Sacred 2 – Fallen Expectations
The Build Up
It’s 4:30 Friday afternoon...and the clock slows to a crawl. In a mere half-hour’s time I would be on my way to Best Buy, rewards coupons in hand to pick up a copy of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. The game had just come out that week and I had been anxiously waiting for payday to arrive to purchase it. The plan was simple. It involved the game, beer, boxer shorts, pizza and dozens of hours of idle time. Aside from bio breaks for me and the dog there wasn’t anything else on the agenda and that was just fine.
You see, I am a huge fan of dungeon crawlers or as they’re referred to these days “Action RPGs” . Whatever. Can I play a wizard? Is there a three-quarter top down camera default? Am I the chosen one to (insert epic quest here)? I’m in. I loved all the Diablos, Baldur's Gates, Neverwinter Nights etc. So naturally when I heard about Sacred 2 I immediately shifted into to “fuck yes” mode. The thought of a dungeon crawler that leveraged the graphic power of the next gen consoles filled me with glee.
To the interwebs!After hearing about this game, the first thing I did was to scour the interwebs for any early review that I could find. I consider myself to be a seasoned gamer and I have been burned before. No one wants to drop sixty bones on a coaster. We’ve all been there. I did manage to find a few, mostly good reviews. In fact, the more I read the more excited I became. I kept reading statements like “...a must have for Diablo 2 fans” or “Baldur's Gate for the Next Gen”. One reviewer called it a “single player World of Warcraft”. OMG! OMG! OMG! That one sealed the deal. I had been hooked on WoW for almost 2 years. If I could find a game that would allow me to grind boars and save whenever I want, it was the equivalent of gaming nirvana.
It was about 6 PM when I finally arrived home. I quickly stripped down to my skivvies, turned off the cell, cracked what Iassumed was to be the first of many beers while I loaded that sucker into the 360 and waited for the awesome to envelop me. That feeling would never arrive.
More "wut?" than WoWFellow crawlers, you need to know that Sacred 2 is not gaming nirvana. It’s really much more like the way I imagine gaming limbo to be: Bland. Not terrible. Not great. Not much of anything really. Like someone handed you a sandwich made with that all natural peanut butter. The kind that looks like the Jiff you are used to but once tasted can only be politely described as having an interesting texture.
I can only surmise that the individuals who made these claims have either A. never played the games to which they make the comparisons or B. Never actually played THIS game prior to writing their reviews. Sure, when you first load Sacred 2 it looks a lot like those other games but a few minutes of play will reveal that it is at best, a cheap imitation. It’s the organic peanut butter of dungeon crawlers.
It’s not the lack of plot. I can live with that. Lame plots are a reality of dungeon crawlers. After all why ask why you need to collect 25 vulture beaks? Because you do OK? It’s not the fact that the map is confusing although that doesn’t help to raise my opinion any. It’s the feeling that you simply aren’t interacting with the world at all. It’s more than just not immersive. It’s anti-immersive. I was actually thinking about work while I played. On a weekend, while buzzed. WTF? That’s not why I game.
The BreakdownI've struggled a bit to come up with the mechanics of anti-immersion but I think it’s a combination of the following factors:
No! Bad camera!Top down crawlers are only as good as their camera. The Sacred 2 camera is about as bad as it gets. For starters, your character is always dead center on your screen with equal viewing distance on all sides. This is a terrible design for this type of game. Instead of feeling like you are exploring new terrain as it opens before you, you end up disoriented. Never quite able to tell which direction you are traveling at any given time. In addition, in order to have any view distance you have to zoom the camera out to its maximum range and from there you can’t make out any of the details of the environment but this is the only way that you can avoid being surprised by enemies five feet in front of you. This might be acceptable if the camera rotated enough to allow you to view the horizon. Sadly, it doesn’t.
No attack reaction at all. Neither your character nor the AI ever looks as if they have been struck. Furthermore, regardless of what weapon I attacked with, all of my strikes used the same two animations. Did I mention that to attack you just hold down the button? Yeah.
Does that hurt?
Attack of the clones.At most, there are two models for each type of enemy: male and female and they all dress identically. Your enemies are so obsessed with conformity that they even all die the exact same way. For human enemies there are two voice actors who rotate between three or four scripted lines of the “I’ll gut you” and the “arrgg.. .you got me” variety.
Speaking of voice acting, if you have ever had the misfortune of playing a game that came out a few years ago named “Two Worlds” you are aware of its horrible voice work. Some of the same voice talent lent their less than considerable skills to Sacred 2. I actually rerolled a new class because the first one I had chosen used the same voice of the Two Worlds hero. Repeated emotes of "Take that knave!" and "Don't get up" forced horrible flashbacks and eventually drove me to abandon my level 8 Shadow Knight.
The VerdictEvery now and then a sleeper game emerges. A title that is unfairly crushed beneath the marketing machine of triple A titles. A Dead Space, Overlord or Braid. I wanted Sacred 2 to be one of these games. Six months from now when people would just be beginning to discover it, I wanted to be able to say “Pfft, I’ve known about that forever.” It isn’t. Sacred 2 is rightfully buried in obscurity and should remain so. I suppose the lesson here is that if a game compares itself to another, more popular game it means that it's probably just a cheap knock off.
My story ends happily though. That same weekend, Best Buy bought my sob story and let me exchange it for UFC Undisputed. A game that doesn’t suck.
Sorry Baldur's Gate fans there is nothing to see here. Just keep walking down the game isle.