GDC 07: Sacred 2 hands on preview
The last day of GDC tends to be the slowest, so we understandably pleased to get a chance to play Sacred 2: Fallen Angel from Ascaron Entertainment. Sacred 2 is an action RPG title in development for both the PC and Xbox 360. The game features co-operative gameplay for up to four players in an open world environment. The game plays more or less like most action RPGs, with the action seen from a distant third person perspective. Fans of games like Baldur's Gate and Diablo will have a pretty good idea of what to expect. We spoke with Ascaron's Heiko tom Felde to learn about what sets Sacred 2 apart.
Heiko informed us that Sacred 2 takes place in a huge open world. There are no load times and we were told that it would take approximately 8 hours to move from the top left corner of the world to the bottom right. In other words, it's big. There are 6 story driven characters from which to choose. Characters are divided into either the Light or Shadow categories. 4 of these characters are intended for either Light or Shadow play, and the remaining two are dedicated exclusively to either Light or Shadow. We saw two characters, a lithe female warrior (render pictured above) and a beefy male fighter. According to Heiko, each character's campaign quest will take approximately 30 hours to complete. Additionally, there are 650 sidequests in the game. Sidequests are handled by a specially designed logic system. Essentially, the quests you receive will be based on your character level. So, an NPC will only offer quests that are appropriate for your character's level.
The multiplayer system supports two player co-op on one Xbox (4 players via system link) and 4 player co-op over Xbox Live. Character data is saved on the game server, so players will be able to access their character data from any Live connected Xbox. The game's co-op system is drop-in/drop-out, so friends can join or leave your game at any time. This feature can be particularly handy at times, because there are certain quests that require co-operative play. Cross-platform play between the 360 and PC is being considered, but the logistics have yet to be worked out.
Being an RPG, Sacred 2 features lots of customization for your character's abilities and appearance. Heiko describes the urge to customize your character as the "Barbie effect," and notes that Sacred 2 provides a variety of customization options. A suit of armor for instance, is composed of 20 interchangeable pieces. With dozens of armor types available, the combinations are nearly endless. Combat abilities are divided into three areas, each of which have 6 tiers. Those 6 tiers have an additional 6 areas of skill distribution. We didn't get into the specifics, but Heiko said that players will be able to specialize in whatever area they want, essentially creating an individualized character class.
There are mounts in the game as well. We saw a horse and a lizard-like beast. The beast, naturally, is intended for Shadow characters. Unfortunately, a bug in the dev build prevented us from seeing a mount in action, but Heiko informed us that the mounts were customizable and leveled along with the character. Also, players will be able to own property in the world of Sacred 2.
Graphically, the game looks decent, though it still has plenty of development time to go. The 360 code port we saw was early (and the European 360 dev kit had some power issues) but several visual effects are already in the game and look promising. The lighting looks especially nice at this stage, with good use of shadowing during low light scenes. We also saw a nice refracting effect that distorted objects seen through glass. The game utilizes each core of the Xbox 360 for a different purpose. One core is dedicated to visual effects, 1 is dedicated to streaming the game's open world, and one is dedicated to the enemy/NPC logic system. NPCs have 200 characteristics that govern their behavior, making each one unique. They will go about their daily routines, regardless of the player's interaction with them. All animations are done by hand in hopes to create more fluid and natural movement. As Heiko put it, Ascaron had trouble booking golems and dragons for motion capture sessions.
All in all, Sacred 2 is showing a good deal of promise. Ascaron hasn't acquired a publisher for the US version yet, but Felde told us they are currently in negotiations to bring the game stateside. We're always up for a decent RPG, and Sacred 2 looks like it could deliver. Don't get your hopes up too soon, though. The game isn't expected until first quarter 2008.