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Titre : Stepping into Sacred 2: Fallen Angel universe

Picture of the Multiplayer Event at the Games Convention

The Multiplayer Event at the Games Convention.

During the Games Convention in Leipzig, the awaited Sacred 2: Fallen Angel has appeared fully. A version specifically conceived for the multiplayer even organized by Ascaron, simplified at most to show principally the engine and the gameplay of the game, has been accessible to some lucky guys. There's been quite a bunch of people to be able to test this version, as there was 16 of them every 10 minutes during the all fair: few minutes of hacking & slashing monsters, playing either the Seraphim, the Shadow Warrior, the Dryad, or even the High Elf, all identical except for their look for the occasion, and then the 16 players met in the arena to fight each other. Meanwhile, in another hall of the Games Convention, other visitors could assist to a quick presentation of the Xbox 360 version of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel.

Personally, after having participated to the multiplayer event during the Business Day, I have been lucky enough to see the PC version of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, shown to me by Jens Eisched, Marketing Manager, and Torsten Meier, Public Relations Manager, who answered as well a bunch of my questions as a Hack & Slash fan and amateur, as well as player of the original Sacred.

2,000 years ago, the Seraphim was already ready to become an heroin

Artwork

Artwork of the Seraphim

At first, there was the Creator, who created worlds and populated them each with one unique intelligent race for them to worship him. The Seraphim, and their leaders the Archangels, were one of those. However, one day, they decided to use the ethereal creative energy to create their own world, Ancaria, and to populate it with several races, giving them the freedom of choosing their own fate. When the Creator found out, instead of destroying Ancaria, he banished the Seraphim on this world with the charge to protect it. He would interfere only if the Seraphim were not able to unite all the races.

But that was not meant to happen, and before long the High Elves, favourite race of the Seraphim, started to use the creative energy to their own benefit and rule the world. Not every High Elf agreed with this plan, and soon a civil war burst, costing lives of many people and many Seraphims, and leading to the division of the High Elves between the one trying to use the creative energy to give Ancaria and its people their lost greatness, and the one wanting to purge Ancaria with a cleansing fire and then arise as uncontested rulers. A second civil war was soon to be started...

2,000 years before Sacred 1's story, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel brings the player to a time where the creative energy is still active. Humans are yet the servants and slaves of the High Elves, Dwarfs still enjoy their recluse life, and the world of Ancaria is far different and unknown of the events that will occur in Sacred and Sacred Underworld. The player will have to chose between the Path of the Light and the Path of the Shadow, except when playing a Seraphim who can only follow the Path of Light, or an Inquisitor, who can only follow the Path of the Shadows. This choice the player make at the beginning of the campaign will affect the whole world and the various NPCs he'll meet.

In addition to these two sides of the main campaign, each proposing roughly 40h of gameplay to the user in the first difficulty mode, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel offers an incredible variety of secondary quests, with overall over 800 quests for the player to fullfill.

A world full of diversity

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel brings us to a very large as well as very disparate world; 11 totally different regions, from jungle to desert, from Mediterranean climate to icy mountains, are then open to exploration for the player. Each of these regions have their own climatic environment, their own sounds and lights effects, and fauna and flora as well as architecture of the buildings adapted to the races populating them, their social culture, and their technological development. Furthermore, the world of Ancaria is made of one single piece, and will appear to the player through streaming. Thus, you will never have to wait for the game to load an area, as even when you'll enter a dungeon or a cave, the transition will be completely natural and smooth, without any loading time.

PC Screenshot

Deep in the jungle...

The world of Ancaria shown in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel follows the rhythm of night and day, with a day/night cycle every 50mn or so, and so do the numerous inhabitants of the world. Depending of the time of day or night, the NPCs inhabitants of the world will go one of the 50 trade available for NPCs in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. Exploration of the world will be even more diverse thanks to the advanced weather management in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel; you'll happen to get yourself into a sand storm, get lost in a deep fog, being wet by the rain, frozen by the wind, and so on.

The world map itself is quite huge, as it is 30 to 40% bigger than the one available to the player in Sacred. To get on foot from the top left corner to the bottom right corner, it will take you around 6h, if you don't stop to do something else. But don't be afraid, there will be as well some transport system, although it won't be the classical portal system we had in original Sacred and other games. If there will be central locations akin to the actual portals, journeys between them will no longer be instantaneous. Instead in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, travels between those points will be done riding dragons or sailing on boats.

