The problem I've always had with religious people is that, to a man, they seem to have a problem with everything else. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not what anyone would call an 'agreeable' person. There are a lot of things I don't like. However, I never use "Because God..." to win an argument.
Having said that, Sacred 2 is a (sorta,) religiously themed (sorta,) hack n' slash rpg developed by Ascaron for PC, X-Box 360 and Playstation 3. I think it would be more accurate to say that it's what happens when poorly translated instruction manuals and Microsoft Excel recreate the battle of Minas Tirith using nothing but paint fumes and algebra calculators.
I tend to give non-linear RPGs a pass on graphics due to the gigantic-ass nature of the fiction. If this were a FPS or fighting game that could be completed in a day the score would be significantly lower. As it is, the deserts look deserty, the jungles look jungley and the monsters look monstery. Good enough.
As near as I can tell the story is this: The established church of EVIL polytheists and their army of inquistors are evil. The GOOD believers in the one true creator god and his army of seraphim are GOOD. Also: magic reactors are leaking and monsters happen. That's it. No big plot points or surprise twists or memorable characters. The player has the option of playing either the light or dark campaign, but mostly this only means making a slight left on occasion and which sub-Super Friends cornball dialogue your character recites every thirty seconds.
For those willing to commit to the harsh learning curve and forgive the games many technical faults, a very enjoyable hack n' slash game is to be found. It probably also helps if you have some sort of socially debilitating disease and enjoy memorizing books on accounting. Everything that worked in Diablo still works here, and with the current dearth of console hack n' slash RPGs it's not like this is the retarded cousin option.
Beyond the main quest, there is also a character specific quest, along with 600+ sidequests, optional bosses, hidden areas, weapon farming, armor farming, experience farming, a rune system (customization,) class-unique mounts (sabre-tooth tigers, giant spiders,) five difficulty settings, six character classes, online multiplayer, blacksmithing (more customization,) trophies/achievements; basically lots and lots of ways to sink 100's of hours into a not-very-well-made game. Best of all, there isn't a fucking mandatory fishing mini-game or surprise quick time events. The game loses a point for escort quests. The NPC AI is exceptionally retarded, with the panty-waste character you're charged with defending from foes running away from the single kobold you're attacking into a hoard of overpowered wild boars just off-screen and promptly being gored to death before you can catch up.
The console version that I played had been very obviously and very poorly ported from the PC version. My guess would be by people that had never owned a joystick growing up. Or know what a Donkey Kong is. Or really understood how people that aren't floating brains in pickle jars hooked up to machines find enjoyment.
The menu system is clunky, obtuse, fickle and disorganized. To check a certain stat the player is required to open the radial menu, select character overview, select the more information option, then scroll through two to three screens of 8-point font stat information. On top of this the menu tends to come unpinned and default to the first page, forcing one to give up and hope that the stat boost is sufficient because you're being attacked and THERE'S NO FUCKING PAUSE BUTTON!
Navigating the huge world is aided (sorta,) by both a mini-map and a world map. Neither of which is useful for much information beyond "What country am I in?" and "Is something punching me?" The mini-map only really displays information that's already on screen, although possibly covered up by the mini-map, as well as indicating north and the location of the next quest flag. This can be less than helpful given that the developers saw fit to make most of the terrain as unnavigable as possible, with no information given to differentiate between walk-throughable trees and un-walk-throughable trees or elevation differences, or every explorers' ancient nemesis: knee high fences in the middle of the goddamned field I'm trying to shortcut through. Another personal complaint is that the R3 button north-centers the camera, as opposed to the direction the player is facing, which may be great for cyber-cartographers but isn't very helpful in a video game.
|Somewhere out there a goddamn fence is hiding|
The game's auto-target seems custom made for gamers that like a challenge. It accomplishes this by locking on the single spider enemy half a mile away that hasn't noticed you, as opposed to the hoard of zombies currently beserkering towards you from 20 feet away. Speaking of undeads: when an undead enemy dies in this game it sometimes resurrects after a few seconds. This is a neat idea in theory. Unfortunately while the zombie/ghoul/whatever is temporarily incapacitated it receives attack priority. This means that someone somewhere decided I wanted to role play as the type of hero that thinks "harmless" means "most dangerous to me," and programmed accordingly. Thanks currently unemployed Ascaron programmer!
