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Sacred (PC) artwork

Sacred (PC) review

"Sacred's shortcoming is not that it doesn't feature a skull-crushing difficulty, but that it doesn't know when to put the lid on its simplicity."

After managing to remain awake through Sacred's opening cinematic, where a sorcerer accidentally releases a demon, I breathed a heavy sigh. "Oh, this again," I said as I returned to the realm of point-and-click combat, looting galore, and so much fuss about demons and angels I felt an icy stab in the back of my brain. It wasn't that Sacred was a blatant Diablo clone that made my initial landing in its kingdom, Ancaria, so painful, but that the game barely attempted to mask it. Upon enrolling in its campaign I anticipated to find myself plunged in a randomized dungeon, where I would be assailed by scores of undead and a demon with a meat cleaver. What I actually beheld, though, was surprisingly wonderful: a vast, open world aching for a devoted explorer.

What tickled my fancy most about this concept was the prospect of freedom. There was little obligation to advance the main quest line, and that left me with a seemingly boundless, fantastical world to delve into. If I wanted to rush all the way to the final boss's fortress and wrap my character's clawed, vampiric hands around the throats of every nightmarish creature in the vicinity, there was little to stymie me., of course, for the scores of foes that dwelt in the outer regions.

Sacred asset

Upon attempting to venture from the safety of the game's preliminary burg, I met stiff resistance from bloodthirsty goblins, murderous highwaymen, and demon-conjuring cultists. We're not talking two or three of each, either, but droves of them. Worse, engaging one group usually lead to 'aggro'ing another, especially with goblins. Most goblin contingents traveled with a shaman or two who could resurrect fallen units. These shamans also tended to evade attacks and run for dear life, causing me to chase them into other groups who had their own shamans. Typically, this vicious cycle ended with my death via mosh pit of monsters.

My dreams of charting Ancaria began to diminish around this point. For I had taken up grinding to alleviate my lack of battle prowess, seemingly for naught. As I gained levels, so too did my adversaries. What seemed before like an epic fantasy adventure had descended into a repetitive slog with no hope of advancement. Still, I remained steadfast and continued clicking, looting, purchasing improved arms, and allocating skill points. My character's metamorphosis was so subtle that I didn't instantly notice that my green cadet had developed into a battle-hardened veteran who landed blows more consistently, hacked up goblin parties with ease, and seldom found herself lying broken on the battlefield. At last, I had discovered that the true joy behind Sacred's repetitive combat was watching my little pissant mature into a war goddess.

I crept from one corner of Ancaria to the next, slaying skeletons in a desert, dropping dragons in a volcanic region, and bringing hill giants to their knees. I fought often, looted much, and walked away with mountains of gold. Throughout my journey, I also engaged in various side quests that rewarded me with experience, cash, and technique-boosting items. For a while, I found bliss in chopping my way through various uncharted terrains and watching my character slowly attain godhood.

Twenty hours later, I begged the game to end.

Sacred asset

There came a point where my character ceased to mature, mostly because her opponents were no match for her. At one point, I even entered a tournament that featured beasts with levels twice my own. Where I had expected a thorough spanking, I instead left every goon in pools of their own blood and tears. Suffice to say, I was overpowered. I suspect this had to do with the game's skill system, which failed to cap my character's skills (read: perks) at a reasonable level. I could therefore boost most of my combat-oriented skills to such superlative extents that it cheapened combat. It didn't also help that I consistently secured high quality weaponry and armor, most of which boosted multiple stats and could be further improved through blacksmithing. With all of the augmentations and amazing trinkets I bore, even the final boss was little more than a pathetic punk.

The long hours spent surviving battles allowed me to build up a handsome hoard of gold, totaling well beyond ten million. Thanks to my seemingly bottomless funds, no particular altercation was truly challenging. If I stumbled upon trouble, especially against a boss, I could easily pad back to the nearest store and purchase a full inventory of healing items without making a dent in my riches. In a way, I was able to buy some of my hardest earned victories.

Soon enough, the once blissful experience grew tedious and dull. It wasn't enough that the game featured an open world, because the environments were fairly dated and lacked visual grandeur. Worse, every location looked roughly the same. For instance, if you've seen a square kilometer of forest, you've seen every bit of the game's forests. It also wasn't enough that Sacred provided oodles of quests, especially when most consisted of dull fetching, repetitive killing, or mere chatter. I remember, for example, a man begging me for meat to assuage his hunger. This didn't culminate in a complicated encounter with a butcher who wouldn't sell or desired something more than gold in return for a bit of chow. Rather, the quest involved walking two city blocks to a random house and nabbing a steak off a resident's living room floor, then rushing back to the famished man for thousands of gold and experience. Bear in mind that were numerous quests as asinine as this one, if not more so.

Sacred asset

After over fifty hours lacking in charm or surprises, I finished Sacred. That was about twenty-five more than I desired to spend playing it. The thing with games like Sacred and Diablo is that they're most effective when kept fairly brief (relative to most RPGs). This is especially so in a case like Sacred, where the developers failed to implement logical limitations. Don't get me wrong, godliness can be entertaining and cathartic, but it can also grow wearisome once you pass thirty hours of uncomplicated ass kicking. Sacred's shortcoming is not that it doesn't feature a skull-crushing difficulty, but that it doesn't know when to put the lid on its simplicity.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (February 28, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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