New look and feel

We must admit that the original Sacred was quite old graphics wise when it was released over 3 years ago in 2004. This can't be said of his big brother Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. The graphics engine, entirely developed in-house by Ascaron, shows a really good graphics rendering. Additionally, this graphics engine can do most everything, from using any resolution (included the very old ones), or disabling nearly any graphic effects. Then a low end computer should be able to still be able to run the game correctly with good framerate, as long as it's using a lower resolution and toggle off most graphic effects. Particularly, the engine itself asks only for DirectX 9, but people with DirectX 10 will benefit from it and get better graphical effects. It goes the same for the Ageia PhysX.

PC Screenshot

Camera is completely free.

At the moment, the minimal required configuration is estimated to a simple 1.6 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and a true GeForce 4 with 128 MB of RAM. With such a computer, as long as you use a low resolution and toggle off all graphic effects, the game engine should be able to provide around 100 FPS. We still don't know yet which minimal resolutions and minimal graphic effects will be used in the game itself, but Sacred 2: Fallen Angel should run correctly and relatively old computers anyway. Before we get our hopes too high though, let's wait to actually try to run the game on such a computer when the time of preview versions will come, or simply the time of beta test, as a closed beta test is planned for next October, and an open beta test in January 2008.

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will provide a completely free camera, which will let the players change independently the horizontal orientation of the camera, the pitch, and the level of zoom. It is not defined yet which levels of zoom will be proposed in the final version, but it's likely that there will be a large width of zoom available, allowing the player to zoom closely to the character to admire the details, or, for the perverts, the forms, and on the other hand to get far away from the character to enjoy more visibility.

Last but not least, the world map in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is no longer a 2D map like in Sacred, but will allow us to view the relief of the regions of Ancaria in 3D (note: however, we will always see the map from above, with a fixed angle of view, but that wouldn't have much of interest to be able to change this).

One of the main enhancements in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel compared to his little brother is the shortcuts management. While it was very limited in Sacred, with most players using AutoHotKey scripts to improve the game ergonomics, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will feature a completely customizable shortcuts system. And if the system of weapons slots and combat arts slots is still there, with however the combo slots being dissociated of the combat arts slots, it should be possible to assign a hotkey to place a combat art into the art bar from the combat book.

The Seraphim and her new friends

Xbox 360 Screenshot

Group picture on Xbox 360

From the character pool in Sacred 1, only the Seraphim can be found in Sacred 2, 2,000 years before. The five other characters are completely new, and at the same time quite diverse. The first characters to be announced to the public were the Seraphim, of course, then the Shadow Warrior. More recently, the High Elf joined her two friends. During the Games Convention and the multiplayer event, people could see the Dryad as well, although we still don't know much about it, unlike the other three. Lastly, the two other characters have been announced to the press: the Inquisitor, and the Temple Guardian. If we now know the background history and part of the aptitudes of the Seraphim, the Shadow Warrior and the High Elf Adept, we still know very little about the Dryad, the Inquisitor and the Temple Guardian.

The Seraphim is very similar to the one in Sacred 1: fighter with a bunch of heavenly magic, she represents the good itself in the world of Ancaria. The Inquisitor is kind of her evil opposite. Fond of dark magic, the dude only wears robes and uses twisted hand-to-hand combat techniques. The Shadow Warrior masters all forms of combat, from hand-to-hand to powerful armed techniques, and, having been in contact with the underworld in the past, can call on some of his old comrades for help. The High Elf Adept is the classical sorceress, well-versed in three powerful magic disciplines, but she can nonetheless be an able fighter when using her magic in conjunction with hand-to-hand combat. The Dryad Scout will be the character all fans of Sacred's Wood Elf will want to play, as she's a very proficient archer, and a master in the magic of Nature. She practices as well some kind of voodoo, which she can use to harvest shrunken heads from her enemies!

