In the last couple of years (8) I've been trying to get into the Sacred (I & II) games, but I just find them to be very polarizing. I'll try my best to explain what I mean in this topic. I don't expect anyone to agree with me and I'm not trying to change your mind about Sacred. I'm just looking for a place to share my opinion and maybe have a little discussion that could potentially help me to finally appreciate these games. So let's begin, and please, excuse my bad english... like I said, I'm trying my best here.
I love hack and slash ARPGs! I'm definitely no expert in them, but I view them in a certain way and have my own criteria for the genre. I think they're probably my favorite genre of games. When done right, the so called "Diablo clones", outshine other games, thanks to their replayability. I'm not saying Diablo 2 and it's ilk are the best game ever made (far from it), but they are the most addictive games. Unfortunately there's not many true hack and slash ARPGs out there and if you're a fan of the genre, you'll have a hard time finding what to play. I mean it's not hard to list all existing D2 clones, they're like 10 games, maybe less... If you look for something new, sometimes you just have to stretch out and reach for games that just don't fit the criteria.
There are things that I absolutely love about the Sacred games. The character customization is very strong. The loot system is great too. In fact I find both, the customization and loot, to be very original and fresh and usually that would be enough (well, almost) to convince me to play such a game. But I also like the atmosphere of Sacred I, and while in Sacred II they kinda ruin it, I still think the world was interesting enough to explore (up until I got bored with it). So what's my problem then? Well... Sacred I & II are regarded as Diablo clones, but that couldn't be further from the truth. So what? That doesn't mean they're bad games, right? Of course not, but only if they didn't tried so hard to be a Diablo clone in the skin of something else. Confused yet? I'll try to explain... please, don't hate me.
My main issue is that the game is too big, which severely slow down character progression. You have a big open world with enemy re-spawns and a ton of backtracking with no 2 way teleportation. If you want to teleport to a far away town to turn in a quest, you need to go to the nearest teleporter... which in most cases is not near at all. In Sacred 2 you can only teleport to the portals but not back to the location you teleport from. Or, you can teleport to the last monolith you've activated, but again, it's a one way ticket... I'll never understand why didn't they let you teleport to every monolith that you've discovered. Am I correct on this or am I missing something?
For some reason big open worlds in isometric games just don't work for me. The isometric point of view makes exploring very tedious. You see, in a 3rd person (over the shoulder point of view) or 1st person RPGs, you have the ability to look around you in 360 degrees, as far as the draw distance of game allows you. In an isometric game you can barely see further that your own nose, making exploration a chore. Add the backtracking and the enemy re-spawns and you have a bad formula. Divine Divinity did isometric exploration way better than Sacred, by making the unexplored areas dark not only on the map but in the game itself, making it easy to keep track to where you've been. I'm not saying Divine Divinity qualifies as a true hack and slash masterpiece, no, I think it's more of a story driven RPG than it is a Diablo clone. Divine Divinity also didn't have enemy re-spawns and questing was diverse and meaningful which differentiates it from a classic hack and slashes.
In Sacred 1 the unexplored areas are dark only on the mini map, which makes it hard to keep track of the area you want to explore. In other words, open world isometric exploration feels like mowing a huge lawn... and there's nothing fun in that. Now, I get it, this is something you don't have to do in every playthrough, maybe only once to familiarize yourself with the world... but what happen when I can barely even reach the half way point of the game in my first playthrough and get completely burned out from it? That always happens. A few months will pass and I'll get tired of playing Diablo 2, Titan Quest, the Torchlight games, and say to myself "maybe I should try again the Sacred games, maybe the last time I didn't gave them a fair try", then I will install them, play them for about 10 hours each, get tired of the extremely slow progression and the never ending boring quests, and then uninstall until the whole process repeats a few months later.
And speaking of the side quests, well, that's my other big problem. They are useless! I'm not complaining about the story, I'm perfectly fine with bad stories, because I don't care about them. The problem is the side quests themselves lead to nothing interesting. No cool bosses, no cool rewards and no cool locations. And all the escort missions drive me insane, they are the worst! Does that change in the second half of the game? You tell me, I haven't been there and probably never will.
I'm interested in how you guys play these games? Do you ignore completely the side missions and just focus on high level monster killing and the main quests? I guess I could just ignore everything and stick to meaningless exploration, that could make the game more enjoyable but for how long?
Now let me draw the comparisons:
Diablo 2 - no open world, no meaningless exploration and almost all quests are optional. You have no enemy re-spawns unless you refresh the maps by save/quit the game, so you're completely in control of that aspect. Also, no backtracking, always going forward to a clear objective, to the next boss, or the the next farming spot. You have quick progression, the game is no too long, the main goal (Hell difficulty) you can reach in under 10 hours and by that time your build is also reaching its final look (at least when it comes to skills).
Titan Quest - the same thing. The game is designed like a long journey. You start in a small village and almost never have to look back. No tedious wide open maps, almost everything is on your way going forward. You have epic bosses and diverse environments, every act feels different. The game is a bit long but possible to complete in under 15 hours and move to the next difficulty. The only negative is that there's no randomization in the maps and the monster spawns. The only random encounters are the hero spawns, but they are nothing special either
Torchlight 2 - very smooth, fast leveling and progression, random maps, tons of bosses and dungeons to explore. And quick and engaging action too.
All these traits also apply to games like Grim Dawn (though GD have some tedious maps), Path of Exile. Heck, even the highly criticized Diablo 3 covers more the these aspects very well.
For me Sacred 1 & 2 do not qualify in that category. Progression is so slow and the game is so big that you have to play for hundreds of hours to complete all difficulties and move to another class/build. Like I said, that wouldn't be such a problem if the world offered some interesting boss and random encounters... but everything just feels so boring and scripted that the only way it could be interesting for me would be if the game is way shorter and the leveling is much faster. I just don't have the required time and even if I do, I lose patience with the boring monsters and quests. At the end of the day these games are about building badass characters, hunt for treasures, so the faster you get to that point (final difficulty/the endgame) and to the potential of your build - the better the game is. Like I said, I love the customization, the loot and the overall atmosphere, but that's just not enough to overwrite the bad feelings I have with the franchise. At the beginning of the topic I said the problem is that sacred tries too hard to be a Diablo clone in the skin of something else. What I meant is that the games looks and feel like something you should play through only once per character, but is designed with the idea to be re-played multiple times and waste hundreds of hours of meaningless questing and slow progression. That just doesn't right for me.
I'm not trying to change your mind and I don't expect everyone to agree with me... but I'm sure at least some of you may feel the same way on some of the the points I'm trying to make. Or maybe you can change my mind? I hope you do, because I really want to like the games.