Hack-and-slash gameplay hasn’t worked this well since the Gauntlet games, a comparison you won’t soon be forgetting, and Sacred 3 carries within it that genre’s lifeblood. And no; I’m not talking about the blood from the scores of presumably innocent creatures you slaughtered after waltzing into their territory looking for a fight. That similarity, though, can’t buy Sacred 3 a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for all its gaming sins.
Sacred 3, in a stark departure from its Diablo-cloned original titles, is a linear, hack-and-slash story adventure with a noticeable lack of a loot system or quests. The humor is still present, especially in its Orcs Must Die!-esque artistic cutscenes where snarky protagonists display how clever (or hilariously stupid) they can be, while the camera moves slowly over well-drawn pictures of them. The core character classes also make a reappearance, offering at least four different ways to play the game.
Instead of looted weapons, each character unlocks different weapons as they progress, each with its own skill tree that makes it so there’s no clear “best weapon,” unlike a loot system where one can simply look at the stats to determine which weapon to use. Activated abilities also use simple skill trees, allowing each player to bring something new to the team.
This is what the game executes the best: co-op gameplay, and it’s the edge of stripped down hack-and-slashers. Coordinating skills with your team members to get the perfect balance of what’s needed is more than I’ve ever needed to do in Diablo, and Sacred 3 adds friendly competition into the mix by scoring each player’s performance after each level and giving a 10-percent gold and experience bonus to the winner. Unlike Diablo, where you can easily play single-player and have a good time, Sacred 3 and Gauntlet operate like Left 4 Dead, where playing with your friends is half the fun.
As stated before, though, this game has sinned, namely in repetitiveness. Although Sacred 3 has decent variation in level design, that doesn’t translate into changes in gameplay. Of course, killing minions will always be the same, but Sacred 3 has a “something’s falling from the sky” segment in almost every story level. We get it: a circle appears where rocks fall, and we have to avoid it (and no, changing it from rocks in one level to ice shards in the next doesn’t count as variation). Sometimes you have to kill an enemy spawn point, and other times you have to destroy particular buildings, but Sacred 3 has far more levels than items in its bag of tricks. Playing through the whole campaign is like a public service announcement from developer Keen Games that “we recycle.”
The inclusion of non-story missions is a hard beast to evaluate. On one hand, it’s nice to have optional interim levels to grind up gold and experience to be better-prepared for the next level. On the other hand, why not just lower the difficulty standard on the subsequent story levels to make it so you don’t need to farm up gold and experience in levels that don’t really matter? It also comes across as a little lazy, especially when the narrator couldn’t even be bothered to record different intro lines for each one. Boss fights, however, are surprisingly new and interesting with each level. This is one of the only places I died playing on normal difficulty, because it’s hard to figure out exactly how a new boss is going to act.
Sacred went from a varied Diablo clone to a Gauntlet clone, but doesn’t live up to either. While it may be a good hack-and-slash appetizer to tide gamers over, it never manages to distinguish itself in the genre. Sacred 3‘s repetitiveness and extra levels are signs of laziness in game development, and that’s hard to overlook as a player. But what’s not there is even more telling – anything new to write home about.
Version Reviewed: PC