Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

I got my first horse almost immediately - a good thing too, because I didn’t have six hours to waste - but each class can also earn its own special mount. My Shadow Warrior rode a Hell Hound that looked more like a hunchbacked lizard than a demonic canine, while Seraphim leapt aboard a saber-toothed tiger. Mounts are characters unto themselves, and can acquire armor and other accoutrements, and have their own distinct attacks.

While I loved the original game’s fantastic (but technologically outdated) 2D graphics, Sacred 2’s characters and environments have been rendered in 3D without sacrificing the meticulous detail and character that made the original world so immersive. The 2D isometric perspective may also have been responsible for its occasionally sluggish controls, a flaw the 3D upgrade also seems to have addressed. The new 3D engine also makes terrain more interesting to explore, since you’re constantly running across hills and cliffs that you can tactically exploit in battle.

During the span of my short adventure, the world transitioned smoothly from day to night, complete with dynamic lighting effects, and load times were almost nonexistent. There were plenty of smart graphical flourishes, such as partially obscuring characters when they march though fields of tall grass. I was also impressed by the combat AI - while Sacred was so combat-intensive that it was difficult to take five steps without being attacked, this time around, enemy AI is complex enough that some weaker creatures fled when I approached, only attacking when in numbers great enough to pose a threat. Organized groups can be frightened off by killing their leader, which saved my butt a couple of times.

Although it certainly isn’t going to break the Diablo clone mold, Sacred 2 is shaping up to be bigger, deeper, and more replayable than its predecessor. Its massive free-form world distinguishes it from most other action RPGs and should make it another genre contender - and I’m looking forward to playing through the campaign in multiplayer.

May 7, 2008