"I have a rule called the FAQ rule. If I reach a point where I find myself checking FAQs to see how much longer a game goes on, then I know the game has outlived its welcome. In the case of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, I hadnít done anything interesting, met any interesting characters, or even managed to become interested in my own character in over twenty hours of gameplay and I was nowhere near being done with the main quest."
Sacred 2ís opening video tries its damnedest to be cool. But it sortíve kicks itself in the nuts along the way. It begins with an old man whose eyes are sewn shut and heís reading a book. Yes, thatís right. A man who canít see is reading a book. Before you can get your head around that concept, the old man will launch into a story concerning High Elves and something blue and glowy called T-energy. Then the power-metal kicks in and the scene transitions into something straight out of Jason and the Argonauts, if Jason were surrounded by scantily clad elves and got flattened by a rock golem at the end of the movie. THIS WORLD IS SAAAAAAACRED! screams the German band Blind Guardian.
Welcome to Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. I donít know about you, but after this introduction, I was skeptical. "Skeptical about what?" you might ask. Skeptical about the future of the video game industry, I think. Maybe humanity, too. Certainly I was skeptical about the next forty or so hours I imagined Iíd be spending with the game.
Character creation (AKA class selection) didnít get my hopes up any. This consisted of picking one of six pre-determined characters to be my avatar in what I was assured was the ĒfantasticĒ world of Ancaria. Now, when I say pre-determined, I mean it. Iím saying you donít even get to change your sex. Thatís already chosen for you. So if you want to be one of the angelic Seraphim, you going to be seeing a lot of boobies and ass. Admittedly, thatís a lot more incentive than youíll have to play the enigmatic Shadow Warrior. Heís just a dude on steroids with a bad voice actor. All that aside, I have to say that the classes are quite compelling. The design of each is wildly different, and each has its own unique class quests and deity quests which change even further depending on whether you play on the side of good or evil. Me, I chose to play as a Temple Guardian, a cybernetic Ra with Megamanís arm cannon. I named him Vulcity and tossed him into the evil campaign.
The first thing I noticed upon entering Ancaria was how badly everything wanted to kill me. Barely had the game begun when my Temple Guardian was set upon by the very people who had unearthed him. No explanation for this was given, they just fell upon Vulcity with knives and clubs. Now, I had no idea what I was doing. I didnít know how to walk, let alone engage in an intricate battle of brawn. I did see a bunch of symbols to one side of the screen, and by studying them I was able to come to the following conclusions:
1) the sword symbol is good
2) the photon blast symbol is better
That was about as well as I ever understood the battle system. When I could get it to work, that is. The button scheme in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is extremely obtuse. Even pulling up my inventory screen was an incredible hassle, requiring me to press and hold the right trigger and then release it at the same time that I pulled down on the left analog stick. The simple act of hurting someone could require up to three simultaneous actions on my part, depending on what exactly I wanted to do. And very little of this was explained, no matter that I was basically playing a beefed up version of Gauntlet. Various guides I picked up in the game hinted at an intricate battle system and tried to instruct me on how to level correctly, but Iíll be damned if I didnít just pour all my points into that photon blast and spam it for every battle I fought. If there was an intricate system there, then it was drowned out by the screams of my enemies.
Speaking of which, I was a little put off by the enemyís constant chatter. Honestly, you canít encounter anyone in this world without them trying to make a Monty Python reference or a bad pun. Itís like you have to pass a ďcampĒ test to be a citizen in Ancaria. ďIím going to put you in my pipe and smoke you!Ē was one of my attackerís war cries. As I killed him, he sang a different tune: ďI guess I was only an extra!Ē Moments like this drew a wane smile from me, but mostly it just furthered my belief that the developers werenít taking this whole thing seriously. And that's not even taking into account their strange gyrating character animations.
So anyways, those guys died horribly, leaving me scratching my head and thinking ďWell, that was sudden.Ē I walked ten paces forward, trying to get some bearings on where I was, and BAM a set of brigands spotted me and another fight ensued. And once they were dead BAM a set of vicious sea turtles attacked. And so the game progressed, with me advancing ten paces at a time while every sea turtle, boar, and would-be robber tried to have their way with me. I suppose this shouldn't be a problem, seeing as how this is a hack-and-slash game, but there's no heart to the combat. Instead of being exciting, every fight slows the pacing down to a crawl. Furthermore, enemies level with you, so there's also no sense of character evolution. Boars will always be as hard to kill as they were the first time. Worse, they'll take as long to kill as they did the first time. So no matter how powerful you are, it's gonna take forever to get anywhere or do anything. Thereís also no pause screen, so God help you if you need to pee. One time I pulled up the map to see where the nearest town was, and just as I was plotting a route there, I heard screaming and shouting and my screen started flashing red. At first I had the ridiculous idea that the map was attacking me. Then I realized it was yet another pair of bandits who had jumped me while I was trying to figure out where the hell I was going. I promptly drank a potion to restore my health and whopped their asses to the moon and back, but the point had been made. There would be no breaks. There would be no backing out. I was in Sacred 2 for the long haul.
