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Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

Have you ever played Diablo 2? Of course you have. And if you haven’t, you should. Blizzard’s classic isometric action-RPG set a standard that many, many PC developers have followed throughout the past few years. Much like Grand Theft Auto, Diablo clones range from bargain bin trash to near-classic status. The original Sacred was something of a cult hit amongst PC gamers, but it was notoriously buggy, placing it firmly in the middle of the previously mentioned spectrum. Sacred 2 is a far more prolific release that is appearing not just on its home base – that is, the PC – but on the 360 and PS3 as well. How does a game that controls almost exclusively with a mouse work on a console gamepad? Sacred 2 proves that, well, sometimes it just can.

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Getting started in Sacred 2 can be a little unnerving at first. On the shockingly ugly menu screen, players are automatically prompted to choose their class, alignment, and “divine gift”. It’s a little off-putting to be thrust right into character creation, and the text is small enough to warrant a magnifying glass, but don’t worry! Each class is on hand to read its own class description to you.

Hrmm.

Truth be told, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. The classes are fairly neatly organized into the usual warrior, rogue, mage archetypes and so on and so forth. It is, however, extremely grating to hear them start talking as soon as you select them. Whoever made the decision to showcase the mediocre graphics and the dreadful acting before anyone even starts playing the game deserves some form of finger waggling, because the game’s front-end is almost impossible to navigate. It’s lucky that the gameplay itself is fun.

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“The initial descent into Sacred 2 is quite pleasant. Right off the bat, players can smack goblins around and take quests from nearby villagers.”Sacred 2 is unabashedly a Diablo clone, but it does it well, and it does it with style. The game’s world map is absolutely massive, and packed with quests and items. Navigating the overworld, players will be overwhelmed and impressed by the vast quantities of towns, dungeons, and general things to explore; whereas Diablo is well known for its drab, depressing color palette, Sacred 2 opts for the whimsical, even childish in its design. While it’s all a little staggering at first, getting into the game isn’t too hard. Combat is freely mapped to the four face buttons, so players can choose which button corresponds with whichever action they like. Targeting is automatic, eliminating one of the primary functions of a mouse control system. Overall, the initial descent into Sacred 2 is quite pleasant. Right off the bat, players can smack goblins around and take quests from nearby villagers.

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Unfortunately, getting any deeper than that is a logistical nightmare. Sacred 2 is deep, like any RPG should be; however, its interface is not up to scratch. There is simply too much information to comb over at any given time, and the menus never display everything necessary to the task at hand. When players level up, they are given the opportunity to assign “skill points”. Fair enough, but the game really doesn’t explain what these skills are, or what adding points to them actually does. Do I create a new skill slot? The game says I can. Or should I beef up an existing skill? Does adding another point to this skill actually do anything? What is this skill anyway? Explanations to these things are hidden in the game, somewhere, but they’re scattered about in submenus of submenus. Sacred 2, if played seriously, requires players to have the manual open at all times and a laptop linked to GameFAQs at all times just to be safe. If it were a particularly challenging game, this would be expected – but unfortunately, at least half of the checking up players will be doing will revolve around basic errata.

“This action RPG proves that anything can be better with more people.”Of course, the difficult interface doesn’t stop the core gameplay from being a lot of fun. Sacred 2 can be played with a friend over the internet, but it’s best when experienced with a buddy on the same couch. This mode – sorely missing from many contemporary games – is what makes Sacred 2 worth it in the end. The nonlinear gameplay and isometric camera angle are perfectly suited for a multiplayer mode, and adventuring through Sacred 2‘s two massive campaigns (light and dark) in this fashion is, for lack of a better term, awesome. Much like the halcyon days of Battle.net, this action RPG proves that anything can be better with more people.

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“The music – at least, the music you’ll remember – is provided by none other than aging power metal band Blind Guardian. You can even meet the members of Blind Guardian and earn their instruments to use as weapons.”Pray that your friend can struggle through the first hour of wrestling with the menu and tolerate the graphics long enough to appreciate the gameplay, though. Sacred 2 has a nice aesthetic that is done no justice by the dated visuals. The screen is plagued with not only muddy texture work and blocky characters, but for some reason, massive framerate issues. Running through a village can cause the screen to halt entirely while the game loads, and unfortunately, the visual fidelity of what it’s loading just isn’t worth it. The soundtrack is better, marginally; the voice acting grates at first, but eventually evolves into some form of tolerable camp, and the music – at least, the music you’ll remember – is provided by none other than aging power metal band Blind Guardian. You can even meet the members of Blind Guardian and earn their instruments to use as weapons.

I’m not joking.

Hilarious cameos aside, Sacred 2 is a solid action RPG that is a lot more interesting when played with a partner. On its own, the game is a passable Diablo clone with a giant overworld and set of quests to tackle. With a friend, this huge list of tasks may actually seem worth doing. If you miss the glory days of clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking, and looting, and you’re willing to put up with a bizarre menu system, Sacred 2 is just the ticket. It’s a game that requires a lot more effort from the player than it really should, but divided between two players and a bowl of snacks, the experience is lightyears better.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

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