Sacred 2: Fallen Angel Review
I've had my eye on this game for quite some time now, but not for the reasons we gamers usually put stuff on our watch lists. I never played the original Sacred and to be honest, I'm not even sure it exists. I haven't been starved for an action RPG on the Xbox 360. Perhaps worst of all, though, is that if I weren't following this game's progress, I might not even be sure whether it was out, delayed or canceled. So why would I be so hotly anticipating a game that wouldn't otherwise thrill me? Two words: Blind Guardian. No, I don't mean the "What is your favorite color?" bridge guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Blind Guardian is a German power metal band and one of my all-time favorites. I even got a chance to interview them and sit backstage during their show a couple of years ago. So, what does amazing German metal have to do with a hack 'n slash role-playing console game? Well, Blind Guardian was directly involved with crafting Sacred 2's soundtrack, and even recorded a brand new song just for this game. That alone made this game a necessity in my household, and I was surprised to find a fairly fun, though almost too simple, top-down action RPG on the disc… I mean in addition to the expectedly awesome Blind Guardian stuff, that is.
Normally I try to leave the nitpicky nonsense out of my reviews, but as I was plowing through the game, this little tidbit never left my mind: When you start up Sacred 2 for the first time, there is no title screen, no intro, no nothing… just a direct skip to the "create a character" menu. Once you've chosen your avatar from the less-than-exhaustive range of selections (more on this in a minute), you get your title screen, your FMV intro… all the stuff we've come to expect from games such as these. It's all nicely done and sets up the action well, but putting the character select at the very front makes the $60+ game feel like a rushed demo, rather than an AAA RPG experience. I have to stress that this is NOT a comment on the game itself; it is just an aesthetic choice that didn't really work for me personally. But if you weren't interested in my opinion, you wouldn't be reading this, right?
Ok, let's get to the game itself now. Sacred 2: Fallen Angel tells the story of generic fantasy plot #741 through a handful of barely customizable character classes. The plot hits all the high points of the cliché-driven RPG genre; gods, angels, elves, robots (kinda,) swords and sorcery… you've seen this all before. Thankfully, past the first handful of hours you'll spend playing, the story retreats a bit in favor of micromanaging smaller story-based and/or optional quests. By the time you finish this game, you'll have been told a story you've heard before, but that certainly won't be what this game is remembered for.
The game's graphics are nothing special either. Your character, your enemies, the environments, the bosses, the cut scenes… all are more or less passable by today's visual standards, but don't expect to be blown away. Like most other top-down action RPG hack 'n slash titles, the camera will follow your character as you fight your way across the land, but a quick zoom shows that the characters in-game are less than spectacularly detailed. Even worse, Sacred 2 has more screen tearing than any other game in my recent memory (if you aren't familiar with "screen tearing," Google it and come back… I'll wait). Astonishingly, though, is the fact that even during the largest battles, Sacred 2 never once falls victim to framerate skips or slowdowns. Considering the size and scope of some of the game's larger battles (which are even larger during co-op or online play), the avoidance of those two pitfalls is a commendable feat.
We've finally gotten to the most important question you should have: "How does the game play?" I'm happy to report it plays pretty damn well, even if there isn't any groundbreaking stuff going on here. Sacred 2 plays like so many dungeon crawling games before it – X-Men: Legends. Champions of Norrath, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Untold Legends, etc., etc., etc. If you aren't familiar with those titles, you'll spend most of the game fighting endless waves of enemies as you explore the land, collect items, weapons and armor and complete quests to build your character into an unstoppable force and champion for either good or evil. And while the good/evil temperament choice is probably one of the most simplistic uses of the concept in quite a while, it still adds another dimension to how things will go down.
I mentioned earlier that the character customization is pretty weak, but the ability to map up to four weapons AND four spells onto an easy-to-use d-pad quick select more than makes up for it. When you're firing off spells and switching effortlessly between melee weapons, you'll probably forget the only thing you were allowed to fiddle with while building your character was hairstyle and hair color (no, I'm not kidding… no skin tone, no clothing swaps, not even a choice on your character's gender… shameful, really). I suppose you have to give a little to get a little, but no choice on gender?! That is giving up way too much.