Review: Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (PC)

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action Role Playing
Release Date: 11/11/08


Through the sheer number of products available that fit its mold, the “point and click” dungeon hack (or “Dungeon Clicker” as I call them) has definitely become its own sub genre within a sub genre. From Blizzard’s ground breaking Diablo to the faithfully presented and impressive Dungeons & Dragons games by Black Isle that fell under this category, the point and click dungeon hack has been quite a lucrative framework for many game developers since its conception. Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is the sequel to German developer Ascaron’s reasonably received Sacred, which debuted back in 2004. Hacking and slashing most certainly abounds in this sequel, as is to be expected, but what else can a brave dungeon clicker expect in their return to the realm Ancaria?

Story:

Paced like one of those laughable-but-sometimes-cool sword and sorcery films from the 80’s, the storyline of Sacred 2 is most likely not one you’ll care too much about. Though each of the characters has a specific and individual reason to take up arms and embark upon the ensuing hack-n-slash-a-thon, the primary storyline arcs, all of which deal with an ominous power source and who in the realm is going to control it, are paper-thin, and imaginatively weak. It’s true that these point and clickers hardly ever really benefit from a well told, dramatic story, and I personally believe having too much exposition and storytelling in games of this kind can be a bad thing, but the plot of Sacred 2 is so ho-hum and dull that it sets the game at the bottom of a considerably steep hill. In a lot of respects, it seems the designers intentionally went against the idea of any creativity in these aspects of the product. A solid premise is all you really need to run with in regards to these types of games, but Sacred 2 has a premise and overall concept that is so bland and mediocre that it actually ends up coming off as bad. Campaign modes for good and evil characters allow you to experience your mediocrity with valiant nobility, or sadistic anarchy, and this tacks on some weight in regards to the game’s replay value, but chances are you’ll just click through the dialog that ties this conceptually boring fantasy affair together regardless of your character’s alignment.

Story: POOR

Graphics:

The visuals in Sacred 2 are indeed technically impressive. The abundance of fine details to be seen throughout the world of Ancaria are quite amazing, especially considering the traditional helicopter camera angle the developers assumed you’d be using to play the game. Books and knick-knacks adorn shelves in small cottages, flowers and trees rustle in the wind, and pretty much every bolt and buckle of your character’s equipped armor is depicted in vibrant detail. The developers went all-out in making the hacking and slashing of Sacred 2 as visually wonderful as possible, and technically, as I’ve said, they certainly succeed.

Graphics: GREAT

Sound:

Sacred 2 features a solid soundtrack, including an epic, vocalized theme song by the German heavy metal band “Blind Guardian” that plays during the intro cinematic; it’s a bit corny, but undeniably cool. The in game music fits the atmosphere well and ranges from effective tribal beats to medieval-inspired lute pieces. Voice acting can be heard from time to time during pivotal dialog sessions with important characters, and it is all reasonably executed and of sufficient quality. Sword and sorcery sound effects are also well represented, and sound as they should.

Sound: GREAT

Gameplay:

As expected, and much like the previous installment in the series, Sacred 2 is about hacking and slashing, picking up as many items as possible, and ultimately become the most powerful adventurer the realm has ever seen. It’s in these aspects that Sacred 2 certainly does not disappoint. Putting aside the weak visual design and plot, the point and click hacking and slashing to be had in Sacred 2 is very satisfying, and right on the money. A wealth of seemingly never-ending side quests will have you traversing the country side, where you will rarely see the same thing twice, and a huge variety of weapons, armor (even armor colors), and items are available, all which are represented differently, visually, when you equip them. The game’s six available character classes are amongst the most diverse I’ve seen in a game of this type, each featuring a good assortment of individual skills and proficiencies. Like in most games of its kind, your character’s abilities will improve as you invest points into them when you gain an experience level, and as these skills are mastered, other tiers of skills will become available for your character to learn. Eventually your character will earn insane, screen filling abilities that are truly a sight to behold as they smite multiple enemies at once. There is great reason to keep plugging away at your Sacred 2 character, as you’ll usually be able to do something new or significantly better as experience is earned.

Sacred 2 also adopts a number of alternative takes on the traditional formulas other games in the genre put into play that don’t really alter the overall experience of gameplay from like titles, but present elements in an interesting new way. Most notable is the absence of any kind of magic points, or points that would govern a character’s ability to utilize special skills and abilities. When an ability is used, it will have what can best be described as a “cool down” duration that will have to pass before it can be used again; this isn’t specifically better or worse, but it is different.

