Bring some friends and bring on the violence! Sacred 3 drops the hammer with multiplayer hack and slash action that’ll have you brawling alongside your buds for hours to come… so long as action is your one (and only) reward.
While most fantasy games are content to take themselves seriously, Sacred 3 takes the tongue-in-cheek approach, offering a serviceable story filled with lighthearted characters. Your heroes all crack wise as they crack heads, and even the bad guys chime in frequently with goofy little quips, helping elevate Sacred 3's brawling above its contemporaries. The humor does, however, wear thin at times, especially when you’re hearing the same quip you’ve already heard a dozen times before.
As one of a handful of chosen heroes, you (and up to three friends), will smash in the faces of evildoers throughout the land, liberating peoples, casting spells, and getting that sweet, sweet gold. When Sacred 3 is at its best you'll be surrounded by foes, mastering the strengths and weaknesses of each of your characters to cut down the opposition as they pour from every crack and corner. Certain foes require you to break their shields or interrupt the powerful spells they're casting, helping add some variety to the rhythm of the action, and the huge bosses all have unique mechanics to them, ensuring that each level goes out with a bang. Few games manage to have the kind of unbridled fun to them as what you'll find when you and your friends are slashing your way through Sacred 3's villainous hordes. At the end of each level, you and your allies' scores are compared, and whoever killed/looted/showed off the most gets crowned champion. As the game's tagline says, "Victory is ours. Glory is mine," a sentiment which adds a fun bit of elbow-bumping competitiveness to this cooperative affair.
Unfortunately, it's not all perfect in the world of Sacred 3. While the combat is a blast, the non-combat portions of certain levels can really drag, requiring you to dodge far more traps and obstacles than are fun. Playing through the game solo is doable, but significantly less enjoyable than with friends. And while there are some loot and character customization, there's not quite enough of either. New weapons and magical spirits are rewarding when you find them, but there aren't very many, so you'll go long stretches without getting any worthwhile loot. Similarly, each character has several abilities you can choose from, and while each one has a branching upgrade path, there aren't quite enough abilities or upgrade options for things to feel really customizable. The customization and loot are still rewarding, to be sure, but if there were more abilities/equipment (and more ways to customize them), it would have lead to a far more rewarding experience. Lastly, even though the brawling is fun, things do start to wear thin after a while— there’s just no enough variety to the levels.
The many sights and sounds of Sacred 3 are all top-notch; the crash of an exploding barrel, the boom of a thunderous spell, and the dying gurgle of a marauding goblin all ring out with excitement. The numerous locales are visually distinctive, and despite the constant downpour of enemies raining on you, the character designs are so well done it's easy to tell where you are and which enemies are which. Also, though the quips can occasionally grow tiresome, Sacred 3's cast of talented voice actors do a fine job of keeping the frequent chatter pleasurable to listen to... for the most part. You'll still probably want to shush them once in a while.
Despite a few quibbles, Sacred 3’s action flows freely (even if the treasure doesn’t). If you're a fan of the previous, more Diablo-like entries in the Sacred series you might be disappointed with some of this sequel’s retooling. But if you're hungry for a game to play alongside a few friends, one where you can relax, laugh, and bust some bad guys, and don’t mind a bit of repetition without much loot to show for it, Sacred 3 makes for a passable, if flawed, meal.
This review is based on a purchased download of Sacred 3 for the PC.