Fantasy conventions are hard to break. It's why, apart from one quirky mountain lion pun in Oblivion, we continue to slay rats in cellars. And it's why we'll forever be tasked with spying on clandestine gambling/skooma/necromancy rings for lazy town guards.
Hack-'n'-slasher Sacred 2 follows these recycled ideas rigorously. As a Diablo clone it's clumsy but functional. Think of the Xbox Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance games set in Cyrodiil and you'll know exactly what to expect: hours of equipment-juggling, loot-gathering, spell-casting fun in a world with more locations than you'll ever hope to see.
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Co-operative play is key, which is why the game always classes your status as online. Four player takedowns of the biggest bosses deliver where Too Human failed so ingloriously, and the following bartering-cum-arguing tip-toes towards a hint of that MMO everybody plays on their PC.
But Warcraft this isn't, and Sacred 2 has enough in its coding to warrant praise beyond comparisons with the games it desperately wants to be. Its biggest achievement is that the now-defunct developer Ascaron wasn't afraid to have fun. Collecting 13 wolf pelts and 25 troll hearts is nothing new, but stumbling across German metal band Blind Guardian - who supplied exclusive music for the game - and hunting down a band of roving, microphone-stealing skeletons... is. Most of all, tearing into a pack of ghouls with a scantily clad buxom babe atop a sabertooth tiger never grows old, does it? No. No, it doesn't. Not ever.
Shoddy port quibbles tar the package. Even when installed on a hard drive Sacred 2 has areas where cities load street-by-street, while some stat-crunching features are poorly explained for newbies. And the less said about the inability to pause or to load or possess multiple save files (the nasty side of its 'always online' ideology), the better.
In spite of these issues this manages to be another genre-topper (albeit of a quieter genre) in a month already packed with highlights. Swords, spells and isometric stabbing do it for you? Look no further. Hell, you even get to play as the bad guy!
A solid attempt to do Diablo without Too Human's annoying consolifications.
- Classic hack-'n'-slash action
- Hundreds of quests
- Needlessly obstinate features