Release Date: September 2008
You can't throw a rock in a game store without hitting at least a dozen RPGs these days. Turn-based, real-time, strategy — there are so many titles with so many subtle variants that it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Occasionally, a title hits that is just so immersive and brilliant that it captures universal praise. Diablo set the stage for the modern dungeon crawler, and many would argue that Oblivion perfected it. Now, Ascaron is going to see if the genre can be pushed any further with the the forthcoming Sacred 2: Fallen Angel.
Sacred 2 takes place 2,000 years before the original, and the only returning characters are the Seraphim. As it stands, the Seraphim have always been servants of the Creator, the entity that controls all world creation and governs all races. However, the Seraphim have secretly siphoned away a small portion of the Creator's power in order to make a world of their very own. On this new world, they create many races and leave each to pursue its own goals and ideals. It isn't long before the Creator discovers what the Seraphim have done, but rather than punish them, he delivers to them a challenge. His divine countenance will only shine upon this new world if the Seraphim can unite all races in peace and harmony. This will not be easy, though, as the ruling High Elves have begun to exploit their power of the lesser races, and the rumbles of war can be heard in the distance.
When starting out, players choose from one of six character classes (Dryad, High Elf, the Inquisitor, the Seraphim, Shadow Warrior or Temple Guardian), each with its own special attributes and abilities. In addition to selecting a class, players must determine if they will follow the path of Light or Shadow. The Seraphim and the Inquisitor are rooted in the roles of Light and Shadow, respectively, but all other characters are free to choose. Which path you take will determine which quests you receive and which allies you make, as well as how NPCs react when they see you. It's all fairly standard RPG fare at this point, but if it isn't broken, why mess with a successful formula?
Gameplay takes place in third-person view and is equally simple on both the PC and Xbox 360. All of the game's essential commands fit just fine on the 360 controller, and it's easy for anyone to jump right in and play. Actually, jumping in is a fitting term, as the game will feature drop-in, drop-out multiplayer available at any time. All it takes is a simple press of a button, and your buddies can join you on the quest. Even better, all of the rewards and experience you earn while playing co-op will be transferred back to your single-player game, so it will be beneficial in your single-player experience to join up with your buddies to tackle some of the nastier multiplayer dungeons in order to get that oh-so-precious loot.
Another cool feature Sacred 2 offers are the mounts, which go far beyond pretty horses. Each character class has its own unique mount that, when leveled up, allows you to unleash some pretty devastating attacks. We got to see the Shadow Warrior's mount in action (a sort of human/demon hybrid creature), and it was a definite force on the battlefield. If each of the mounts is this useful and fun, then it will add a whole layer of combat that is missing from most RPGs.
The world of Sacred 2 is vast and beautiful, and the developers tell us that if you scale it out, the map covers 22 square miles, and it is all one continuous realm with no separate load screen interruptions. They also claim that walking from the northwestern to southeastern points takes six hours, if you know where you're going and take the most direct route. It's hard to imagine who would spend six hours walking from one shore to another, but I can almost guarantee that if they attach an Achievement to it, then we'll all be hearing tons of point fiends moaning as they take their long slog from sea to shining sea.
At least the long walk will be pretty, as the title boasts beautiful landscapes and amazing effects. While the visuals on the 360 version still have a long way to go before they are ready, the PC demo was showcasing just what the game's engine can do, and it's pretty impressive. If the console version can show off half of what its PC brother can, then there won't be a dry eye in the house.
RPG fans are a picky lot, and many have grown tired of the stilted JRPG storylines and overly emotive and self-important heroes. The big question right now is if Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is willing to break with convention and offer something new and fresh. So far, it looks like all the pieces are in place for a fun and lengthy quest that will likely draw in fans of epic dungeon crawlers. You may want to just go ahead and block out the month of September because Sacred 2 is likely to steal away a whole lot of your time.
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