Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is an unusual game for console owners. Resolutely PC-focused in its gameplay and designs, it can be very overwhelming at first with almost nothing by way of narrative or linear structure to follow, and decidedly unfriendly menus to navigate. It has successfully made the transition from PC to console, but at the same time the structure remains unaltered, which some PS3 gamers may find a little awkward to get to grips with.
However, beneath the overwhelming front-end and simplistic presentation lies a mammoth game with depth to rival that of Loch Ness. At its most simplistic, Sacred 2 is about running around whacking enemies with your sword a la Diablo, but perhaps The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would be a more familiar comparison point, given that both games are set in a verdant green land with dungeons and caverns to navigate and a slew of sub-human enemies to fight.
At the start of the game (after the rather weighty 5Gb install) you must create a character, and while it hardly has the depth to rival anything by Bethesda there are enough choices to make a comparatively unique avatar. After a very brief training section (so brief one has to ask if it even qualifies as training?!) you’re free to run around, talk to NPCs and leave the safety of the Abbey and go to the hostile lands of Ancaria. The basic gameplay structure again resembles that of Oblivion; you accept mini-quests from villagers and NPCs which are usually along the lines of killing particular enemies or recovering an item, and follow the map to your destination (likely getting distracted along the way). Of course, there is always the main plot to follow and missions to undertake, but it’s so vague and discreet that it’s likely you’ll have put hours into the game before even really getting into the story.
Combat is one of the game’s weak points. You collect a range of weapons and assign four to the face buttons, with the option for an additional four in reserve. It’s simple and infinitely accessible, meaning you can easily shoot arrows and spells at approaching enemies before pulling out a spear or axe when they get close. Unfortunately it’s a little too accessible if anything, with only one animation per weapon and nothing by way of combos. A little more player involvement with regard to the combat would have been welcome as sometimes little more than holding down the attack button is required; rather annoyingly often with hit detection lag or no effect at all (i.e. arrows clearly impacting yet causing no damage).
The inventory system is unweildy, and clearly lifted wholesale from last year’s PC version. Having to hold down R1 while flicking through the main menu screens is awkward, and things are even more difficult since the game does not pause upon entering the inventory, meaning you can be caught unawares by enemies unless you’re in a village or safe location. There’s also a lack of feedback as to what icons mean and sometimes items’ qualities or uses are be a little ambiguous. It’s not the most streamlined or user-friendly of interfaces, and it definitely needed a little work before coming to the consoles.
The game world is vast – around 22 square miles if Wikipedia is to be believed, and the characters primarily travel on foot (with the option to acquire steeds later in the game), lending it an impressive, effective and almost overbearing sense of scale. There is a mixture of locations, from grassy plains and hills, tropical jungles and fiery gorges, with various civilisations living in each region. Luckily there are teleport gates dotted around which are activated once you visit them, which you can instantly warp to and thankfully eradicates a lot of time-consuming travelling. It’s a shame that the camera adopts almost an isometric viewpoint, allowing you to zoom in and out but never to move the angle to see more of the terrain – although it becomes apparent that the game suffers an extremely short draw distance, with copious fogging just outside of the camera’s usual range. It’s a shame the developers couldn’t make a bit more of the game’s visuals and potential wow factor in its vast environments.
Investigating the game’s options and minutiae, it’s clear there’s a huge amount of optional depth here for those seeking it. There are quite literally hundreds of different weapons and items available, and since your character has a fairly modest limit to the number of items they can carry, collectibles need to be periodically offloaded, be it to one of the merchants, destroying weapons or items to make gold or storing them in one of the containers found in each main settlement. It’s a really good system overall, although sometimes you’ll find yourself wishing you could carry a little more when you have to keep passing up collectibles in remote locations. With such a huge game world, it’s no surprise that there is a staggering amount of exploration required, with dozens of optional and relatively inconsequential places to explore.
Almost certainly the game’s high point is its co-operative gameplay modes. Two players can play together on the same screen offline, and up to four online, which is a superb addition and really adds to the game’s longevity. Obviously sitting on the couch next to a friend is the best option, and the banter and rapport as you battle enemies, race to pick up loot and support each other tactically is where the game shines most brightly. Online is almost as good in that you can play with three others, although generally I found that despite players being on the same server, they would generally go about their business on their own and not really interact with fellow gamers in any meaningful sense. It would be best to buddy-up with someone and use voice comms if you wish to make the most of the otherwise excellent online co-op.
At it’s core, Sacred 2 is not a console game. Nonetheless, [sadly departed] developers Ascaron have brought this in-depth and overwhelming game to PS3 with a high degree of success, albeit sporting a lack of polish, an awkward interface and a few PC quirks which sit a little oddly on the console. It may not be an everyman game, but it sits in a genre cruelly under-represented outside of PCs, and is very good at what it does.