

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13 comments

  • BuckNasty84 - August 1, 2014 9:10 p.m.

    Thanks! Saved me some money with this game's reviews. http://i.imgur.com/3hLks9P.png
  • LovingLife139 - August 1, 2014 5:42 p.m.

    This breaks my heart. Sacred 2 is my favorite hack n' slash of all time. Nothing could compare to it (though TitanQuest was damned good). I had wanted to pre-order Sacred 3 but too much was said about how it was changing everything Sacred 2 did right. The ridiculously massive and colorful open world was gone. Dozens of hidden locations, out-of-the-way villages, easter eggs and surprises were gone. The classic humor was gone. The focus on in-depth customization and nearly unlimited levels was gone. I passed it up and am glad I did. By the way: if any Sacred fans come here, read this review, and get massively depressed, just know there is hope. The developers of Sacred and Sacred 2 are now working on a new hack n' slash game (probably due to knowing just how bad Keen Games was going to butcher their franchise). It's been referred to as Unsacred as a working title, though I guess Keen Games threatened them over copyright infringement so they had to change the name to Unbended. Just an update for those of you out there who are hoping for another Sacred-esque game in the future. :)
  • winner2 - August 1, 2014 8:36 p.m.

    Ah, thanks for the heads up!
  • LovingLife139 - August 1, 2014 9:24 p.m.

    You're welcome! I didn't know about it until I desperately starting searching for more info about what happened to my peeps at Ascaron. Haha. :)
  • Amiculi - August 4, 2014 11:56 a.m.

    The title got switched from Unsacred to Unbended at some point, surely the result of legal action. http://www.unsacred.zone/en/ That leads to the english homepage, it tends to be a BIT behind the main german page but they do keep up for the most part.
  • Amiculi - August 4, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    http://www.unbended.zone/en/ Oops. Of course I forgot to update the bookmark I copied the path of... and I can't edit or delete the old comment. That should be the correct link.
  • PoweronPub - August 5, 2014 4:41 p.m.

    Nice! Hadn't heard of it, time to go Google Unbended!
  • chriszewski - August 1, 2014 3:07 p.m.

    What a shame. Farewell, Ancaria... Fun review tho!
  • winner2 - August 1, 2014 11:15 a.m.

    NOOOO!
  • db1331 - August 1, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    What a shame. The original Sacred was great.
  • Cruddi - August 1, 2014 6:26 a.m.

    Love the opening sentence: "Call the Gaming Police--we have a case of corpse desecration on our hands" Set's the tone perfectly lol
  • g1rldraco7 - August 1, 2014 1:07 a.m.

    It sounds like a generic version of Diablo 3.
  • chriszewski - August 1, 2014 3:12 p.m.

    More like a generic Gauntlet reboot. Sacred 2 used to be Diablo 3 before there was a Diablo 3.

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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