Let's now conclude this presentation of the 6 characters of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel with maybe the most peculiar of those, which should be detailed to the public later on: the Temple Guardian. This character is an archaic cyborg with a jackal head, able to alter his head and his arm. He is extremely dangerous in hand-to-hand combat, and has mastered as well the use of technological weapons. Due to the nature of his own origin, he has mastered the powerful T-Energy, and can use it to change his environment.

Rendering

The Hellhound, mount of the Shadow Warrior.

Additionally, we'll find in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel the horses which were already present in Sacred, some of them being faster or more resilient. But the real novelty here is that in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, each character class will have access to its own specific mount: for example, the Shadow Warrior will be able to mount a powerful Hellhound, while the Seraphim will mount an agile Tiger. Furthermore, these mounts will not only be for fast travelling around the world: they will really affects the fights if you fight mounted, giving you advantages and disadvantages, each having their own, while in original Sacred you could only use very few of your combat arts while mounted, and there was not much interest to fight while mounting a horse.

On character creation, the player will have the ability to change some of its physical characteristics, like the hair colour, and some of those will be alterable further on in the game with dies for example. The player will also have to choose between 6 gods of Ancaria, three being evil gods, the other three being good gods. The Seraphim and the Inquisitor will only be able to choose among the three gods sharing their alignment, while the other four characters will be free to choose any of these 6 divinities. Each of these divinities will grant a special powerful techniques to the character worshipping them.

You're never really alone

In Sacred, the multiplayer component had been added relatively late in development. As a consequence, the singleplayer and multiplayer parts were distinct, and you had to export your singleplayer character to go play online, and then start again the campaign if you wanted to keep using the character you played online. For Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, Ascaron conceived the multiplayer component right from the scratch, and the singleplayer part is in fact a particularity of the multiplayer part: when playing singleplayer, you're in fact playing multiplayer with only one character. On the technical side, this means that even when playing singleplayer, the game will use client-server mechanisms. On the practical side for the user, this means at any time he will be able to call a friend to help him in his quest, much like in Titan Quest, or be able to go play online in Free mode, and then go back to where he was in the campaign.

Picture of the Multiplayer Event at the Games Convention

Players are in the arena!

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel offers, like his little brother, various multiplayer modes. First, we will be able to play LAN, Open Multiplayer, or Closed Multiplayer. In each of these multiplayer modes, we will then have the choice between several sub-modes: campaign, free, PVP, and of course we will still be able to play Hardcore. Some people will surely notice that we will be able to play in campaign mode on closed servers as well, while this mode had been removed from closed servers on Sacred 1 because of the dupe exploits coming with it. Exploiting the campaign mode to dupe will no longer be possible in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, thanks to a small difference: on closed servers in campaign mode, it won't be possible to save and load games. Of course it means it will be really difficult to actually complete a campaign on the closed servers, but it's still better than not being able to play the campaign at all, or open the closed servers to massive dupe exploits. As for the campaign, as we could have guessed, everybody in the game will have to do the same campaign, either good or evil, which means that Seraphims and Inquisitors won't be able to play campaign together. Of course, as the main quest is not in the Free mode, any class will be able to the other in this mode.

As PVP was only in specific games in Sacred, we could see that not that many people used this possibility. In Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, there will be no need of a specific game to fight each other, as there will be PVP Arenas in the world of Ancaria, allowing players to fight each other one and one or in group, up to 5 vs 5!

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will offer a trading system, although we don't know yet how it will be done: it could be through a trader NPC, or through a direct trade interface, or even both. Regarding the possibility of exchanging items between characters on the same account (or characters on the same computer), there's nothing sure here as well. Maybe will there be a shared stash, maybe not, we will have to wait until later to know this. But what is sure is that Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will improve the contacts between players on the servers, with a more developed buddylist, accessible through a GUI rather than through command line. Although no official information has leaked about it, it might as well include additional features like a guild management, but then again we'll need to wait for more informations. After all, the very anticipated Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is still nearly 9 months away from release.

In a multiplayer group, XP and loot management will be similar to the one of the first Sacred, both increasing with the number of people in the group. Levelling speed is still being tweaked, but all in all, this should be again similar to Sacred's system. To close up on the multiplayer system, one question is asked, or has been, by a large chunk of Sacred's community: Will the accounts still be linked to the CD Key? Will we still need to type in our CD Key when logging in? Unfortunately, there's still no answer to this question, the matter being still worked on at Ascaron.

