Friday, October 09, 2009

Sacred Gold: A moderate timewaster

When I discovered the Good Old Games website that I blogged about before, I came across a downloadable, DRM free version of Sacred Gold. Sacred was a moderately successful Diablo-clone that I had actually tried more than a year ago and then stopped playing because it just didn't hold my interest very well. Since it was only $10, I decided to give it another try and see if I could last til the end. Which, I'm a little pleased to say, I did. It took probably about 20 hours over a few weeks but I beat the game on the "Silver" level with a Wood Elf (the archetypal archer class - aka the Amazon in D2, the Rogue in D1, the Vanquisher in the upcoming game Torchlight, and the list goes on and on). I say mildly pleased because the game was mildly pleasing.

Sacred has all the right elements. It's got a very fast paced combat system (the famed point and click variety) with some complexity thrown in by way of skill trees that allow customizing characters and specializing them. It's got oodles and oodles of monsters and even more oodles of treasures. It's god tons of quests. It's got a big world. It has loads of stats for your character that you can try to minimize or maximize til your geeky little heart explodes. It has a bunch of different character classes, from standards like the gladiator and wood elf to weird ones like the seraphim and demoness. It has all of that ... and it's just not that fun. You go through and do the quests, and kill the monsters, but you never really get into it. Not the way you did with D1, or D2, or even Fate. In fact, there is probably something to be learned by comparing Fate with Sacred.

Fate had a small budget, simpler design, fewer stats, MUCH smaller world, and MUCH less intricate quests. Sacred had a larger budget, much more complex design with more stats, HUGE world, and, well, not intricate quests but certainly more intricate than Fate. Oh, it also had more detailed graphics and sound. But Fate was incredibly fun. It wasn't incredibly fun not because it didn't have all the stuff Sacred had, it was incredibly fun because what it had was put together into a very entertaining, enjoyable whole that sucked you in and held your attention. It was (and is) addictive. It's a blast. Sacred has all these other great things in it but it just doesn't come together into a wonderful total package. It's not a bad game, really, at all, but it's far from addictive. Every single bit is there that should be there, but it doesn't merge well for some reason.

I could try to list the ways that Fate is more fun and Sacred is less, and I might talk about minutia like screen layout, number of monsters coming at you at a time, atmosphere as generated by graphics, lighting, and sound, the balance between enough choices in character design and too many choices, and so forth. But I think what it comes down to is more of the artistry of game design. A lot of games these days have all the right pieces, the pieces that are such a big part of the mega-hits like D1 and D2. But the artistry is not quite there, and so you end up with a decent game, but not a great one. The great games are the ones with all of these pieces in place that enhance the experience but don't distract from it, that immerse you further into the world instead of making you think so much you're out of the world. And so like a lot of art, I can say what I like but it's very difficult to say exactly why.

So there's my opinions on Sacred for you. One of these days, just to be fun, I'm going to play a game when it's released. And then I'll write about it when other people might even consider buying it and playing it. And that will be something special. But until that day comes I'll continue to comment on games that are 3-4 years out of date (Sacred 2 has already been released - no idea what that one's like) and leave the actual reviews to the people who get paid for it. And I'll continue to imagine that all the IR's are just enthralled by reading reviews of old games. I've got a great imagination.

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