Sacred 2: Fallen Angel Preview
Platform: PC, Xbox 360
Official Site sacred2.com
Many worlds have been forged by a near-omnipotent Creator, but Ancaria is unique in that it was brought into existence without the Creator's knowledge or effort. The Creator was aided in his efforts by legions of seraphim until the seraphim stole a portion of the Creator's energy and used it to forge a world of their own – Ancaria. To punish the affront, the Creator banished all the seraphim to Ancaria. They were ordered to protect their own creation, with the Creator promising only to return when the seraphim managed to unite all of Ancaria's races in peace.
This was not to be, and the seraphim suffered their comeuppance. The High Elves, themselves a creation of the seraphim, seized upon the creative energy embedded in Ancaria and became the unquestioned rulers of the land. This led to a horrific civil war in which the high elves opposed seraphim. That war may have been resolved, splitting the elves and Ancaria's residents into many factions, but now a new war is on the horizon, and the tide of battle will depend upon the action of a few heroes. Or perhaps, individuals with darker intentions.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel takes place 2,000 years before the events of the action/role-playing game Sacred. Despite being set long before the original game, technology has come a long way in the last four years, so Sacred 2 brings the world of Ancaria into full 3D, rather than the 2D isometric view the original game used. And this sequel promises to have more of everything – more land, more enemies, more items and new characters.
Sacred 2 plans to offer two parallel storylines set in a colossal world. The playable area will include 22 square miles of land and about 100 dungeons – the kind of world that would take your character around six hours to stroll across. Ascaron promises that the entire world will load seamlessly (including the dungeons). And you won't have to walk. Unlockable teleporters and a selection of mounts will make it easier to traverse the continent rapidly.
Set in this huge world are two campaigns – the "light" and "shadow" campaigns. Each will host around 180 quests, and although some of the quests will be similar, that's because characters on the two campaigns get to approach them from opposite sides. For example, a hero pursuing the light campaign might be tasked with defending a village, while the disciple of the shadow path might have to destroy that village. Six characters are available in Sacred 2, and four can select either path, although two are inexorably linked to the light or shadow campaigns.
The seraphim, that same race that created Ancaria, must follow the path of light. The seraphim are female warriors capable of using their wings as weapons, and make up for their inability to use heavy weapons and armor with acrobatic combat and technological prowess.
Some seraphim pursue close combat skills (the Exalted Warrior path), using spinning attacks and somersaults, disarming enemies with a series of rapid attacks.
Other seraphim prefer the path of Celestial Magic. Celestial Mages can cast lightning bolts from their hands, pull down a pillar of light from the sky so intense that it kills entire groups, or call forth deadly fire that will sear all enemies that touch the flames. Seraphim can even follow the path of Revered Technology, allowing that winged warrior to convert conventional attacks to flaming attacks, to hurl shuriken, or explode into a nova of flames.
Humanity was once enslaved by the elves (who were, in turn, subservient to the seraphim). When elven lords needed additional troops, sometimes they would press humans into service. The most elite of these soldiers, thanks to their training and powerful elven magic, could be brought back from the dead as Shadow Warriors. These reanimated troops are the most deadly fighters available – not only can they used the heaviest of armor and weapons, they're already dead.
Shadow Warriors who follow the path of the Death Warrior focus on becoming as much of a tank as possible, emphasizing stamina and strength. Death Warriors gain the ability to swing a mighty, demonic blow, sweep all of the opponents in an arc before them to knock those enemies back or even perform a battle charge known as the "ruinous onslaught." The Malevolent Champion path focuses on flexible physical combat rather than mysticism. Those who follow that path can indulge in a rapid sequence of attacks, bash nearby enemies with their shields, or invoke a "battle surge" that gives the player the ability to make spectacular jumps. Lastly, Shadow Warriors of the Astral Lord aspect (who also have to learn other paths of the Shadow Warrior) command the spirits of the damned. Astral Lord-followers can briefly revive undead warriors to fight alongside them with swords or bows, and can even use a spectral hand to strike at enemies from a distance.
The high elves are those elves who fled from the south of Ancaria long ago. Adepts are female elves from the elven ruling families who are well versed in ancient elven magic. Such Adepts typically specialize in fire, storm magic or arcane spells that support combat. Arrant Pyromancers can hurl fireballs, call down a shower of meteors, or ignite objects on contact. Mystic Stormites take a more defensive stance, although they can still cause tremendous destruction. They can hurl splinters of ice, become invisible or summon a localized storm that will pepper foes with lightning. Finally, High Elf Adepts who pursue the aspect of Delphic Arcania can teleport to nearby locations, dispel hostile magic or enchant weapons.
Fewer details are available concerning the Dryad, Temple Guardian and Inquisitor (and there's no Vampiress this time around). The Shadow Warrior, Dryad, High Elf Adept and Temple Guardian can all choose to pursue either the light or shadow campaign paths, but the Inquisitor is committed to the shadow path. Moreover, all the classes have specialized attacks from horseback.
A variety of mounts are available, ranging from broken draught animals to majestic war horses. And each class will have its own unique mount. Seraphim ride a majestic tiger, while the Shadow Warrior can ride a Hellhound. The Hellhound is a gruesome beast summoned from the afterlife that lumbers like a gorilla with nasty, sharp claws and fangs. The Hellhound can perform horrific attacks or leap forward in a sort-of knuckle run that may be slower than a galloping horse, but is speedy compared to a brisk walk. Special mounts are designed to complement the abilities of their masters, such as increasing protection values or enhancing specific skills.
Ascaron has implemented a morale and leadership system among the game's monsters so that they behave as a more realistic group than a simple mob. For example, a group of kobolds might be accompanied by a mage as well as a kobold leader. If that leader gets killed, the morale of the others might fail, causing the band to run away until it can regroup and designate a new leader.
There are also battles with huge bosses. As part of the preview, I got to see a Shadow Warrior face off against a gigantic squid, aggressively posturing on the shore. While Ascaron wouldn't show off the squid's vulnerabilities, they promise that these battles will be more like classic console boss battles – bosses will have weaknesses and attack patterns that will need to be deciphered before players can achieve victory. Such battles won't be a matter of simply equipping the best weapons and pounding away at the boss-sized enemy.
Multiplayer action is a key part of the design of Sacred 2. Ascaron is planning a variety of multiplayer modes ranging from cooperative adventures to all-out player-vs.-player combat. The big selling point of Ascaron's plans is that multiplayer play will still build up your single-player character. When you leave a multiplayer game, you'll retain the items and experience that you gain, going back to your place in the single-player campaign. As in other action/role-playing games, players will be able to choose paths, skills and combos that might emphasize single-player play, co-operative play or multiplayer mayhem, and each configuration will act and look different.
Sacred 2 has been in development for the PC for longer than the Xbox 360 version, and will still look better on a bleeding-edge PC than on the Xbox 360. But the Xbox 360 version's current build is looking great, and Ascaron has made some accommodations for the differences in play between the PC and a console. For example, complex inventory management is difficult using a console controller, so Ascaron is making it so that a quick press of a button can automatically equip the most powerful items in all slots (such as the armor that offers the most physical protection.)
In multiplayer, the Xbox 360 will support two players on the same console (on one screen – no split-screen play for Sacred 2) or up to four players working together over Xbox Live. And while the PC and Xbox 360 versions won't interconnect, PC gamers will be able to play with an Xbox 360 controller. Whichever version you might choose, both should reach stores in September, and both should offer dozens of hours of questing and combat for each of the six character classes.