Pretty much everything is spot on from a gameplay perspective with Sacred 2, with the exception of the confusing and cluttered world map. Circles of various colors appear on the large and limitedly detailed map that indicate various quest objectives and other points of interest, which is fine; the issue, however, comes from the fact that only a certain portion of the map can be seen at any given time, and as mentioned, the “sketched” map is pretty vague with details. The map can be zoomed in to different intensities during gameplay, as it appears in a circular shape in the upper right of the screen, but the only way to take a look at the full sized map is by selecting the option, which brings up a separate screen over top the gameplay, which is a hassle. Now, Sacred 2 takes place in a large and broad world, and as such, some of your objectives and tasks will require you to travel to a pinpoint precise location on the map. This is not uncommon for these types of games, nor is the need to travel around various obstructions that make getting to where it is you need to go not as simple as walking straight from point A to B. The difficulties with the game map are at their most annoying in these instances, however, as the detail provided on the map is not easy to understand in relation the surrounding geography. The idea of discovering the unknown by way of exploration is fine, but the fact that you have what obviously appears to be some kind of diagram illustrating the land in which your adventures take place, while you can’t actually comprehend it enough to use it (especially when it’s needed), is a tad annoying.

Gameplay: GOOD

Replayability:

Sacred 2 is a long and large game with countless quests and items to complete and collect.
Coupled with the fact that all six available character classes are unique from a gameplay standpoint, and the light and shadow campaign modes, and it’s obvious Sacred 2 does not skimp on content in the slightest.

The game also supports a server based multi-player mode similar to the multi-player modes found in most recent games of this type. I had some difficulty logging in, as the server simply would not accept my password, but once I was in with my character, the game ran smooth and was virtually issue-free online.

Replayability: GREAT

Balance:

The alternative formulas Sacred 2 puts into play emulate the standard action RPG concepts quite effectively, yet still manages to make the whole product feel like something new. The game flows at a very satisfying speed as you plunder the countryside and the occasional underground dungeon in search of items and quest objectives. The skills and abilities your character can learn are always useful, and little to no grinding was necessary to make progress as I played. As far as these kinds of games are concerned, Sacred 2 is as finely balanced a dungeon hack as one could hope for.

Balance: GREAT

Originality:

The real problem as far as Sacred 2 goes is that, as much as the story is weak, so too is the artistic design. To be honest, the designs in Sacred 2 are simply not that exciting to behold, even with the high quality of the graphics used to represent them. Everything and everyone you hack up, talk to, pick up, or explore in Sacred 2 is essentially by the numbers, stereotypical fantasy fare. The designs collectively, from the playable characters to the monsters and locations, are almost entirely devoid of originality and imagination, and what does skate slightly away from the design norm, like the Seraphim and the Temple Guardian Warrior character classes, comes off as tacky and silly. This could possibly be blamed on the trite and uninspired art style that was green-lighted by developers, or the idea that the developers wanted to concentrate their efforts in other places, but the result is the same, and can effectively be described as a predominantly “safe” representation of a standard fantasy world that obviously burned very little of the developer’s time during it’s conception.

Either way, for whatever reason, Sacred 2 is a disappointment on a design standpoint in more ways than could be easily forgiven. Quite frankly, if I don’t have anything cool to look at, all those hours clicking away in the dungeon can really become a drag. I’ll mention again the glorious detail and technically gorgeous visual aesthetics to be seen in the game, but it seems like a waste on the dull and unimaginative designs their used to bring to life. Points are definitely warranted for the alternative mechanics the developers created for governing the usually concrete RPG elements like magic points and defense, but other than that, I found Sacred 2, as a product, to be ridiculously clichéd and uninspired.

Originality: BAD

Addictivness:

As with most dungeon clickers that manage to satisfy in the gameplay department, Sacred 2 will no doubt suck you into its incredibly lengthy world of items, magic, and monsters. Clicking your way to becoming the strongest warrior in the land has seldom been more addicting than it is in Sacred 2, and even though, by default, this category of game can quite easily become addicting in a hurry, the multiple unique character classes and terrific pacing make Sacred 2 even more of an action RPG experience that will be difficult to turn away from. If you can get past the “me too” designs of the world and characters, you’ll find yourself playing this for months on end with no stopping in sight.

Addictiveness: GREAT

Appeal Factor:

With the hype and anticipation of Diablo 3 looming in the air, I believe Sacred 2 will be found by quite a few eager game players looking to relieve this brand of action RPG, and click their way through some fantasy adventure. The game is meaty, and will certainly satisfy those in need of a Diablo style game, and with the alleged release of both a PS3 and Xbox 360 version, I believe Sacred 2 will be on quite a few radars as the year comes to a close.

Appeal: GOOD

Miscellaneous:

For the most part, Sacred 2 ran fine on my computer at high graphic settings. The computer controlled allies got confused and exhibited sporadic actions a few times, and there are some graphic issues here and there, but the game only crashed to the desktop once during my many hours of playing it, which I find to be very impressive. All in all Sacred 2, regards of how uninspired it is in its aesthetic design, will undoubtedly quench your thirst for dungeon clicking until the assumed-to-be-great Diablo 3 comes out.

Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE

The Scores:
Story: POOR
Graphics: GREAT
Sound: GREAT
Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GREAT
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE

FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary:

Though trite and uninspired on its conceptual and design levels, Sacred 2 is a long, large, and satisfying dungeon click. The visuals are technically impressive, as is the music score, and in regards to gameplay with these types of titles, Sacred 2 is a great paced, addictive, and finely balanced experience. If you can swallow the absence of any style, interesting design, and a functional map option in your action RPGs, Sacred 2 is definitely worth your time.

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