And if the fantastic graphics and good sound arenít enough, Sacrifice
has enough gameplay to keep the hardcore gamer going for months. With one of the most unique single player campaign structures ever, solid multiplayer, and a core game experience unlike anything else youíve ever played, Sacrifice
is one for the ages.
In the single player campaign, you are Shakti, a vagrant Wizard who appears in the world of Sacrifice with no affiliations. There are five gods in the world -- the healing goddess Persephone, the earth god James, the sky god Stratos, the fire god Pyro, and the god of strife, Charnel. Each god has its own personality, identity, and abilities. As youíd expect, Stratosí units are weak yet fast, whereas Jamesí units are strong as hell, but slow. The thing that Sacrifice does uniquely is that you donít have to follow a single god -- you can jump around between each mission. Of course, you can piss some of the gods off so that they donít want you working for them, but thatís the price you pay for playing the god roulette.
The game itself is a bizarre hybrid of real-time strategy, action, and role playing. Instead of being the all-powerful overlord like you are in most real-time strategy games, in Sacrifice, you are actually in the battles. You can see yourself running around the map, commanding your units. And as I said in the Sound section, you can hear Shakti order the units around as well. It works great, and really helps to make the game feel like more than a game.
Each mission has a goal at the beginning, although itís often updated halfway through (or more often than that). The gameís basic commodities are mana and souls. Mana is an infinite resource, gathered at mana fountains which are usually scattered liberally around the map. But a mana fountain isnít as useful as a Manalith, as the Manalith directs all of the fountís mana directly to you. Building some Manahoars to send that mana your way is one of the (many) keys to playing the game correctly.
Souls are probably more important than mana, and theyíre certainly scarcer. There are a limited number of souls on each map, and every creature that you create takes up a certain number of souls. When a creature dies, their soul floats above their body until they are collected or converted. Souls of your own side are blue, and can be collected by simply running over them. Those who are ďheathenĒ are red, and must be turned into good souls by Conversion. Casting the Convert spell on said soul will summon a sac doctor, who will cart the beastieís soul off to the Altar to sacrifice.
And the Altar is the center of Sacrifice. Lose your altar, and all hope for you is lost. Itís the only way to permanently defeat a Wizard -- otherwise they simply come back to life when they regain health and mana. Youíve got to guard your Altar at all costs, and thereís a wonderful Teleport spell that takes you back to your Altar in a momentís notice in case someoneís trying to destroy it. Itís a great mechanic, both fitting with the storyline of the game and making it tense.
And Sacrifice is filled with tense situations. There are battles with tens of beasts, shots flying everywhere, and creatures dying all the time. And although the game has lots of these fast action scenes where your wizard and its spells can be the difference between winning and losing, the game itself plays like a macabre chess game. Since you can teleport to any building you control, having manaliths in enemy territory is necessary for quick navigation. Youíll see the ebb and flow of battle as Ďliths trade control and you gain and lose souls. Since there are a fixed number of souls in the game, every soul you have is one less soul that your opponent has. So itís important to stay on top of the game if you want to have a chance of winning.
There are tons of spells that you can learn, and they all differ depending on who you learn them from. They generally follow basic themes -- attack, defense, etc. -- but their methodologies and specifics differ. The same goes for the units -- they follow trends, but each has special commands that are unique to that particular unit. And proper utilization of those special commands can be the difference between winning and losing the game.
Since most single-player missions last hours, and there are ten missions in any run-through of the game, the single-player campaign is quite lengthy. And since every time you play, youíll choose different missions to go on, there are hundreds of single-player campaigns that you can enjoy. Thereís little to no chance that youíll ever wear it out.
If you do, though, Sacrifice comes with a wonderful Multiplayer mode. You can do such basic battles as trying to defeat the rest, or you can see who can kill the most beasties, control the most manaliths, or grab the most souls. If you donít have a decent connection to the Internet or a LAN to play with friends, you can play against the A.I. Itís a great change of pace for when youíre looking for something a little lighter, but itís still a deep, involving game.
Itís interesting, really -- Sacrifice is an amalgam of classic RTS ideas, a few new ones, and a crazy game style. It all works fantastically, too.
And if you ever wear all that out, Sacrifice comes with a level editor! Augh! Itís as if Shiny were planning on taking away all of our free time this holiday season.