My first impression was quite straightforward; I sent a text to former reviewer Kid C saying 'This game won't be wowing anyone'. After spending more time with the game I'm of the same opinion. The game isn't spectacular or sexy at all, but there is still a solid game and plenty of fun to be had.
The game is in the Baldur's gate vein. You play a hero who kills mythical creatures, searches dungeons, enters into quests and hunts out loot and fame.
Graphically the game does what it needs to. It doesn't excel and there are moments of frame rate drop when the number of onscreen enemies gets a little higher than average. To be fair, this kind of game isn't all about the visuals, it's more about the depth of the game and so I'm happy with the overall look of the game.
The sound in the game is largely what I would expect; average voice acting that eventually becomes repetitive and mostly forgettable background music. On the whole the music does add atmosphere but you won't want to be listening to it on your iPod.
There's quite a good mix of character classes in Sacred 2 but I would like to have seen a few more. When you get to choose the character I would like to have seen a bit more information of the style of play. There is one character class that I'm sure will polarise opinion and that is the temple guardian. The guardian is a bipedal walking dog robot that can fire laser beams and has a flame thrower. I think that is quite a poor design choice and the class is a little unbelievable.
That isn't the only poor design choice in the game, rather than go with the traditional swords and sorcery angle the developers have added a mysterious energy called t-energy which in places gives the game an almost futuristic appeal, with pipes pumping incandescent blue goo through the landscape. This was not necessary and this, along with the robo dog, does reduce the atmosphere in the game. I understand that the developers may want the title to stand out, but there are better ways of doing that than bolting on token classes and ridiculous ideas.
As the game started out life as a PC game the one area with the potential to ruin the gameplay is the control system. I can gladly report than the controls are excellent. Face buttons control your skills, and used in conjunction with the triggers on the pad you can have a total of 12 skills mapped ready for use. Menus are easy to get into and navigate around. My only slight gripe is that the button used to open containers or pick up loot is the same one that is used to talk to other characters and quite frequently I found myself trying to grab freshly dropped gear and I ended up talking to my follower. This is a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent system.
The level cap for the game is absolutely insane. The game allows you to develop a character to level 200. Fortunately you can use your character in multiple playthroughs which will allow you to unlock more loot and reach that lofty level.
Where the game shines is in its depth. On the surface it is a simple hack and slash game, but like most modern RPGs there is a significant amount of skill customisation to be had. The games attacks and buffs are referred to as combat arts. Each art can be modified to improve or change its effects. For example a maelstrom can be improved to increase its range or add damage over time. At each stage of improvement you are given a choice of two different improvements meaning two characters of the same class can end up being very different. In addition to combat arts there are skills. Every so often you can select a skill; this could be a skill that improves a group of combat arts, a weapon type, armour proficiency or non combat skills like bargaining and alchemy. Each level you are given a number of skill points to improve these skills. The choice is often difficult as to which skill to have, do I improve all of my combat arts in both damage and regeneration or should I pick up the sword skill to improve its use? Maybe I should select armour to reduce the penalties from its use. This adds a massive amount of depth to each character and increases the variety of characters out there.
The game, like most RPGs, has a massive amount of loot to pick up. Each character can wear a number of items and jewellery to provide protection and stat/skill improvements. Most gamers will have plenty of enjoyment trying to get full sets of armour or improving their character by getting an uber piece of gear. Weapons and clothing appear on characters and so there are aesthetic reasons for changing gear. Do you want a flaming sword or maybe a light sabre type weapon? Weapons and armour can be improved at a blacksmith by adding improvements to a weapons various sockets, adding even further depth to the loot system.
I've praised the game for it's customisation of characters, but sadly this only goes as far as skills and equipment. Whilst the difference between shoulder pads and a cape are fairly obvious the difference between characters of the same class are not. Customisation of characters is very basic. With some characters you can only change their hairstyle and hair colour with others you can change nothing. This seems like quite a significant oversight as most modern games of this type pride themselves on the depth of customisation. It would have been nice to have been able to simply choose the gender of my characters.
Sadly quests aren't as enjoyable as they could be. They are a little bland and are exactly what you would expect, go kill 5 bandits, find the treasure, get the treasure map. On one of my characters I ignored side quests all together and just went around killing things for xp instead. It would have been nice to have seen some more involving quests or something on a more epic scale. This could really have pushed the game to the next level.
I've found the map to be quite frustrating. The world map doesn't zoom in as far as I would like making navigation a little awkward also the mini map can't be zoomed at all and it can be difficult to work out which way is north at times due to the tiny north pointer which is easily confused with the quest pointer. (other than by resetting the camera).
Another area which I dislike is the follower AI. Frankly it is terrible. Helpless characters that you are set to defend will run headlong into groups of enemies rather than stay their ground or following closely. You cannot give orders to followers either which seems like a huge oversight.
I have only spent a few hours trying out multi-player and that was largely the co-operative element. The game allows for drop in drop out play and you can take loot and experience away with you. The game doesn't require that you stay close together and you can wander off. We suffered a small amount of lag, whether that is due to our connections or the games netcode I cannot say, but on the whole the experience worked quite well. For me this is a good example of a developer getting the multiplayer elements spot on. There are a variety of modes and the whole experience is made easier, I'm looking forward to trying out the PvP elements of the game when I have got a character fully kitted out.
I know that some of you gamers out there are interested in gamerpoints. Sacred 2 has an excellent balance of achievements and you should take a good amount of these of the first playthrough. To get all of the available points you'll need to go through the game several times, which is no bad thing.
Sacred 2 was never going to be in the running for game of the year. It is a solid, enjoyable dungeon crawler RPG with enough depth to justify multiple playthroughs. If Baldur's gate was your type of game then Sacred 2 is an essential purchase.