8_1Derivative is sort of a nasty word. Technically speaking, it doesn’t really mean anything bad. There are very few original ideas as far as hack and slash games go, making almost everything derived from something, if you go back far enough. The problems kick in when your experience with something you were counting on to be new is so similar to a past experience that it serves to detract from your ability to enjoy it. Whether this is true of Sacred is hard to say for sure, but it definitely feels that way at times.

Sacred is an action role-playing game, heavy on the action, played from an overhead isometric perspective. Your character, from which you have a choice of six stalwart adventurers, begins the game having just experienced a prophetic nightmare and wakes with the knowledge that he or she must strike out to save the world from a great evil—a moment of epiphany condensed for your convenience into a short movie and a single paragraph of text. This is approximately the time when you start running around killing things, hack-and-slash style, which you will continue doing until you complete the game or cease playing.

The basic mechanics in Sacred are easy. You click someplace, you move there. The world is quite large, and there’s a lot to explore. You click on someone, you talk to them. There are a lot of quests to get from NPCs, though they usually aren’t very complicated or particularly satisfying. You click on a monster, you kill it. Killing monsters nets you experience for gaining levels and loot for using or selling. Each character has a number of special abilities which you find throughout the game, as well as attributes and skill, which you can raise as you gain levels. It’s the typical hallmark formula of every action role-playing game since Diablo II.

11_1The characters have names which might initially trick you into thinking they’re different, but really they aren’t. The gladiator is your typical melee fighter, the wood elf is your typical ranged fighter, and the battlemage is your typical spell caster. The dark elf and seraphim are slightly harder to categorize, but they’re more or less an assassin and paladin. The last character, the vampiress, receives honorable mention for being different. She can control her ability to transform from a melee fighting knight into a bloodsucking vamp with an array of vampy powers.

It’s almost as if the makers of Sacred tried to create a game that wasn’t bad as opposed to setting out to build one that was really good. It’s all very safe and comfortable, and ultimately very bland. It isn’t bad, particularly with the inclusion of the ability to play through the game’s full story cooperatively in multiplayer. There are also plotless multiplayer options, in both co-op and competitive flavors, and they’re likewise okay. The controls aren’t that responsive, and the lack of an option for configuring the controls is annoying.

It may be somewhat unfair to get on a game for being derivative at this point. There have been many great games that have been very similar to others that have come before. But those put a new spin on an old idea, or just plain nailed a genre to the point where you have no choice but to stand back and say, “Wow.†Sacred doesn’t do any of that, nor does it even seem to try.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, Win98

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