Release Date: November 11, 2008
To be a successful entry into the battleground that is the high-fantasy genre of RPGs, it takes a lot of effort in making your title stand out from the rest. Sacred 2: Fallen Angel makes strides to do just that, with colorful graphics that draw you in and gameplay that is close to the genre norm but with a few bells and whistles to spice things up. Building on the original in many ways, the title has a lot going for it, even in the early build that we got to experience.
The story of Sacred 2 takes place approximately 2,000 years before the events of the first game, chronicling the period of time after the fall of the Ancient Elves and the ensuing wars. The player fills the role of one the six playable classes, each with either the intent to restore balance to the world or plunge it completely into darkness and chaos. The classes that follow the Light are the Dryad, High Elves and Seraphim, while those that follow the Shadow are the Inquisitor, Shadow Warrior and Temple Guardian. Each class has its own nuances, such as being adept at melee combat, magic usage or other variables, and each plays markedly different from one another.
Combat in the game is real-time, with the left mouse button controlling the currently equipped weapon while the right casts the currently equipped spell. Enemies have certain weaknesses to exploit and strengths to avoid, and vice versa for your character, making combat a matter of thinking strategically just as much as it is clicking the attack button over and over again. Enemies in Sacred 2 can and will attack in large groups, and it's often up to the player to identify the high-priority targets, finish off weakened enemies, and keep an eye on his spell cooldowns if he wants to survive.
What this doesn't touch on is how fun combat can be. Releasing an arrow from the string of a longbow can drop an unsuspecting bandit from a good ways away, smashing in a kobold's face with a mace is a reward unto itself, and though the combat is characteristically repetitive, it doesn't really feel that way. When killed enemies drop their loot and enter a nice ragdoll effect, combat sometimes gets a visceral edge, as you can snag the loot while simultaneously marveling at how an enemy's body just flipped over the railing and off the bridge.
The variety of quests in Sacred 2 keep the player busy, which at times makes the game feel more like an open-world title than an RPG. Tons of entirely optional quests pepper the landscape, tasking the player with everything from slaughtering a number of enemies to rescuing prisoners or recovering stolen items. Though plot quests must be completed in order to advance the game, every one of those the player tackles will have been offset with 20 side-quests that you complete just for the heck of it — and the experience, money and the odd item, of course.
Although character creation in Sacred 2 doesn't allow for many options — the player can name the character and select the class — the default look doesn't stick around for very long. As soon as the items start rolling in, the player begins to take on a unique look. Item types in the game are numerous and bountiful, letting players tailor their armor set and weaponry to their character class and personal play style.
Leveling up in Sacred 2 is more or less the standard fare of increasing some of your stats, increasing the level of existing skills and learning new skills. For further customization, players can find items in their travels that instantly teach them new spells or strengthen existing ones. You may find yourself using a bow until you get a nice area-of-effect spell, switching to using that as an opener against a large group of enemies, and then dispatching the rest of their health with a long sword.
Graphically, Sacred 2 can be stunning. The aforementioned ragdoll physics are tastefully implemented and don't detract from the experience, but other aspects of the engine are more noteworthy. The title features a realistic day and night cycle that is gradual and slow, letting the game gradually change from the colorful palette of noon to the dark shadows cast by torches at night. Similarly, there is a weather system, and when lighting strikes during a heavy rainstorm, it briefly plunges the entire screen into a flash of light followed up by the crack of thunder. The use of color and lighting is a constant reminder that Sacred 2 really pushes the boundaries as to what is considered quality graphics for the genre, though not at the cost of detail or understanding what is happening on-screen.
The game's sound effects and music are equally impressive, with a wide variety used for both. Bashing in something's face with a mace sounds satisfying, though combat is generally mixed up with various clangs and cries of battle. Sacred 2 doesn't rely on repeating the exact same effect over and over, which is a godsend. Music in the game is tasteful and based on a variety of factors, and it never becomes overbearing, serving to accent the experience rather than drive it.
In short, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel has all of the staples of a classic role-playing game that implements decidedly modern ideas and effects. The preview build was missing a lot in the way of explanatory text, but it's still easy to look forward to what the final build may bring. The world is believable and well-rounded, the combat is engaging, and if the multiplayer pans out in the same manner, RPG fans will have a strong title to keep tabs on.
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