Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sacred Gold


Genre: RPG (Action, 'Click Fest/Diablo Clone')
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment
Publisher: Strategy First
Released: 2005

Zolgar paid: $9.99
Beaten: No, ~30-50% of game
Zolgar's rating: 7/10
Replayability: Moderate to High

Sacred Gold is another one in my never ending quest for another epic time sink of an Action RPG. It ranks pretty high for me, too. In fact I would say it is in my top-5 all time Action RPGs (In no particular order: Diablo 2, Titan Quest, Sacred Gold, Sacred 2 and, Torchlight, all for different reasons). Sacred Gold is on that list because it's a good hybridization between a "real" RPG (like Fallout or Arcanum) and an "action" RPG (like Diablo or Loki).

Sacred Gold is a combination of:
  • Sacred
  • Sacred Plus
  • Sacred: Underworld
All rolled in to one nice neat package. Sacred was, of course, the original game, Sacred Plus was a free add on which added a small amount of content to the game (these days it would be a $5-$10 DLC), and Sacred Underworld was the requisite expansion that added another campaign, 2 new classes and a few fun shinies, and a lot of side quests.

Now unlike almost every other expansion out there, Underworld didn't add more endgame content, but adds a new mid-level+ campaign, that I've honestly never played (despite having this game for several years and logging far too many hours in it), so bear that in mind with this review.

There is one thing Sacred does extremely well, that few other RPGs of it's sort can even try to boast: Open World, and I do mean open. There are a few places you will find, early on, where they won't let you go there until you've furthered the story, but they are few and far between (according to one source, approximately 70% of the world is accessible at level 1). This makes it very easy to forget about the main quest as you're sauntering around the world, killing things and taking their stuff.

I will be honest here, it is actually too easy to forget about the main quest and get distracted by "ooh someplace to explore, things to kill, ph47 13w7z." (Fat Loot, for those of you who don't speak 1337), especially because the story is not put forth the way it usually is in video games of this sort. Normally a game of this sort is "I'm a Big Damn Hero, and I'm going to destroy the evil!" Sacred though, treats you more like a normal RPG of the era. "I'm a nobody who got roped in to this and proved to excel in combat so I get trusted with more important missions and eventually save the world."

The main storyline of Sacred is:
A great Sakkara demon was conjured into existence by the necromancer Shaddar. The conjuring went wrong, and the Sakkara demon is now loose in the world of Ancaria. The heroes must find the five elements of Ancaria (wind, fire, earth, water, void) and use them to defeat the monster. Each hero has different objectives along the way, but eventually, they all lead up to this one final quest.

But, I didn't even know that until I read the Wikipedia article. Seriously, despite all the hours I've put in to the game, I didn't know the 'goal'. What I knew was more like:
Some mage botched a demon summoning spell (in a cinematic reminiscent of the one from Diablo: Hellfire), which seems to have nothing to do with the fact that there's war in Ancaria and the Hero gets roped in to aiding the King for one reason or another (which depends on your character of choice). It's probably going to end up with me killing the demon.

Of course, there are also side quests. In total there are over 300 quests in Sacred. That's a lot of pointless distractions. These are the typical RPG quests of "Kill 15 Orcs"" or "My sheep ran away, find it for me" or "bring me my Dingerwhipple". Side quests award Gold, runes, XP, Items.. they're well worth doing, and also very distracting.

Between quests and for quests, and probably just because, you will be killing things. Lots of things. Combat is simple, click/hold foe until it's dead. Right click to use special ability to make things dead faster. If you kill enough things in one 'zone', without leaving the zone (or game), a special zone boss will spawn. Unfortunately 'enough' is between 5000 and 8000 depending on the zone (you can tell by hitting Tab look at your map), and I'm a little too ADD to do th- Ooh shiny!

On combat, I've heard many people say "Kiting is king", I.. don't agree. Even on horseback, I found Kiting to be slow and ineffective, especially when compared to a melee fighter who can travel long distances quickly. My preferred method of mass slaughter is herd and AoE. Although I'll admit for some fights (like Dragons) kiting could be useful if you don't have a powerhouse build.

A quick side note: Some foes actually feel down right epic. There are giant spiders that are considerably larger than your horse (which is done to a good scale), and Dragons! Dragons are few and far between, but when you fight them.. you know it! Dragons are massive, destructive powerhouses. Though if you learn their pattern you can melee them with ease.

