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Sacred PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by Ascaron
Developed by Ascaron
Distributed by KOCH Media

Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99

Now here's a turn up for the books. Ascaron who have for years given us great strategy games, such as the Patrician series, have turned their hands to creating a fantasy, combat heavy RPG. It's not often that a developer who is renowned for creating games of a certain genre can turn their hands to a completely different genre and pull it off with such aplomb, yet that is exactly what Ascaron have done and Sacred is yet another game that only serves to enhance their already impressive catalogue of games. Let's take a further look at their latest title.

The game begins with the evil Black Magician, Shaddar, summoning a Sakkara demon. These demons are said to be masters over the undead. It is also held that they are the offspring of that devilish brood whom the Seraphim drove out of Ancaria. The summoning didn't go according to plan though and the Sakkara demon instantly turned on Shaddar and then escapes. Now with a Sakkara demon on the loose the evil Sakkara cult seems to be active once more and many bandits and mercenaries are already making their way to Ancaria. King Aarnum's kingdom is under threat and a hero is needed to come forth.

Sacred gives you a choice of six characters. Male characters include the Gladiator, Dark Elf, and the Battle Mage whilst the female characters include a Vampiress, a Wood Elf and a Seraphim. The characters are predefined and you won't be able to create a custom character. You'll simply choose a character, name them and then it's off to start the game. Of course how you develop the character is completely up to you. The location you'll start at is determined by the character you choose. The Wood Elf and the Dark Elf begin the game paired up, so whoever you choose out of these two you'll end up in the same location. Speaking of pairing up it's possible to have companions who will help you along the way. Some will only remain with you until you have completed a quest whilst others will stay with you for longer.

I suppose comparisons with the Diablo series are inevitable and yes there are similarities between the two games and yes if you enjoyed Diablo it's a safe bet to say you'll enjoy Sacred. I was impressed by the games interface which allows you to change weapons and use items very effectively. Normal attacks are performed with the left mouse button whilst magic and combo attacks are performed with the right button. The game has a whopping 200 side quests and over 70% of the game world is unlocked when you begin so you're free to explore most of it from the very beginning of the game. You can even purchase a horse to make journeying a quicker experience. Each character has their own skills, special combat arts and special moves, which are earned during the course of the game and offer plenty of tactical choices during combat.

Once you're finished with the single player game you can export your characters and take them online, or play over a LAN in a variety of game play modes. You can choose to play the campaign co-operatively if you wish and thankfully progress can be saved and resumed at a later date (this feature alone makes it worthwhile) you can also play a Hack 'n' Slash game for up to 16 players which begins on a special island. Player vs. Player (PvP) is similar to Hack 'n' Slash except you can battle alone or in teams. Multiplayer gaming is what made Diablo such a special title and based on what Sacred has in this department, it's fair to say that it should be tremendously popular too.

Sacred uses 3D characters on top of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and it's a solution that works well. The pre-rendered backgrounds are all of a high quality and compliment the 3D characters. The game has various dynamic weather effects and a day and night cycle too. The camera is fixed and you permanently have an isometric view of the game which doesn't really cause any problems. The game is played at a screen resolution of 1024x768 and whilst this is ideal for most, those with a TFT screen of 17" and above will be disappointed as the picture quality will be degraded because they will be unable to play in a non-native resolution. Still compared with Diablo 2 which could only be run in a resolution of 800x600 (640x480 without the expansion installed) it does represent a good improvement. You can zoom in and out if you want to. Zooming in usually results in a pixelated look on the terrain but to be honest I didn't find any need to zoom in. Zooming out however can be useful to get an idea of whether or not there are any enemies near by.

There are no real problems for deaf gamers with Sacred but that's not to say that it couldn't be better. When choosing your character they will give a little description of themselves and this small amount of speech is not shown in text, although other text is on display it's not the same as what is spoken. Tutorial messages are shown exclusively in text so there's no problems there. All important dialogue is shown in text too. Comments that your character makes, or NPC comments, such as taunts etc. are not shown in text which is a little disappointing. If you try to equip an inappropriate item in your inventory your character will remark on the fact that it's useless and these remarks are also not subtitled. You do have a log book and all quests you receive are recorded here and can be checked at any time. The game makes a good use of icons and it's clear which characters will want to talk to you or offer services etc. because they will have an icon over their head. The game manual is worthy of a mention because it's comprehensive and informs you of all you need to know to get into the game. You also get a pull out map of Ancaria.

Fans of combat heavy, hack 'n' slash, RPG's will really enjoy Sacred. As you would expect the game play experience depends on the nature of the character you choose but regardless of whether you go for the muscle of the Gladiator or prefer the more subtle approach of a Seraphim there's plenty to enjoy here. Of course with so many different characters on offer high replay value is assured and it will take you months to complete the game with all the characters on offer. In my opinion it equals Diablo 2 in terms of the game play and there only a few elements of the game where text provision could have been improved to make the game more accessible to deaf gamers. Ascaron have traditionally been known for their excellent strategy game titles but Sacred shows they are capable of doing many other different games just as well.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
Sacred is a very enjoyable combat heavy RPG that will appeal to fans of games such as Diablo and Divine Divinity. Replay value is excellent and once you're finished with the single player game you can export your character to take them online or play over a LAN in one of three game play modes.

Deaf Gamers comment:
There are a few omissions but generally speaking there is nothing to stop you from enjoying the game.