The in-game tutorial prepares you for the game the same way Candy Land prepares you for Trivial Pursuit. After reaching my first level up the game helpfully informed that that I could now improve my stats and attributes. Unfortunately it didn't explain regeneration time, armor penalty, buff penalty, weapon/armor bonus, mount penalty, what in the name of fuck a survival bonus did, what percentage of what was affected by the many +/-% modifiers in the game. Does Damage Mitigation +1.7% mean before or after armor? What the hell is a Deathblow Level and what does +8% mean? Why in the name of Satan is my attack value 1483 but my weapon damage only 798? Is that normal or did I miss something? Fortunately there is a thriving internet community of hyper-intelligent disembodied brains that are so helpful and polite I almost wondered if I had stumbled across a separate internet from the one that gave us Youtube comments and Yahoo Answers. Thanks DarkMatters.org! You make playing this game possible even without robot enhanced intelligence!
The game has frequent technical bugs ranging from harmless (an enemy spawning inside of a wall,) to irritating (quest marker disappearing,) to frustrating (Player getting stuck in the scenery, forcing restart,) to potentially catastrophic (total system freeze during in-game loading forcing a hard power supply yank on my dvd/Blu-ray playing, supercomputing, internet ready, very expensive and very hi-tech Playstation 3.) Most of these probably won't be addressed beyond the initial patch that was installed the first time I logged in, as Ascaron went bankrupt shortly before the launch of the Ice and Blood expansion, which never made it to consoles. The IP has been taken over by Deep Silver, who announced development of Sacred 3 but seem somewhat vague with regards to continued support of Sacred 2.
The camera angle is ALMOST awesome, but manages to stop just short. What I mean is that the camera can sweep from overhead, Gauntlet style to ALMOST over the shoulder Ocarina of Time style. Instead it stops just short with the camera aiming at the ground eight feet in front of the player. I assume this was a cost saving measure as they couldn't have afforded more than a flat blue or gray for a sky on the horizon, but unfortunately it means playing the game in helicopter mode where all of the well-rendered and diverse monsters and NPCs become different colored blobs. I'm not a game developer, but I think I would have cut the rain and thunderstorm effects in favor of a working camera.
|Less misleading screenshot|
Sound/unintentional humor: 7/10
The ambient noise in the game is very well done. The battle music is different for each character, although they all seem to be variations on swaggering butt-rock, so nothing special. The voice acting, on the other hand, is the best damn thing I've ever heard in a video game in history. Where most games attempt to use professional voice actors with well-scripted dialogue to elicit emotion and empathy from the player, Sacred 2 opted to use the 80's action cartoon guide to heroism and villainy. Captain Planet villains are more subdued than the inquisitors when it comes to "I'm evil because I'm evil" logic. My personal favorite had to be the Seraphim's battle quotes. In this kind of game I realize it's okay to yell shit like "May the Creator have mercy on your dead ass!" while face rampaging a giant tentacle monster. The factor that sets Sacred 2 above and apart is it's lack of filter. During one pointless side quest I found myself screaming "Into the dark maws of the abyss!" while shooting bunny rabbits with an overpowered magic cannon. Another time as a shadow warrior an irritating RPG kid kept following me around spewing irritating RPG kid shit. The conversation went something like
"You look strong. Are you gonna be a warrior some day?"
"You keep running around in circles! That seems silly!"
"Are you gonna..."
"THE TORTURE AND SUFFERING OF THESE VILLAGERS SHALL FILL ME WITH DELIGHT!!"
|Evil needs no motivation!!!|
Overall I can't really give this game a score because it's such a niche game. Diablo fans will like it. Unless they play on a PC, in which case there are probably better options. Button mashers won't like it. People with short attention spans won't like it. People that like a challenge will like it. Obsessive-completionist types will love it. Pen and Paper RPG fans will like it. FPS players will hate it. People that rent bad movies on purpose just to heckle them will like it.
I wouldn't recommend renting it first, as your first impression will inevitably be bad. This is a game that takes a large initial commitment and a few dozen hours before it begins to be enjoyable. If you're the type of gamer that values play time and quantity over stunning graphics and concise storytelling I'd say pick it up. Especially if, like me, you've already ODed on Fallout 3 and Oblivion and consider a keyboard and mouse strange and alien things to play a video game with.