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Sacred 3

By MrJenssen07-08-2014
Bobfish (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
Sacred 3

The Defence

Keen Games
Deep Silver
Action, Role Playing
Release Date:
US 05-08-2014
EU 01-08-2014

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 3.0 GHz
AMD Phenom 2.2 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GT 640
AMD Radeon HD 5570
25 GB
4 GB

The Case

The hack ’n’ slash genre has always inspired a sort of love-hate relationship with gamers. They’re notoriously simplistic in their design, and their entire appeal is based on constantly rewarding you with loot-drops and experience points that open up more powerful skills and abilities. So what happens then, when you take a hack ’n’ slash fundament with constantly bashing down the left mouse button, grinding your way through hordes of samey enemies - but then strip the experience of the progression systems and all the rewards? Sacred 3, that’s what happens.

The Trial

The Sacred franchise has always been an odd breed. In an era where most developers had already shifted to 3D graphics, German developer Ascaron Entertainment kept it old-school with the first Sacred. The game ran in 2D with graphics feeling dated back then, but weighed up with an enormous open world with tons of places to explore, enemies to kill and items to loot. A robust combat and character progression system made many gamers forgive the game’s long list of bugs and problems. Sacred 2 tried to do what Diablo 3 later became the first to do successfully; port a hack ’n’ slash game to consoles. Needless to say, the console version of Sacred 2 failed, but its PC brother fared at least somewhat better, but never reached out to the masses. The developer dissolved shortly after.

Now, Sacred 3 is out. With the original studio long gone, developer Keen Games - (un)known for a handful of Wii-games and some movie-licensed shovelware - sees a chance to step up and take over the torch under the umbrella of Deep Silver. Disappointingly, the end result is barely even worth talking about.

Wait, what? This isn't loot! What did you do to my Sacred?!

Wait, what? This isn't loot! What did you do to my Sacred?!

I mean, where do I even begin? Alright, let’s do a quick comparison to the original franchise. Because while you can excuse the developer until the cows come home, the fact of the matter is that this game is called Sacred 3, and it is a direct sequel to Sacred 2. The two first Sacred games were for the most part pretty standard hack ‘n’ slash games where you move around by clicking a mouse button, attack enemies by clicking a mouse button, pick up new weapons and equipment by clicking a mouse button and level your character up by clicking a mouse button. From the beginning, you’ve got an enormous world to explore, and you’re free to go pretty much anywhere immediately. So knock yourself out! Talk to some NPCs, get some quests, and go fight the evil monsters of the land. You’re constantly rewarded with new and better weapons and gear, and levelling your character up allows you to choose between a plethora of different skills, spells and abilities.

Sacred 3, in comparison, is not played out in a huge open world. Instead, you complete singular missions that are tied together on a map that follows a linear path from the first level to the last. No freedom of choice is given, apart from the optional levels that you can branch off to if you need to grind some experience points to reach the next level - something you’re occasionally forced to because the game arbitrarily scales levels in difficulty by player-level. Once you select a mission and start it up, you’re treated to a cinematic that explain the events so far in the bland storyline about an evil sorcerer who has taken over the world and stolen a very important gemstone that could threaten the very fabric of blah blah blah. You and you alone (unless you’ve got three friends who are willing to play the game with you) must defeat this evil Lord Zane Ashen and all his copy-pasted enemies.

Once the cinematic is done (or more likely, you’ve skipped it), you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by the fact that the levels are completely linear. There are never any side-paths to take, or any optional objectives to complete. Instead you run through the linear maze, bashing every enemy you come across, press the use-button six times to activate some object when prompted to, kill the final boss that’s strangely identical to the last one you fought, and finish the level. You’ll be done in less than ten minutes every time, and as a reward you’re given money and experience points. Continue onto the next level, rinse and repeat.

Can I go in here? Of course I can't...

Can I go in here? Of course I can't...

So clearly, Sacred 3 doesn’t have all that much to do with the previous games, apart from the fact that it’s set in the world of Ancaria. It’s not even in the same genre; it’s really more of a brawler but with a top-down perspective. But if we are so forgiving and look away from the name on the box and instead treat Sacred 3 as its own thing, is it really all that bad? Well, yes. It is.

Oddly, you control your character using the WASD keys in Sacred 3. The left and right mouse buttons still function as your light and heavy attacks respectively, but you don’t use the mouse to aim. In other words, keyboard-users must hold down the directional keys to aim their attacks, which quickly gets tedious as you’re forced to line your character up to hit at all. You only have eight directions to attack, but since enemies don’t move on a grid, they can often end up standing between your right and your upper right, for example. This becomes especially frustrating when you include the only two special power buttons you have, mapped at buttons 1 and 2. I dare you, try holding down the S and D keys to aim diagonally down to the right, while also tapping 2 to launch your special power. Not very easy, is it?

