Review: Sacred 2 Gold

Have Gun Will Travel

This is the first game review I have written in a long time.  I used to write them over on PCGR / VGR years ago.  Those were the days!  I just finished the main campaign yesterday after putting 80 hours into this, and I felt like talking about it so here it is.  To give you an idea of how much there is to see and do in Sacred 2, I spent probably less than 20 hours on the main campaign, and the rest exploring and doing side quests.  And I still have probably half of the game's content left, not counting playing the Dark campaign on my other character (I completed the Light campaign; the two campaigns sort of mirror each other but with different objectives), and playing the game again on the now-unlocked Gold difficulty.  Sacred 2 is huge.

I'll start first by saying that most reviewers of this game call it a Diablo clone.  This implies two things.  One, that Diablo is an original game and therefore can be cloned.  Blizzard has never made an original game and never will.  And second, that Diablo is the only game allowed to exist in this genre.  Okay, end rant.  Sacred 2 Gold is an action-rpg in a high fantasy setting that is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  More is better.  Enormous game world with  hundreds of quests, including one-offs and quest chains, two parallel campaigns for good (Light) and evil (Dark), a million different items and upgrades, and countless ways to customize your character - all different.  It's this customization that makes the game fun and adds to replayability.  Without getting into too many details, your character has a set of skills and attributes that you can upgrade, as well as a special "divine gift" that you get at character creation and that you can use about every 15 minutes after cool-down.  Combat Arts are special abilities that fall into three groups unique by class (seraphim, shadow warrior, high elf, dryad, temple guardian, inquisitor).  You can obtain all of the combat arts by collecting runes in drops, and continue to add levels to them by finding more runes.  You can also choose to focus on a particular combat art category (e.g., celestial magic), and at specific levels be able to spend points to add bonuses to specific combat arts in that category.  The number of choices you can make can be a bit intimidating at first, so I suggest checking out some builds by class online to get some ideas.

In my case I made a seraphim specializing in the BFG, and spent the game blowing enemies away with her big gun.  But whatever your build, every one is versatile.  My character could switch out to a bow or a sword and shield if I wanted.  Not as effective as her specialty, but still fun.  Quick slots at the bottom of the well-designed interface let you do this, as well as slots for the combat arts you want to use in combat, including combinations.  There are also slots for adding relics you pick up in drops to improve your armor and other bonuses.  Finally, the gear and weapons you pick up or buy often come with slots that you can fill with enchanted items (poison, fire, etc.) or with bonuses available at the local forge.  The best gear comes in sets that you find or earn through quests throughout the game.  One nice touch is that if you find, say, a helm from a particular set at level 20, you may eventually come across the same helm from that set at level 35, and just swap out your level 20 helm for the new one with the improved stats.

Sacred 2 sports a huge open world with vast open areas to explore and lots of handcrafted dungeons, some of them surprisingly big.  You pick up so much treasure in this game that they give you an imp you can call that operates as a travelling inventory for you to stash your overflow items.  When you are back in town, you can go to a player chest near the local seller and all your items will be there to sell.  If you have lots of runes, you can visit the local rune master and convert every four of them into one of the kind you need for 500 gold.  Because the world is so large, there are portals and resurrection monuments you can activate so that you can easily fast-travel across the map or respawn where you want.  You also can buy mounts, and after doing some travelling and completing a quest chain, you can buy class-specific mounts that are very cool.  Word of warning: mounts can be expensive and they can get killed.  Fortunately, the farther you progress in this game, the less money becomes an issue.  I had 13 million in gold on me by the time I finished.

Visually, the world is bright and colorful with a huge attention to detail.  I was really impressed by the different layouts of the towns and cities, all the individual items found inside of homes and buildings.  There is a lot of variety in the settings, with the usual swamps, deserts, jungles, and mountains, all very well done.  The only issue I had was with the camera, which is adjustable but not free-look, so you can't look up with your mouse.  Many times on hilly terrain I wanted to be able to crane my character's neck to be able to find the best way up a hill, but couldn't.  While huge, the game world is full of barriers like impenetrable tree lines that force you to hunt around for the correct way to make the last hundred feet to your destination, so free-look would have helped.  Performance on my system was smooth, even when I had hoards of enemies on me and all kinds of things going on.

Lots of critters in this game, and they level with you, so you always face a challenge.  A few too many rats, but the other ones...skeletons, undead, different varieties of spiders, animals like lions and tigers, fantasy creatures like gryphons, assorted ghosts and ghouls, minotaurs and other things, are great.  There are also a variety of bosses and mini bosses that are a fun challenge.

Sacred 2 has a ton of quests, and by the time I finished I had nine full pages of them in my log.  They're everywhere, even in unlikely places, and the compass and map interface makes them easy to travel back to (which is important as you accumulate dozens of unfinished quests while you travel around).  The main campaign is more of a rambling excuse to send you off all over the game world and experience it.  It's meant to be fun, not heavy-handed.  While doing the main campaign, you will be constantly side-tracked by the side quests and quest chains, and that is where Sacred 2 really shines.  Exploring is rewarded in this game, and the more of the map you uncover, the more surprises you will uncover.  A lot of the quests are Fed Ex stuff, but a lot of them have fun little stories with lots of written dialogue.  Some of them have memorable outcomes.  For example, there is a quest where you must find all the instruments for this band.  At the end of the quest, you are made an honorary member of the band and transported to their concert, which is a big cut scene featuring a full length rock song.  Other things are more subtle, like in one of the starter towns, a bard sings the game's theme song. Much later in an orc village, I noticed an orc singing the same song, butchering it.  It's those kind of touches that make this game stand out.  The "Gold" part of Sacred 2 included the European expansion, Ice and Blood.  There is also a community patch that I highly recommend and includes additional quests and items.  There is a quest chain it adds that ends with you fighting a spider queen, and who is harder than any of the bosses in the original game.  It's well worth it.

Some of the voice acting in the game is pretty awful.  I heard the original German version featured professionals and was quite good.  The voice of my Seraphim I think was somebody's girlfriend.  But in a funny way it sort of fit, because the game itself is intentionally cheesy and doesn't take itself seriously, constantly fourth-walling with enemies saying things like, "I knew I was an extra!" when they die, and your character quipping to you after a successful mission, "Well done, player".  If you sit idle for a few minutes, your character will start making random comments about how bored they are, which is pretty amusing.  The background music in the game is actually really good, though, evokes the theme of the area you are in, and adds to the atmosphere.

Sacred 2 Gold was made by the now defunct Ascaron Entertainment, and it is a shame they went out of business because you can see the effort they put into this game.  If you like hack-and-slash action RPGs, you will be blown away by the content and features of this game.  And the nice part is, it is a game you can pick up and play for an hour and then come back to it later.  The co-op works well so long as you create multiplayer-only characters.  If you try co-op with your single player characters it won't save quest progression.  Bane and I have played it in co-op and it works great.

Don't know if there is an official scoring system here, but here's mine:

Gameplay - 10

Graphics - 9

Sound - 8

Overall - 9