Monday, February 1, 2010

X360 look - Sacred 2

As I've stated several times before I love action-rpgs. If I had any sense at all I would be focusing on important games that'll change the future but instead I spend all of my time finding loot, killing legions of foes, and properly building characters. To me this is the "comfort" genre, my security blanket in a way. In fact part of the reason I started this blog was so I'd stop playing so many action-rpgs. Yet here I am talking about Sacred 2.

I never played the original game so I couldn't tell you what it's about. In fact I can't quite remember the story to this game either. There are seven character classes to choose from and most have selectable alignments(which doesn't do much aside from changing the story and some quests). Afterwards the player is plopped into this massive world and via over 300 quests, 20 or so bosses, and an infinite number of foes, items, and possibilities something or other will get accomplished.

Customization is a big part of Sacred 2 and putting together a good build is essential to survival. Aside from being able to decide on special attacks the player can also learn quite a few skills to augment particular stats or attain unique abilities. This extends to the equipment as various weapons and armor can be affixed with runes to further strengthen them as well as change their properties. Without a guide handy the player's first build will likely be a failure as some aspects aren't quite clear the first time around. There's not really a poor or useless skill but certain combinations are bound to be a failure.

As mentioned earlier this game is massive. Unfortunately it's probably too big for its own good. There is a lot of redundant content(expect to fight a number of the same bosses only recolored and on opposite sides of the world) and the hundreds of quests are mostly only good for experience. Some sort of direction would have helped out a lot here cause despite the changes in environment the game itself doesn't change much from "use skill X on groups of enemies and skill Y on major foes".

The combat is serviceable I guess. One of the problems I have with a lot of action-RPGs is that there isn't a whole that can be done about avoiding damage. Most of the time the player can only run up to an enemy and hack away. There's little in the way of defensive or evasive maneuvers and while spell-casters, archers, and other similar characters can attack enemies from afar it becomes something more akin to Smash TV or other arena shooters. Sacred 2 runs along this same idea and while at times larger enemies will telegraph their attacks to the point where the player can run away it doesn't mean much in the end. The biggest problem with boss fights is that the boss can replenish their HP at a rapid pace. There's really not a good reason for doing this. Not only does this lead to a lack of tactics aside from "bum-rush the boss and hope for the best" it can also render weaker character builds completely useless as they can't do enough damage to mean anything.

What absolutely smacks of lazy game design is the healing potion. This is a trademark of the action-rpg as it's a quick and easy way to heal. There's usually limitations involved like inventory space or some sort of gradual recovery to prevent the player from abusing it at every encounter. Sacred 2 doesn't have either of these limits. Therefore if the player can survive at least one hit from an enemy as long as they have the potions they're practically invincible. Thus there is little reason to attempt to learn the intricacies of the battle system to minimize damage. It's easier to gain a bunch of levels, spend skill points on raising armor and HP, then just drain potions while wailing on the bosses.

After a certain point the game becomes less of an action-RPG and more along the lines of Progress Quest. The only interactivity needed is to lead the player's character towards the next enemy and then use whatever attack until everything is dead. Afterwards pick up all of the loot, do some inventory management to sort it all out, and continue for a few hundred or so hours.

In the end customization is actually everything to this game and all of the other aspects will be a bit of a blur while the player spends more time sifting through menus and repeating certain areas in the hopes of finding unique set-pieces and god-like weapons. While a number of other action-RPGs are guilty of this same aspect most of them at least have some semblance of game design that forces the player to learn the game to get the most out of it. Sacred 2 is to me one of my greatest regrets. The many hours I spent with this game could at least been spent on a good action-RPG, one that rewards skillful play at least as much as character builds and equipment.

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