For it's era, Sacred had a lot of nice little 'convenience' features over it's competitors. Such as 'click and hold', instead of 'click click click click' for attacking. Horses for quicker travel (and combat.. sorta). A 'collect all' button, that will have you walk around the screen and grab everything on the ground. Level-Scaling foes (which ties very nicely to the open world).

It also offers 8 character classes, a number which I believe is only beaten by Titan Quest (45 classes), and these aren't your generic classes either, while some definitely have the flair of "warrior" or "mage" or "paladin", they all have their own unique twists and styles.
  • BattleMage, Male: This one is pretty straight forward, a mix of melee and magic. Two main playstyles exist for him, using magic to buff, killing with weapons, or explodinate enemies with copious amounts of spells. The BattleMage has a total of 20 Combat Arts, dispersed in 5 'pools': Earth, Fire, Air, Water and, Life. If those aren't self explanatory to you, please stop playing video games.
  • Deamon, Female: One of the two classes with Underworld, the Deamon is an interesting, and fun, class. She is a hybrid melee fighter/spell caster, whose spells tend to focus on fire damage and general mayhem. The Deamon has a total of 12 Combat Arts, broken in to 2 'pools': Transformations and Hell Magic. Hell Magic is your run of the mill attack spells, while Transformations each put the Deamon in a special form which provides resistances and a special attack.
  • Dark Elf, Male: "Assassin" suits the Dark Elf best, he is a mixture of fast melee combat, poison, and battlefield control. He's a bit squishy, but he makes up for this with speed and the ability to stop foes from hitting him. The Dark Elf has 16 combat arts, broken down in to 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Traps. Traps are battlefield control, mostly, providing such things as AoE stuns, blinds, etc. While Combat Arts are a series of weapon attacks and defenses.
  • Dwarf, Male: The other class from Underworld, the Dwarf is another odd one. He's a mix of melee and ranged combat, with a side order of crafting, trading and item-hounding. They're also the only class that can use guns, and can't ride a horse. Dwarves have a total of 15 Combat arts from 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Dwarven Technologies. Dwarven Technologies is a mixed bag of tricks, land mines, item finding, flame thrower.. too much to try and put in to a few words. Combat Arts are once again defenses and weapon attacks.
  • Gladiator, Male: The 'warrior' or 'barbarian' of the lot. Touch as nails and hits like a Mack truck. Give him heavy armor, a big weapon, and a few health potions and watch him go. The Gladiator has 11 Combat Arts, all of which are focused around one simple thing: Kill. He has exactly 2 Combat Arts that cause no damage, one that's an AoE knockback, and one that's a self buff.
  • Seraphim, Female: "Paladin" or some other sort of holy warrior comes to mind with the Seraphim. Much like the Deamon, she is a mixture of spell casting and melee abilities, though her playstyle is quite different. The Seraphim has 17 Combat Arts, coming from 2 'pools': Her pools are not named so I will call them 'Combat Arts' and 'Celestial Magic'. Celestial Magic is a mixture of Holy attack spells, and defensive spells. While Combat Arts, I'm sure you've figured that out by now.
  • Vampire, Female: Thank the FSM, she doesn't sparkle. Possibly the most unique class in Sacred. She is a dual-form melee fighter/summoner. She has a Human form, in which she's a Knight, competent in melee combat and fairly durable, and a Vampire form, where she becomes a melee powerhouse, stronger, faster, and progressively dealing more and more damage, of course, she also takes damage if she is in the sun. She has a total of 16 Combat Arts, in 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Vampire Arts. Vampires arts provide a mixture of summons, specialized attacks and Control effects. Combat arts.. Yeah, you know the drill.
  • Wood Elf, Female: A Ranger with a side order of Druid. A very squishy character, but the best at fighting at range, she specializes in bows, and only uses melee combat if she is desperate. Extremely weak initially, later in the game she gets some wicked capabilities. She has 16 combat Arts, broken in to 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Magic. Her Magic is a very mixed bag, a self heal, a summon, battlefield control, buffs, makes for a very versatile character, when you learn to use it all. Meanwhile, her Combat Arts actually warrant a comment: Most of her Combat Arts are bow-only, creating extra damage through special arrow types, one of which summons spiders when it hits. Seriously.

In order to progress your Combat Arts, you need to find Runes, these work in a similar fashion to the Spell Books of Diablo (oldschool reference), you 'use' them, and increase the listed combat art by one, making it do more damage (or whatever it does), but as a trade off, it takes longer to regenerate.

