At RPG Site we make a point of sticking with franchises within reason even when they meander outside RPG territory, and that's the case for Sacred 3, the latest entry in the series that'd previously borrowed elements heavily from the Diablo and Dungeon Sieges of the world. Now, however, it finds itself instead in the form of a hack-and-slash focused title, with RPG elements pushed to the background in favor of more action-based combat.
A free-roaming world of sorts is swapped for a mostly linear design, and ogling statistics to build out a character that suits you is traded instead for ploughing through legions of enemies with button combinations. With that said, there are still elements here that are likely to keep fans of the original Sacred formula interested.
One thing RPG fans will still find familiar are the base characters, which come in four different flavors (with additional available via pre-order bonus and the like), each of which fits a basic RPG archetype. Available out of the box is a brawling Warrior, a ranged Archer, a more considered Lancer and a Seraphim, an angelic class that is most comparable to a Paladin.
Each of the classes comes with their own unique set of moves, but with the transition towards more action-focused combat, some of what actually made the classes feel different is admittedly lost.
After some control-based difficulties and disappointments in Sacred 2, this system does hold one major advantage: controls this simple are easy to understand and use - and that's a winner in its own way.
We at RPG Site aren't snobs about RPG elements. We push the boundaries further than some readers would like with our coverage of things like adventure games or the Zelda series, but Sacred 3 forces us to admit that it is possible to go too far in jettisoning the RPG. The nuances of a class system are partially lost thanks to Sacred's new design, but worse than that is a dearth of loot.
The joy of picking up and seeing what you've got, and how you can use it - that's gone. Instead you're left picking up cold and simple power-ups, while your armor changes automatically as you progress.
With a linear structure comes a more basic level and mission structure, with the game having around fifteen full-size story based missions and a slightly larger number of side-quest missions. The stages are largely a simple A to B affair with occasional branches and quirks in the path to lead to a hidden chest that might contain a bonus, or simply an alternative path.
Combat is typical of the genre - depending on how you approach it, you'll either find it annoyingly repetitive or find a lot of joy in developing slightly different combos with which to tear enemies to shreds with.
I never found much of a challenge in the stages; I was able to blast through them with relative ease, but I also tackled them in the recommended order. Stages come with a suggested level attached and can be played in any order - and I decided to keep it simple and not go against that advice, playing the levels in sequential level order.
Much more challenge is no doubt available if you go out of your way to ignore the game's advice - but blasting through it as I did mercifully helped to make the questionable, pun-heavy writing breeze by me without causing too much annoyance.
Make no mistake - in co-op this is more Golden Axe than Diablo, and is all about hitting buttons and tackling different enemies to your buddies - and yet something is strangely satisfying about it.
The easiest comparison I can make is to Dynasty Warriors - sometimes it feels damn good to just zone out and let your fingers take over without much threat or challenge. Sacred 3 certainly offers that, as well as featuring some light RPG elements and some pretty environments to boot. For that it is enjoyable - but it certainly isn't a worthy successor even to Sacred 2, which was flawed in its own right.
There's nothing wrong with being a hack and slash game, and there's nothing wrong with stripping back RPG elements - both of these things are acceptable even to us RPG fans - but Sacred 3 is ultimately just a bit basic. It's inoffensive and solidly average - but it doesn't stand out from the crowd either.
Versions tested: PC
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.