There are times when I want a tightly focussed quest-based story that draws me into a lushly developed world, where I can ramble from location to location, womanize and generally pretend to be a badass like Geralt in the Witcher. Then there are times that I just want to kill things, times when I wish that Diablo could return and set the RPG world on fire once more with random dungeons, endless waves of respawning bad guys and gore enough to make a giant blood red iceberg to sink the Titanic with.
Diablo 3 is a long way off and I've played Sacred, Titan Quest and many others to death. So I was pretty stoked to hear that Ascaron were back with Sacred 2 and this time it would be a bigger, expansive and even more loot-filled grind-fest. It is, and I like that. I don't really care that the story is generic and fairly unfocussed since I'm having too much fun indulging my psychopathic kill-maim-destroy tendencies just like I did in Painkiller.
In many ways Sacred 2 is the Painkiller of the RPG world at the moment, it's not quite up to the standard of the original Sacred in some ways but in others it leaves the first game standing. It's got flaws, minor and major and some of them cause the good old crash to desktop (where would we be without that beloved bug in our games eh?), graphic glitches and anomalies. Yet those don't stop me liking the game since it's giving me what I wanted, an excuse to take out six different classes drawn from the good and evil sides in the game.
Take them out and cause widespread monster devastation across a massive landscape with very little in the way of load times. If you've played Sacred before then I don't need to tell you how to play, and if you're like me, you can read a manual and learn from tutorials in a game. I can say that the controls will feel second nature to fans of MMO's and other click-fest combat games and leave it at that.
Ancaria has changed a bit from Sacred, for a start, there's T-Energy that's lumped around in pipes a bit like oil. There are a few cyborg and science-fiction elements mixed in around into the fantasy. It doesn't quite fit if you've played Sacred but if you can suspend your disbelief and hang it by the neck until dead, you'll ignore all that and just concentrate on powering up your character, drawn from the six classes. The most interesting for me and the one that's also the most jarring is the Mecha-Anubis styled Temple Guardian.
He's an odd bugger, with his mix of Egyptian God of the Underworld aesthetic and cybernetic limbs, calling out phrases on the battlefield that break the fourth wall and certainly sound out of place. These relate to the game at hand, like: Another step closer to level up. This strange mix of fantasy science-fiction and quirky humour works in Sacred 2 though, oddly enough. As you might expect there are a plethora of skills to level up, combat arts make a return from Sacred and you can design the character of your dreams in terms of stats and skills.
There are tonnes of loot and a myriad of quests to embark on as well. I won't even say what these are because I don't believe in giving anything away, not even side-quest types. You're just going to have to trust me when I say there's a lot to do, it's a big world, you're going to get attacked constantly and you'll love it if you loved Diablo and the original Sacred.
Sacred 2 is a nice looking game as well, there's a lot to look at, the graphics are decent and though there are some performance issues and slowdowns, they don't detract enough from the experience to fully mar it. The game makes a good use of high quality lighting and special effects, especially in terms of the powers and there's a good use of shadow and shaders.
I was impressed by the size of the game world and the odd graphical glitch involving the overhead map rendered it hard to make out at times. I have a feeling Ascaron will fix this so it's only a problem at the moment. The models are well made; the animation is good and fluid with the combat looking nice and quick. The use of sound in the game is likewise of a decent quality, some of the music provided by the band Blind Guardian and the score is a typical fantasy type.
The voice acting is typical, it's terribly overdone and highly cheesy which is what makes games like this more appealing to me. For every Baldur's Gate and the Witcher there's a Sacred, Titan Quest and Sacred 2.
Enemy AI is average and they do a job of beating on you until you smash them into little pieces.
The interface is decent enough if a little clunky at times.
The game can be played single player or multiplayer with up to 16 other friends for cooperative frolics or versus madness. It's obvious that Ascaron have been watching MMO's as well since Sacred 2 has several things in common with most MMO's, such as mounts on the Isle of Mounts (ok, I broke my promise of not revealing anything, but it was only minor, bite me).
It's the best Diablo-style action romp out there for now, so you have to pick it up if you love those kinds of games.