Review: Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (Console)

Sacred2.jpg First released late last year on PC, Ascaron’s action-RPG sequel Sacred 2: Fallen Angel has finally made its console debut on PS3 and Xbox 360. Considering the numerous delays and Ascaron’s financial troubles, fear and doubt began to set in (with me at least) over whether or not the console versions would live up to the quality of the PC game. Hell, I even began to wonder if the console versions would ever reach completion and actually land on store shelves.

But thankfully Ascaron managed to tidy up its Sacred 2 console project, and I’m pleased to report that the game survived the porting process largely unscathed and uncompromised.

As a by-the-books “Diablo clone” hack-n-slash action-RPG, Sacred 2 is an easy game to over-analyze, be it on console or PC. It is completely devoid of worthwhile narrative progression, for one. There are six character classes, two campaigns (light and shadow) to choose from and a vague back story setting the stage for your adventure, but once you’re in the game all storytelling is cast aside in favor of letting you explore the world at your own pace. This leads to hours, days and weeks of hacking through hordes of rats, spiders, boars, goblins, bandits and various other RPG enemy fodder, grinding through hundreds of basic fetch and hunt quests, and developing your hero (or villain) with tons of customizable equipment, attributes and special abilities.

To story-hungry RPG players, this game will likely bore you to tears. It’s really that simple. But this game wasn’t made for those who need a story to motivate their progress, it was made for gamers who just want to lose themselves in a vast fantasy world and feed their desire to hunt monsters, collect gobs of loot and develop a character without the game dictating where to go or how to play.

In this way, Sacred 2 is very much a hack-n-slasher on an MMORPG scale. It’s not massively multiplayer (though you can play online with a few fellow adventurers if you like), but the sheer size and scope of the game world and the freedom you are given to explore it however you choose does impart many of the same qualities that have made games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest so addictive to so many people. Only with Sacred 2 you don’t have to shell out monthly fees or put up with the occasional annoyances caused by other players!

To give you an idea of just how massive Sacred 2 is, here are some of my current stats. My Seraphim is level 31. I’ve killed over 4,000 creatures, amassed over 2 million experience points, earned nearly 2 million gold, and successfully completed over 130 quests. I’ve accomplished all of this in around 20 hours, and yet I’ve only explored 12% of the world and experienced 30% of the main campaign. Now that’s huge!

Now let me touch on some of the PC-to-console comparisons, particularly in regards to the game’s much-debated interface and polish. I won’t sit here and tell you that this game is as technically up to snuff as a game should be before it’s released or that it’s as graphically proficient as the PC version, but that doesn’t mean it’s unplayable in any way or looks ugly. Because it’s not and it doesn’t.

There are some annoying load times and frame drops to put up with during town exploration, and I have come across a few AI bugs where enemies literally stop attacking and stand in place oblivious to their surroundings, and NPC companions have become stuck the environment or charged off and gotten themselves killed. But in all honesty, most of these technical shortcomings are easily forgivable because, for one, they are fairly infrequent; two, they really aren’t that intrusive when they do occur; and three, the game just looks really damn good (and sounds great too, save for the laughable voice acting).

It’s also worth pointing out that the game’s online functionality is fantastic. Up to four players can meet up online and play through the campaign together, roam Ancaria in a free-play mode or battle one another in PvP. I haven’t played online nearly as much as I’ve played solo, but from what I have played the performance has been exactly the same in both venues. What’s also cool is that when you start up a campaign you can enable friends and/or random players to jump in and out of your game at any time, which is a fitting feature for this type of game.

As for the interface, I am still dumbfounded by how much it’s been criticized. Sure, it’s not as intuitive as playing the game with a mouse and keyboard on PC, but that’s really an irrelevant comparison. If you have a capable gaming rig, by all means go play the PC version. But for those of us who don’t have great gaming PCs and/or prefer console gaming, this game’s interface couldn’t be any easier to use.

The four face buttons serve as your action slots, and with the left and right triggers you can shift these slots, effectively granting you easy access to 12 hotkeys you can map out with any weapon sets, spells and special attacks you so desire (potion usage is mapped to the d-pad). Holding the right bumper brings up a radial menu pointing to your inventory, quest log, character stats and other important information, and then once you select a category you can scroll through the menus with the analog stick and cycle through the different menu categories with the shoulder buttons. The select button dials up the map interface. And even item looting has been streamlined to a single button press – simply tap the left bumper and all nearby item drops are automatically added to your inventory. How is any of this difficult?

The menu layout is fairly in-depth, so I can understand how it might be somewhat intimidating at first, but after a good 15-20 minutes you should have no problem figuring out where everything is. As far as I’m concerned the interface is perfect, and if you are in any way familiar with action-RPGs I really don’t see how it should cause you any headaches. My only beef is with the camera. It’s easy enough to rotate and zoom in/out with the right analog stick, but when you enter buildings or find yourself in tight quarters the camera often gets stuck in awkward viewing angles.

This style of pure hack-n-slash adventure is commonplace on the PC, but on consoles it’s a rare commodity, especially this generation. I honestly can’t think of any other game on PS3 or Xbox 360 that is like Sacred 2. Too Human on the 360 and Untold Legends on PS3 are sort of in the same ballpark, but even those fall well short of delivering the vast freedom and addictive qualities Sacred 2 has to offer. And that is one more important factor that I think needs to be stressed more than it has been. Sacred 2 fills an empty niche, and it does so while brilliantly tailoring the depth and scale of the PC game to the consoles.

As I said in my first impressions, Sacred 2 is pure gaming crack. PC, PS3, Xbox 360. It doesn’t matter what your platform of choice is, Sacred 2 is the cream of the action-RPG crop.

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Pros:
+ Good old fashioned hack-n-slash gameplay is supremely addictive
+ Massive, seemingly never-ending game world to explore
+ Intuitive interface
+ Satisfying character customization
+ Playing online with others is great fun

Cons:
– Camera can be a pain
– Nonexistent story
– Minor technical quirks

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360, also available on PC and PS3
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment
Release Date: 5/12/09
Genre: Action-RPG
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-4

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!