Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review: Sacred Gold (Steam edition)

This review is of the Steam PC version of the game, which includes the base game plus a full expansion for 9.99, which is a good price as well.

Though I didn't look, you could probably find a disc of the game even cheaper than that on Amazon or Ebay.

Short review: if you like Diablo II you will like Sacred.

Long version: Sacred is one of those post-Diablo II action RPGs that is almost impossible to talk about WITHOUT talking about Diablo II.

I am a big believer in a review being a chance for the game being reviewed to shine. Having read reviews of my books where the reviewer spends way more time talking about some other game, nothing annoys me more.

However, there will be times when mentioning that other game will be unavoidable, as there are things Sacred actually does better than Diablo II (in case it is not annoying self-evident, in my opinion).

Sacred is an action rpg where the player travels around an open world, taking quests, killing things, taking their stuff, selling the loot and doing it all over again.

The real allure here is the aforementioned loot. It changes how your character looks, there's a lot of fiddly bits to it, both in terms of raw damage/defense but also in terms of elemental damage inflicted, or elemental resistances.

The character selection is nice and exotic. In fact, it might be a bit TOO exotic for some players tastes, though there are a few more average archetypes mixed in as well.

There's the Gladiator, who wears heavy armor, dual wields weapons and in general does that fighter thing of getting up close and personal and dealing out damage to mobs of goblins.

There's the Dwarf, who wears heavy armor and blasts enemies with his hand cannon and explosives.

The daemon a fighter with some magic abilities of his demonic heritage.

Seraphim, a half angel (or fallen angel perhaps?) who uses her abilities to help mankind. Another mix of magic and combat abilities.
The wood elf, a master of the bow with some magic abilities mixed in.

The dark elf, a dual-wielding swordsman who can also lay traps for his enemies.

The battle mage, a master of the elemental magic.

And the vampiress, listed as a "vampire with a soul" for all you Angel and Buffy fans, who uses combat abilities both of weapons and of her vampiric heritage.

Each class has some unique abilities but also some abilities in common.

Special abilities are not rated with mana, which I kind of liked. You arent having to track two separate pools of points (mana and health). Instead, your special abilities have a "cool down".
There's a concentration abilitiy all the classes have to reduce this cool down for those who want to really focus on their special abilities rather than having to alternate between the occasional special and a series of normal attacks.

Items come in huge variety, with many items restricted to one class or another.

You also find skill bumps as items relatively frequently, adding a point to a special ability.

Items also have slots, which you can place objects into to make the item more powerful.

Here is one place where Sacred does something better than Diablo II. First, you aren't hunting gems JUST to put into items with slots. You can either visit a blacksmith and have him just enhance an item, increasing a weapon's damage or an armor's resistance even if you dont have an item to put in the slot.

But then most items you CAN put into a slotted weapon or armor can just be worn, either as rings or amulets. In Diablo II the best diamond in the world was nothing but dead weight without a sword or armor to put it in.

And my favorite touch, you can also have a Blacksmith take an item OUT of a slot, to transfer a valuable rare gem to a better weapon or armor.

Sacred also features mounted combat. There are stables where horses of various quality can be bought. While on horseback you get a bump to your HP and defenses.

You also get special abilities only usable on horseback, like the ability to ride an opponent down with your horse.
Finally, there's a mounted combat ability tree many of the combat-oriented classes have, giving you even more abilities while on horseback.

Most class abilities, however, will not work while mounted, meaning in areas with lots of opponents you will probably want to walk, unless you've invested heavily in mounted combat.

Conveniently, the monsters ignore your mount when you're not on it, and with a single button press you can unleash a whistle and your horse will speed to your side, usually arriving in just a few seconds.

So you can move on foot through a heavily populated area, whistle for your horse, and head back to town at a faster pace to sell your loot.

Maybe my most favorite thing about Sacred is that it's much more of an open world game than Diablo.
The entire world seems open to exploration from the start. You meet many NPCs who have minor side-quests as well. These quests are much smaller in scope than the sidequests in Diablo II or Titan Quest but there are a LOT more of them.

The side quests are also kind of nice in that they're not "save the world" type missions. One involves a fisherman asking you to escort his favorite bait-dealer to town so he can catch more fish, for example.

In the end, Sacred is a great game from 2004. It wont appeal to everyone, as there are folks who just dont like action RPGs. But if you are the slightest bit likely to view such a game favorably, Sacred is for you and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I'm a big fan of Steam.

For those who have never used the service, Steam is the PC game equivalent of Itunes.

Instead of schlepping to the corner gamestop, or even buying from Amazon in the comfort of your home then waiting a few days for your game to arrive, you pick a game, pay for it, then download it.

With my DSL connection, this still takes a few hours for many games but its still the fastest way to get a game.

Probably the biggest benefit of Steam over other download services for games is that games are tied to your account, not your PC. This means when you get a new PC, or if you want to play a game on your laptop and your home desktop, you simply download the game to the new machine and continue playing.

Your saved games are local, but most games seem to allow you to download them to multiple PCs.

I've used gamestop's game download service and Direct2Drive and neither of them have this feature. Popcap games also go away when you get a new machine.

Steam has both made me aware of games I'd never have heard of otherwise but also put me onto some really cheap games. I've been playing a ton of Port Royale 2 lately, which is a very Sid Meier's Pirates-like strategy game of buying and selling that I got for 4.99.

I also got Dark Messiah of Might and Magic which is sort of a first-person action RPG. The game isn't great but again, it cost me 4.99 so I feel I've gotten my money's worth and more from it.

Lastly, I've gotten Sacred, a Diablo-like game that does a lot of things really well. I think its probably better than Titan Quest, a Diablo-like I also thought was well done. This one was "pricey", meaning I got the Gold edition (the original Sacred plus its expansion) for a whole 9.99.

Now don't let my cheap-ness let you believe that Steam is just for older games or indie games that don't charge a lot. I also downloaded Fallout 3 from Steam, which ran me the full 49.99, meaning I probably paid more for it on Steam than I would have on Amazon. Still, I bought it and was playing it that night, which is a huge plus.