You can also create Combos, which allow you to activate multiple Combat Arts with one click, however, this often leads to a greatly increased regeneration time, and has a few annoying quirks. I've personally never been very fond of the combo system in Sacred. (Now the combo system in Sacred 2... well that's for another review.)

In Sacred 'Mana' doesn't exist, all combat Arts have a set Recharge time, which is often ties to other Combat Arts recharges, too.

Each character also has an assortment of Skills, such as Weapon Lore, Armor Use, Dual Wielding, etc. These skills are chosen by the player as they level up, alter the characters capabilities by doing things such as decreasing recharge time, increasing defense and resist, increasing damage, etc. Of course, there are also your stats, as well, which obviously do things like increase your max Hit Points, increase your damage, decrease poison effects on you, etc.

These factors mean that the odds of two players creating identical characters (unless they're using a guide) is pretty slim. Even 2 Dual Wielding, Battle Deamon focused Deamons, are likely to end up very different based on the desires of the player in question.

Then, of course, we cannot forget the gear. Gear is why most of us play these games. Kill, get gear to kill more to get better gear to kill more to get better gear... you get the idea. Sacred offers the gear hounds plenty of treats, like many of it's competitors you can tell the 'quality' of a gear by it's color:
  • White: Normal.
  • Blue: Magic, common.
  • Yellow: Magic, rare.
  • Gold: Magic, unique.
  • Green: Magic, set.
I will, once again, assume you've never played a game like this.
Normal items are, just that, normal. At low levels, these are what you're mostly using, a blue drop is a good drop!
Common magic items will become your staple pretty fast though, these only offer a few attributes, but they're still better than normal ones.
Rare items will become your staple mid-late game, providing a good number of benefits, ironically, Rare items are actually more unique than Uniques, and often surpass them.
Uniques would be better listed as 'Named' items, these are items which have a 'lore' to them, if you will. Or atleast look like they should. Often Uniques have many, powerful attributes on them.
Set items are, as it sounds, items which are part of a set. On their own they flucuate between Common and Unique in power, usually hovering in the Rare range, but as more items from the set are equipped, you gain more benefits, making them often the most powerful pieces of gear in the game. Set and Uniques will only become your staple after many hours of gameplay, and several playthroughs.

Really though, that's not enough, because the items also have sockets in them, the number and quality of the sockets is randomly determined, and allows you to vastly improve your gear by dropping things like Runes, Rings, and other items in them. This leads to it often being the case that an item with weaker stats, but more sockets is actually the better item.

Unfortunately, in a game where many of the items dropped cannot be used, there is no means to transfer items between characters. There is only one way to do it, and that requires starting a new game, which is obviously exceptionally vexing if you're playing multiple characters side by side.

Lastly, like other games of it's ilk, there's a system of "beat the game, start over in a tougher difficulty." Unlike most, there are 5 settings however:
  • Bronze, 'easy'.
  • Silver, 'normal'
  • Gold, 'difficult'
  • Platinum, 'hard'
  • Niobium, 'insane'

Bronze and Silver are both unlocked at the start. Beating Silver unlocks Gold, and so on from there.
Each progressive difficulty level, of course, the enemies get harder, but also the drops and XP get better. If you have far more patience than most human beings, you can reach level 216.

A word on the Bronze/Silver thing:
The difficulty level between Bronze and Silver is a little irritating. Bronze is stupidly easy to the point it's boring. Yet Silver is a bitch to start out in for most classes.

Many say that you should take Bronze to 20ish before venturing in to Silver, I could see that, maybe.. except for the fact that leveling in Bronze is annoyingly slow, and the foes are no challenge at all. Personally, I suck it up and deal with the early problems of Silver, or at most hit level 10 in Bronze.

I almost forgot, Multiplayer! Sacred Gold does support Multiplayer, when it was released it had a system much akin to Blizzard's Battle.Net, however this is no longer around. The only options for multiplayer now via LAN (real or virtual).







TL:DR
"A reviewer once called this 'Diablo for masochists', I say it's 'Diablo for real RPG players'..... wait, same difference."


Availability and price:
Amazon (digital): $9.99 ($4.99 at the time of writing.)
Amazon (physical): ~$8.00

2 comments:

  1. Very good and comprehensive review. A lot of help. I'm lvl. 11 Seraphim and with Rotating blades of light and Celestial Light both acquired I was wondering whether to keep going on Bronze or whether to try out silver. You've just answered my question! Silver it is then!

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    Replies
    1. I saw an email saying I had a post and I assumed it was spam.
      I'm glad to see my many ages old post has helped someone! :)

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