Speaking of your powers, each of the four selectable character comes complete with a small pool unique powers to use. You’re given a handful of light powers and heavy powers. You’re only ever allowed to carry one of each, and the rest remain locked away until you finish a level. Because the game has no inventory system, you can’t swap between your powers on the fly, but must finish entire levels with the ones you’ve selected before you’re given a chance to switch them out. Once you’re here between levels, you can spend the money you pick up on the ground to upgrade your special powers in a linear tree that offers a few barely noticeable stat-boosts to each of them. The powers themselves have nice effects, but barely do any meaningful damage or even break enemies’ special attacks. Your basic attack is far superior in dealing damage, and only your right mouse button’s heavy attack actually interrupts enemies - but only when the proper icon is displayed above their heads. In other words, you’re usually left off hammering your left and right mouse buttons relentlessly until the current mission’s boss lies slain on the ground.



Alright, so let’s be honest for a moment. While most similar games tend to give you a huge list of special powers to use at will, you usually end up using your mouse buttons most of the time anyway. Hack ‘n’ Slash games tend to be incredibly monotonous in their gameplay. Bash enemies, move on, bash more enemies, move on. So what’s the problem here, why is Sacred 3 any different?

I think Sacred 3 unintentionally becomes a study in why hack ‘n’ slash games are so popular, and how easy it is for them to fail if they’re not done just right. It’s the carrot dangling at the end of the stick. It’s the loot and the customizable player progression. You feel like you’re going through your own adventure as you fight enemies, learn new tricks, pick up or buy new gear while honing your skills for the more powerful enemies to come. Sacred 3, on the flipside, doesn’t have any of this. There isn’t any loot, apart from the gold and the orbs that heal you and recharge your special powers. You’re occasionally given a new weapon out of the blue, but this weapon is always of the same type as the rest of your character’s weapons and the starting stats of these weapons are all identical. It’s only when you level these weapons up between levels, giving them small stat-boosts (like “+30% chance to perform critical hit”) that they are at least slightly different. Sometimes, you also unlock “weapon spirits” which are basically disembodied voices that give you a bonus to something and a penalty to something else, and constantly deafen the otherwise acceptable soundscape with obnoxious banter and cheap one-liners.

But in the larger scheme of things, it matters little. All you do is bash the same enemies that come in a small variety, over and over again. I mean, sure, you’ll get your enemies served in various thematic skins depending on the mission you’re in, but by and large they can all be fit into a few specific categories. You have the filler fluff cannon fodder that die with a single strike of your weapon and can be tossed about like worthless ragdolls. Then, you have the bigger ones that either carry a shield or perform a spin-attack. Both of these can only be countered using your heavy attack, and none of your other special powers do anything to interrupt them. Then you have the mini-bosses which are basically bullet-sponges that can spawn damage-dealing things or do a couple of other bad things towards you. Again, tapping the right mouse button once to interrupt them, followed by a flurry of left mouse button attacks solves your problem. In other words, none of the enemies feel unique, and none of your optional attacks feel meaningful.

Well at least it's not ugly.

Well at least it's not ugly.

So, are there any redeeming factors at all here? Well the game’s length isn’t terrible. If you choose to complete all the side-missions, you’re looking at a game that’ll last you upwards of 10 hours or more. You could also team up with three other players and finish the game in Co-Op, but there aren’t any Co-Op specific objectives or challenges, and the game’s voice chat cannot be disabled, or even set to push-to-talk. If you’ve got a microphone plugged in, everyone will hear every breath you take and every sneeze you make.

The visuals aren’t too bad either. You won’t be blown away by mesmerizing graphics or anything, but the visual effects during combat are nice and the environments do look pretty. Even if it really just serves as draping to cover the fact that each level plays exactly the same as the last one. The bombastic soundtrack is fantastic, and the voice acting is decent. That is, if you can stand the obsessive banter and weak non-jokes that the various disembodied voices you “meet” throughout the game constantly harass you with. I mean, the voice actors did a good job for the most part, but the scripts they were handed are downright offensive. The game is at least relatively bug-free (a first for the franchise!), at least until the auto-saved save file was corrupted about seven hours in and I was unable to continue with that character. Looking beyond that one game-breaking event - plus one time when an enemy holding the second part of a key I needed to progress never spawned, forcing me to restart the entire level - everything else is at least functional. Everything works the way it should, even though the controls are awkward for those who prefer the mouse and keyboard over a controller. But “functional” isn’t exactly a very flattering thing to call a game sold at €50, and a sequel to the cult classic Sacred series.

