We've gone years without a successor to Diablo II - perhaps the MMO-boom put a dampener on the need to wander through caves with swords of increasing girth, facing monsters of increasing size and fangs.
Whatever, in the run up to what will be the announcement of Diablo III, prime examples of hackage and slashage are oozing out of the fantastical woodwork and sitting obstinately on the horizon. Their names are legion, and some not a little rubbish, but chief among them in probable worth and certainly graphical goodness is Sacred 2: Fallen Angel.
"I'm not sure that action RPGs have ever really been away," counters Alan Wild of Ascaron. "There have been a number of releases over the years, and plenty of contenders have tried (and failed) to come close to reaching the rewards of a certain benchmark title for many years now..."
The accessible freeform nature of Sacred combined with a few lovably innovative character classes (Vampiresses, Gladiators and Seraphims rather than rogues, monks and assassins) made for a crazy, addictive and surprisingly successful formula.
BRINGING SEXY BACK
Now it's all coming back, but with that same drive for originality in tow - to the extent that only the sexy wings of the Seraphim will be making a return from the first game - ably assisted by a cast of five: Shadow Warrior, Inquisitor, High Elf, Dryad and Temple Guardian.
As your chosen warrior, you'll then stride across the map following quests, over scripted hill and through randomly generated dungeon in traditional style. Alongside your character's own background and motives, there'll also be the equivalent of a morality-driven swanee-whistle quavering in pitch backstage - if you do bad stuff then evil quests will open themselves up to you, and vice versa if you wear a permanent halo.
"Monsters will remain monsters, but the NPC cities will be anxious or even hostile towards the player," explains Ward on Ascaron's newfound BioWare stylings. "The shadow campaign will run parallel to the good campaign, but from a different perspective: protagonist and antagonist will be reversed."
Sacred 2 takes place a good couple of thousand years before its former incarnation's monster mash, and its story of elvish civil war is set around a typically obtuse concept known as T-energy - something that will undoubtedly show its power through pretty lighting effects.
With two-thirds of the play area open to you from its very start, and a play area you could sprint over in a good number of hours (presumably less when you get your character-specific mount to add some sparkle to your travel - Shadow Warriors get Hell Hounds for example), Sacred II: Fallen Angel wears sufficiently different shades of bloody red to its rivals bobbing on the horizon.
Big question is - will Diablo III appear in the meantime? Quite cruelly, we hope so - but fans of the swipe-n-slay adventure will certainly get a more than proficient outing in smitage come its release.