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Reviewed by Rich DeWester
acred 2: Fallen Angel" was originally released on the PC and is the prequel to the 2004 release titled simply "Sacred." You don't need to have played the first one in order to understand what's going on in this game; what you will need, though, is a lot of patience, and a decent-sized TV to read the text on the screen. The basics of the game break down like this: there’s a glowing energy force called T-Energy, and it's responsible for maintaining the planet. One of the game's six playable races, the Seraphim, used to control it, but eventually they got lazy and stopped caring and gave those duties to the High Elves. The elves, in turn, grew extremely power-hungry and eventually came to dominate the world.
When you make your character, you’ll choose between a High Elf, Seraphim, Dyrad, Shadow Warrior, Temple Guardian and Inquisitor (I didn't play as an Inquisitor, but I'm pretty sure they’re Darth Sidious). Depending on which you choose, you’ll be able to follow the path of light or dark and select a certain deity to follow, each of which gives a different special move which can be helpful during the game. After this, you must roll the dice and hope that it grants you a Longsword of Annihilation +1. (Not really. I kid, I kid.) The game will treat you to an interesting opening cut scene and a curious choice of song to go with it – at times, it actually seems influenced by the movie "Heavy Metal."
"Sacred 2" has a rather large map, one that probably rivals that of "Oblivion.” It offers hundreds of quests to find and master if you so choose, divided between class quests, story quests and finally, your standard quests. All of these tend to follow your typical RPG fare: take me here, kill these things, bring me this, stuff of that nature. They can get a bit repetitive, and the stories behind them all can blur together and leave you skipping through the text. This typically works out fine, though, because the map will show you where you need to go for the various quests and give you a specific marker for the one that's active. It does backfire at times, like when you're asked to do an escort quest and have no idea what the hell the person following you wants; there were also a few occasions when there was no active marker to tell me where to take the follower. When this happened, I enjoyed taking them out of town and letting the local enemies have at them. At least when you fail, it's easier to tell which quest it was.
Ascaron did a pretty good job of adapting the PC interface to work well on the consoles, with some well-chosen hotkeys and easily navigable menus; however, the game also has a pretty frustrating camera system which doesn't allow for a whole lot of choices – it either zooms in at an awkward angle, or pans all the way out for an overhead view. When zoomed all the way out, it works pretty well in dungeon areas, but I would have preferred to be able to see what was in front of the character a bit more.
There were also some weird loading issues when in towns, almost like a zoning conflict which freezes the game up for a few seconds. This is annoying because it happens every five feet in certain cities, and persists even after installing the game to the hard drive. "Sacred 2" also has a crap ton of item drops – from a wide variety of weapons, armors, spells, augments, and all manner of things for you to find while slaughtering one of the many enemies found in the dungeons and elsewhere on the map. Hands down, though, the best feature is the multiplayer; I loved the fact that you could play with up to four of your friends. You can all be in different areas, doing your own thing, and then by simply clicking the character’s icon on the map, presto, you’re teleported right next to them. The drop in/drop out co-op kept even the most tedious of quests fun to play, and provided a small glimpse of what I wish "Oblivion" had done.
Overall, the game is slow to get into, but once you grasp the mechanics it grows on you. I enjoyed playing "Sacred 2" and would recommend it to anyone looking to pass the time while waiting for "Diablo III."