The perfect setup to slay monsters

Sacred had few massive bosses, apart from the dragons we would slay all across Ancaria. For Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, Ascaron decided to introduce massive bosses who will ask to think about strategy to defeat them. The player will be as well confronted to frequent mini-bosses, met randomly across the world of Ancaria. But this focus on the need of strategy won't stop to the bosses and mini-bosses; indeed, each group of mobs will have a leader, and when this leader will be slain, the group will retreat and gather, and define their new leader. But the most interesting feature is that the group strategy will depend on the group leader abilities: for example, if the group leader happens to be a magic user, then the monsters may regroup in front of him to protect him, or, if it is a melee fighter, they might try to cast protective spells on him.

PC Screenshot

The Shadow Warrior struggling with two werewolves.

To face such monsters, we need equipment, and we will have quite a large choice: helms, body armours, shoulder armours, arm armours, gloves, leg armours, boots, as well as amulets and rings, the number of which is still not yet defined. And for the Seraphim only, there will be wings as well. Like the first Sacred, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will bring its lot of unique items and sets, but Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will go further, and implement a crafting system, allowing the player to modify or even create new items. That's however all we know about this crafting system at the moment. A part of the Sacred community hope there would be one day some modding tools for Sacred, and of course that there will be some in Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. Once again, there is nothing much to see here at the moment, but it has been said possible there would be such modding tools added in the future, although most likely not for the release of the game. Time will tell.

Now, what pleasure would it be to slay monsters again and again, if we didn't have powerful combat arts to do so? Like Sacred, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will offer combat arts and skills. Combat arts will be divided into three categories for each character, and are on their own already pretty much diverse and will allow for a huge number of different builds for each class. Those specificities will be of much importance when fighting other players in the arena, as it will be needed to careful think about which art to use and when and how to counteract the arts of the opponents. And here, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel innovates, as each and every combat art will be customizable by the player during his progression. For example, the player will be able to make the Jump Attack of the Shadow Warrior a short jump with area damage attack, or on the opposite a long jump but less powerful, to go straight at the enemy caster or archer, or even to fly away from the combat faster in case of troubles.

PC, or Xbox 360?

Xbox 360 Screenshot

The interface for Xbox 360 is adapted to be used with a pad.

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel will be released on both PC with Windows and Xbox 360. What shall we expect from these two different versions? Graphics wise, they will be more or less the same, with maybe a slight advantage to the Xbox 260. Of course, with the Xbox 360, no way you could control the character with a mouse and a keyboard, which will have a noteworthy impact on controls. Control of the character will then be done with the analogical stick, and the player will mash the buttons of the pad instead of the buttons of his mouse. The use of skills and combos will apparently be managed by keeping pressed a trigger. All in all, those controls seem very similar to the controls in the few other games of the genre available on gaming consoles.

Picture of the presentation of the Xbox 360 version

Presentation of the Xbox 360 version

On several points however, the PC version will be better than the Xbox 360 version. Indeed, while with the Xbox 360 you will only be able to play up to 4 people in the same game, the PC version will allow to play up to 16 in the same game, just like in Sacred. The PC version will offer higher resolutions as well, as long as you use a display supporting them, and have a computer powerful enough to manage it, and will offer much more graphical settings to adapt the game to the computer running it. Meanwhile, due to the difficulty of editing characters on an Xbox 360, there will be no difference between closed and open multiplayer on the Xbox 360

For those who still wonder at this point of the article, it won't be possible to play in the same game with a player on Xbox 360 and another on a PC, and it won't be possible either to transfer a character from an Xbox 360 to a PC or from a PC to an Xbox 360. However, an Xbox 360 player will be able to bring his character with him to play over at a friend, and on a single Xbox 360, two players will be able to play on the same screen, while joining two other people through Xbox Live.

Thanks

I would like to thank Stefan Hinz (Manager Online Marketing), Jens Eishched (Marketing Manager), Torsten Meier (Public Relations Manager), and Markus “PowerPyx” Kobbe (Moderator on the German forums) for all the informations they gave me on Sacred 2, as well as for the presentation of the PC version of the game and the time they spent answering my questions.



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