It took me about two hours to make my way to the town. By this time, I had slain several thousand bandits, and I was eager to mix it up a bit. I was tired of my aimless existence as a vagabond. I needed direction. I needed purpose. I needed incentive to keep playing. I needed... a quest. The citizens of the town were eager to oblige.
ďSave my chickens from zombies!Ē one citizen lamented. ďKill ten rabbits!Ē another cried. ďGo find my wedding guests!Ē an obese woman demanded. Vulcity didnít say anything. He had been struck speechless. This was the great destiny he had been born to fulfill? He was to be a saviour of livestock? And not only were these quests inane, they were presented in large lifeless dialogue boxes that contained, among other things, way too much information. Especially when the gist was ďfind my teddy bear.Ē Why did I have to spend five minutes reading text for that?
Begrudgingly I undertook these tasks, thinking that better quests had to be coming. But you know what? About the most interesting thing I did in the first ten hours of the game was storm a Kobold camp. Kobolds! My God, have we stooped so low that we must pick on the lowly Kobolds for our entertainment? Where are the dragons and the mighty sorcerers and the damsels in distress? I decided to find out. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. Ancaria is huge. With Kobolds and bandits dogging your every step, it takes forever to get anywhere. And itís not an interesting journey. Oh sure, thereís deserts and forests and mountains and oceans and tropics... but you canít really see any of it because Sacred 2 utilizes a fairly strict top-down view. You can zoom and rotate the camera and sometimes even wrangle it down to a slight angle, but you'll never be able to see more than ten feet in front of your character and you'll never get the camera behind him. Itís to the designerís credit that many was the time I wanted to stop and observe something in the world. Itís to their discredit that there was no way for me to actually do this. I canít express enough how frustrating this is. This is a game based around exploring every nook and cranny of its expansive world for loot and quests. To not allow me to actually look around and take in some scenery seems counter-intuitive.
Things got a little better once I got a mount, as I could then ride past the hordes of malcontents without having to fight them. Of course, if I wanted to fight, I could kill things just fine from horseback. In fact, my power was stronger on horseback so there was no reason for me to ever dismount, especially since doing so required the same kind of nonsense that it took to look at inventory. Admittedly, I did feel a little silly riding into peopleís homes to romp around in their bedrooms without anyone saying a word or my horse killing itself on the stairs. Worse, though, the mount showed me just how sick Iíd gotten of the game. I was rushing through as fast I could, not wanting to stop for anything. I was ready to be playing something else.
I have a rule called the FAQ rule. If I reach a point where I find myself checking FAQs to see how much longer a game goes on, then I know the game has outlived its welcome. In the case of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, I hadnít done anything interesting, met any interesting characters, or even managed to become interested in my own character in over twenty hours of gameplay and I was nowhere near being done with the main quest. I despaired of ever finishing my review. How could I give a fair review on such a massive game when Iíd put only a couple dozen hours into it? What if things picked up? What if the ending was awesome? Then I realized that it didnít matter. Even if it had the most amazing ending ever, that ending would still be presented through an overlong dialogue box by a meaningless NPC to a character without any personality besides a name and a gun-arm. From the start, Sacred 2 had established itself as a lifeless experience. I got the same feeling from playing the game that I did from reading the instruction manual. And you can probably get that as a PDF online without having to spend 60 dollars.
Still, there were a couple other things I thought I should try before giving up. First, I went back and started the game as another class, a good aligned Wood Dryad. "Maybe the Temple Guardian was just a boring character," I thought. For a moment, it seemed I was right. The game began this time with me and my mistress wandering through the beautiful and peaceful islands. It seemed some sort of epic tale was about to begin. With solemnity, my mistress turned to me to explain our mission and... WHACK she's dead and up popped two familiar-looking bandits screaming that they were going to smoke me.
The other thing I wanted to give a spin was the multi-player. One of Sacred 2's big advertisements was that you could form parties with other gamers. Honestly, though... I couldn't find anyone else playing. I did watch some online videos and did some informed inferring and came to the conclusion that multi-player Sacred 2 is a lot like Diablo 2, except worse. Because Sacred 2: Fallen Angel wasnít content with just being a decent hack and slash looting game. It tried to be more and ended up somewhere in the No-manís land between hack-and-slashers and MMORPGs. The end result is that thereís always a better game out there for you and your friends to enjoy. Of course, with so few people playing the game online, owners of Sacred 2 will be stuck either power-leveling forever or using the insipid allies the game provides. And thatís a lot of fun... if you enjoy watching your allies continually run into trees or stand still while being masterfully screwed over by Kobolds.
Me? I did the only sensible thing. I hit the power button and never looked back.
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (June 02, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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