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Titre : Zoom on Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel

Down at Leipzig past month, I had the opportunity to be shown Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel by Torsten Meier, Public Relations Manager at Ascaron. Time kind of ran out since then, and this preview is now published the day of the release of Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel in Germany, and the day before the release in France and most of Europe on October 2nd.

Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel has been long awaited from the fans of Sacred, released early 2004. During these 4 years and a half, Ascaron worked hard on the sequel, or rather, the prequel, to provide the fans of Sacred and the H&S genre a great game. We'll be really sure at release, though it looks really promising, although the copy protection mechanism might pull some people off, as the game will be "protected" by SecuROM with 2 concurrent activations, the ability to activate the game on a computer not connected to the Internet, and a revoke tool (with automatic revocation on uninstall).

As we said, Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel is actually a prequel to Sacred: the story in Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel is set 2.000 years before the story in Sacred. To put things simply, The Creator creates worlds and populates them with intelligent races to worship Him. The Seraphim and their leaders, the Archangels, stand by his side to assist. But one day, the Archangels siphon the creative energy with his knowledge and create their own world, placing intelligent races upon it, giving each of them the freedom to pursue their own goals; this world is Ancaria, the creative energy is the T-Energy. Like it always happen, the Creator discovers what the Seraphim have done, and bans the Seraphim to Ancaria until the day they unite all the races, which of course won't happen. First the Elves divert energy of the world for their own benefit. Civil war ensued among the High Elves, leading to numerous deaths amongs the elves and seraphims. With the Elves destroying themselves, this attracted other races seeking power and destruction. After many years of instability, Ancaria faces one more war, more terrible than ever. Sides are now seeking heroes to regain control over T-Energy.

Feels Sacred...

Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel has lots of things in common with the first opus, and fans should feel quickly at ease with the game. Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel features 6 characters, although only the Seraphim is common to Sacred and Sacred 2; each of these characters start in their own region. A new character will start in the Bronze difficulty mode, and we'll find again the Silver and up to Nobium difficulty settings. Hardcore will of course still be of the party, with a max level of 216 like in Sacred.

Players will meet again with the vaste open world of Ancaria, featuring tons of side-quests all around the world and will rediscover the mechanism used in Sacred. The character will start with one weapon slot and one combat art slot, and will gain more up to 4 while he progress. The progress of the character itself turns around three things: attributes, skills, and combat arts. With each level you'll gain attribute and skill points, unlocking more skills as you level up. As for combat arts, those are your attacks, and you'll upgrade them with runes you'll find on your travels. No mana or energy there. Combat Arts will be balanced by timers, which you'll be able to alter. Upgrading a combat art will increase its recovery time, and on the other hand you'll be able to reduce it thanks to skills. These were the basics in Sacred, and are still there in Sacred 2, although they've been improved with this second opus.

Multiplayer features roughly the same opportunities for players, with LAN of course, and like Sacred, a closed multiplayer server on which characters are stored to prevent cheating. It'll feature the classic campaign and free mode. The game lobby will stay similar to Sacred's, with limited custom game creation; each license key will be tied to one account, although this time you'll be able to get 12 characters on one single account.

...sacredly enhanced

But Sacred 2 is not only Sacred with updated graphics, there's plenty of other changes and upgrades added to the lot. First of all, each character will have 15 combat arts available, divided into three aspects. Upon using a combat art, this will affect the timer of the other skills in the same aspect, and only them. Another change to the combat arts, and probably one of the most significant, is that you'll be able to specialize them: while leveling up the skill linked to a particular aspect, you'll gain specialization points which will let you access specialization options for the combat arts of this aspect. For each combat art, you'll have three specialization option, with two options to choose from. As an example, you could increase the damage of your fire bolt, or choose to cast two successive bolts with reduce damage, or choose between adding splash damage to the bolt and making it seek its target, or choose between increasing chance of damage over time upon impact and critical hit chances. Each combat art will have similar specialization options, leading to a huge amounts of variations in the builds.

To ease up the limited amount of combat arts shortcuts, which was a problem in Sacred, there's four more slots designed to receive permanent buffs. Characters should have like 5 of such combat arts or so to choose from, and thus the limit of 4 combat arts slots should be less of a problem, although it will most likely still feel to low of an amount for people who like to use a large variety of attacks, and make a great use of various combos. There's another upgrade made to combat arts that is particularly interesting: besides permanent buffs, there will be some combat arts which will have an effect on your normal attack when they are selected, even if you're not actually using them. For example the Temple Guardian has this ranged combat art that will, when selected, change its right arm into a ranged weapon, which damage will be based on the combat art's level.

A noticeable upgrade in Sacred 2 relates to one of the core features of Sacred: the mounts. In Sacred you had access to horses. But you were very limited when fighting mounted, and it resulted more or less to a nice way of traveling. In Sacred 2, mounts will have much more of an impact, and fighting while mounted will bring both benefits and inconvenients, instead of only inconvenients. Furthermore, each character class will have a special mount, like a giant wheel for the Temple Guardian. Those will be unlocked through quests, and should add much to the gameplay. Gameplay wise, a new option will please some players: they will be able to control their character with WASD keys if so they wish; the player will be able to customize these keys, as well as most keys used by the game. It's something we should get in all games, but that was lacking in Sacred, and still lacks in many games out there.

To complete our quick overview of changes in Sacred 2, let met talk about resistance orbs. Those are items you'll find on enemies much like all others, and will go to three dedicated slots. You can have up to three at the same time, and switch quickly between 4 sets of orbs, to adapt your resistances to the enemies you fight without to resort to carrying dozen of equipment pieces in your inventory and swap them mid-fight. Additionally, the immersion in the world should be greater, thanks to the work made on attack animations, as those will be different for each weapon types, and thanks to the work done to make the world feel more alive: in Sacred 2, monsters will be part of different factions, and will fight each other when they come accross the path of a rival faction.

And more

Before we conclude, let's take a quick tour of other interesting features of the game. The main story will offer around 35h of gameplay, with 200 quests in the main line, and 400 side quests around the world, with the player being given the choice between two campaigns: light and shadow. The world of Ancaria is divided into 11 regions, and to give you an idea of how large it is, you'll need around 5h to get on foot from one side to the other. In addition to this vaste outdoor world, there will be 200 dungeons, 11 bosses, and 30-40 unique enemies appearing randomly on the world. Sacred 2 features full 3D with a relatively free camera, though will miss the fact that we can't change the tilt of the camera independantly of the zoom. Like Titan Quest two years ago, Sacred 2 offers rag doll physics effects and a full night/day cycle; it goes further with various weather effects, which can include earthquakes or storms.

Many people might wonder if this game will ever run on their computer. Well, Ascaron worked to support a large variety of computers, with lots of graphical options. This should allow Sacred 2 to run correctly on small desktops, and they cared particularly about the laptops, with some unique features for a special laptop version of the game which will be available on the DVD. This laptop version will feature some specific functions, among which one to let people make an ad-hoc WiFi network to play the game, or another one to notifiy you if your laptop is getting low on battery.

There's lots of things to tell about the game, and we can't obviously deal with them all. This game looks very promising, and should be a really good one when released. Only then we'll be able to tell though. Before we let you go back to waiting (or not) the release of the game, let's mention that Sacred 2 will feature the same chest as the first opus, except this time it'll be shared with characters on the account. On release, there won't be a way to compare items with equiped ones, but it will be added in a patch after release. Finally, there might be an editor for the game in the future, as it's something considered, but nothing is final on that feature.

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