Something is sacred in your eyes, something to believe
Sacred 3 is not the Sacred you remember. Sacred 2 was vast but confusing, intricate but inaccessible and ultimately not as deep as it might have appeared. It was plagued by bugs and some poor design choices leading to what was an exceptionally fun, but ultimately overambitious game. Sacred 3 has been stripped back to some of the things that made the previous titles good. Gone is the open world, instead you pick one of four characters and take on missions which are linear Diablo-style runs to an end boss. You choose which missions you take on, spend gold on new skills in between and can even take on side missions such as horde mode style encounters, fending off waves of progressively stronger enemies. It is undoubtedly a lot of fun and the amount of fat that has been carved out results in a much more streamlined, focused and accessible game. But did they accidentally cut out too much meat?
The core of our fun with the Sacred series has always been multiplayer and Sacred 3 is no slouch in this regard. You can play with up to three others in local or online co-operative modes and you each get a score as you go through the levels. Despite the co-operative pretense this leads to exciting competitions as you race from group to group trying to score as many points as possible. If you win the level you get an extra bonus to your gold at the end, allowing you to pick up more skills or upgrade the ones you have. The score system also rewards varying your skills so it actually makes the gameplay and combat more interesting as you find novel ways to get kills through a combination of different abilities.
There are only four characters to choose from (no character creation here) but each has a wide variety of skills and weapons to choose from, unlocked as you gain experience. At any given time you equip two skills as well as a spirit guardian that gives a buff and speaks to you during combat and a weapon. This keeps the controls incredibly simple but the short levels give you a good chance to experiment with different playstyles. Do you want extra mobility, burning through enemies with a flaming charge? Or perhaps you’d prefer to be able to throw your weapon and break shields along the way? You’re never stuck with one option for long so trying out everything is encouraged, as long as you remember to pick things up you have plenty of money to be able to try whatever you want.
The levels themselves have a nice art style but the graphics aren’t going to impress anyone. Models are reasonably low quality, some of the background textures (noticeable when the camera sweeps down) are downright ugly. In motion all of this is instantly forgettable but the screenshots definitely look like a last-gen title. The sound is much better with some impressively grandiose music and genuinely funny dialogue with some great voice acting.
All in all Sacred 3 is an absolute blast in short bursts of co-op. It’s funny, exciting and competitive, with just enough technical depth to the combat to keep it interesting as you progress. You’ll hack and slash your way through hours of brawling and you’ll find yourself becoming adept at fighting in an interesting way, rather than just button mashing. If however you’re hoping for an epic open-world RPG you might be sorely disappointed. Sacred 3 fails to hold your attention as well in single player and it’s worth playing online with strangers over ever slogging through alone. Gone are the technical problems and poor design decisions, but this game is so cut-down it’s almost fallen out of the RPG genre entirely.