The Verdict

Beyond the technical presentation, Sacred 3 feels like little more than a cheap mobile game. All you do is grind your way through samey levels, punching samey enemies with samey attacks, and you never feel rewarded for any of it. The cinematics are well produced, the graphics are okay and the soundscape is generally decent, but when the gameplay is so incredibly void of interesting mechanics, and never rewards you for all the monotonous grinding, it’s a hard sell at €50. Even if you ignore the fact that it’s supposed to be a sequel to a series of games that play completely differently, the game doesn’t become any more acceptable as its own thing either. Far better games can be found at far lower prices. The other Sacred games, for starters.

Case Review

  • Mr. Bombastic: The soundtrack is fantastic.
  • Quiet, You Beautiful Voice!: The voice acting is great, but the characters are oh so obnoxious.
  • Well, at Least I’m Not Ugly!: It’s not the prettiest game ever, but it isn’t ugly either.
  • Functional: There aren’t a whole lot of bugs to speak of.
  • Monotony Defined: Oh, Lord can this thing get any more repetitive?!
  • Reaping no Rewards at All: The developers forgot about tying a carrot at the end of the stick.
Score: 2/5
Sacred 3 is neither acceptable as a sequel nor a game that stands on its own.


Immediately after booting Sacred 3 for the first time, one word cames to my mind - Capcom. It is hard to say where this comes from (the cinematic menu I guess), but little did I know how meaningful this comparison would turn out. How come you ask? Well, you see, Sacred 3 is unlike the previous two installments. What used to be a light, madly randomised hack’n’slash RPG turned into an arcade, mission-based Beat’em Up. For those of you who prefer direct comparisons, I would say this game is something of an isometric Devil May Cry 4. Yeah, the true DmC, with white-haired guys and unparalleled gameplay. And, boy, I like that change! Sure, anyone looking for complex character customisation, randomised loot or even open world will be disappointed. The levels are painfully linear, each of the characters only gets a handful of skill and equipment choices and the only thing that falls out of the enemies is gold. The humor is as cheesy as it gets, the plot is virtually non-existent and there are no fancy mounts nor robo-dogs included. Not even an intro song by Blind Guardian!

But in exchange for all this we get a fluent, awesomely responsive fantasy action slasher, one of the best in its league. The way the hits string into combos is simply brilliant, especially when backed-up by ragdoll-based animations on every enemy model. The locations, while restrictive, are diverse and well-crafted, eliminating the feeling of repetitiveness, the main flaw of so many games of the genre. Not everything is perfect, though. The UI tends to be really unintuitive at times, complicating basic actions like quitting the game. It feels as if the developers focused solely on refining the gameplay, paying little attention to other elements. The “damn, that was designed for consoles...” feeling will get you quite often. Speaking of customisation, it could have been designed better. In its current state, the player won’t feel too rewarded nor motivated to keep going. Did I mention it is actually hidden?

So, in general, do try Sacred 3. It is a great game, not innovative in many aspects and not without flaws, but a very pleasant experience altogether. Simply make sure to put any expectations aside and let the game present to you its beauty. It has quite a lot of it on the inside.

Score: 4/5


If anybody needed proof that a game won’t be good by simply slapping a number to its name in the hopes of cashing in on a known franchise, then he’ll have that proof with Sacred 3. The old titles were pretty solid, this one isn’t. But let’s start with the good stuff. First off, the game looks decent. It’s not what I’d call stunning, but the aesthetics work. The comic style of storytelling might not be everyone’s favorite, but cutscenes tend to be short and although laden with questionable humour - basically take it or leave - are good enough when it comes to explain what’s going on. Don’t expect any great story telling though. It’s mainly cheese, puns and references.

Once you start hacking and slashing your way through hordes of baddies, you’ll find warm, vibrant colours in some areas and grim, ashy ones in others. It all sets the tone for a world plunged into chaos and, while not winning any awards, does its job to the betterment of the game rather than vice-versa...if there was anything to ‘better’. The combat part of the game has been brained down to the bare minimum – even a console controller has more buttons than this game needs. That and the clunky movement of your character – WASD instead of mouse as per status quo – and you’ll find yourself wishing that the developers would not have just ripped off the name of the franchise, but also the controls.

After that, there is the pitiful amount of customization and loot. If you want me to mass murder countless bad guys in a gory mess - the latter is actually pulled off more or less although combat lacks ‘weight’ – then those guys better drop some stuff for me to use. As it stands, you are awarded at the end of the level with an occasional drop. To make matters worse, the drops are so basic you’ll have to throw all your gold at them to make them worthwhile alternatives to previously levelled ‘gear’. All in all, Sacred 3 completely misses the mark as a Sacred game and is nothing more than a turn-your-brain-off Arcade Hack-And-Slasher. And a bad one at that.

Score: 2/5
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