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Game Over Online ~ Sacrifice

GameOver Game Reviews - Sacrifice (c) Interplay, Reviewed by - Wolf

Game & Publisher Sacrifice (c) Interplay
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 650MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 94%
Date Published Thursday, November 30th, 2000 at 05:51 PM

Divider Left By: Wolf Divider Right

Shiny has always been a strange lot. Earthworm Jim was their first hit, followed later by the equally brilliant MDK. Their previous release, Messiah, while solid in its own right, wasn't quite the product gamers had come to expect from Shiny. Sacrifice would be the next title in their development schedule and, after having read numerous previews about the game, I became interested in it despite having no idea what the game was really about. It's an odd game, that's for certain, which makes it a Shiny title, through and through.

I'm not exactly sure where to begin, but let's start by attempting to explain the mechanics of the game. The best way I can explain Sacrifice is as a blend of strategy, role-playing and action genres. Before you begin play, you choose your God. There are five of them, each with an obvious affiliation to some sort of element, whether it be Earth, Fire, Air, Death, or Life. While it is partially the case where the different creatures available to each of the Gods are simply different models that do the same thing, the Gods still have very distinct advantages, particular with respect to spells.

Each mission begins with you and your Altar. You must immediately establish mana fountains and cast manahoars, which relay mana to your wizard. Then once you have a relatively acceptable mana income, you can start casting away. The casting of creatures requires souls and mana. Mana can be replenished, but souls cannot. To collect more souls, you can either find some lying about the map, you can kill some peasants for them (those poor folks really do have a torrid time of it in this game), or you can kill some of your opponents' creatures to gain souls. Once having built up a nice army of creatures, you can assault your opponent along with using your vast array of big, evil spells.

That's basically it, really, in a nutshell. The thing that makes Sacrifice so brilliant is all the little twists in the game. For instance, you can't just kill the enemy wizard. When a wizard is killed, he simply becomes ethereal. This means the wizard becomes invisible, though an aura floats about him so enemies still know where he is. Once the wizard is destroyed, you can opt for a tactical retreat, often a good idea considering in this mode, the wizard is unable to cast spells or summon any more creatures. To kill an enemy wizard, you have to desecrate his altar while the enemy wizard is in this ethereal form. To desecrate an altar, you have to cast the spell on a creature and a witchdoctor will come out and perform the ritual. During desecration, the enemy wizard will lose experience and health. Desecrating an altar can also be done when the wizard is not in ethereal form, albeit without as profound an effect. Witchdoctors, while immune to hand-to-hand damage, are not a powerful presence since a single Level 1 damage spell can destroy them. While this may sound a bit complicated, it works out extremely well by allowing players the chance to win even if they just lost a huge battle.

Speaking of massive battles, the game is full of them. Once you lose a battle against your opponent, if you're quick enough, you can run back in and grab all your souls back, retreat again, and cast all your creatures once more. This is because the enemy cannot simply grab your creatures' souls once they're dead, they have to cast a lengthy 'convert' spell, where a witchdoctor comes, revives the creatures, brings them to his alter and sacrifices them. This often results in long, arduous wars as two opponents battle it out to try and gain the upper hand in terms of the number of souls they possess. The whole process may sound rather tedious, as battles can last up to an hour or more if neither player has the upper hand, however the battles are always an amazing amount of fun.

Once you start reaching higher levels, the insanely powerful Level 9 spells come into play and are definitely a force to be reckoned with. One of these spells, when cast successfully, can pretty well turn the tide of battle. Jame's "Bore" spell, for example, creates an outwards spiral from the point of casting, creating huge craters that annihilate armies as their souls are lost forever in the pits of darkness. It's very cool in that you can see the spiral going outwards and the enemy wizard frantically looking around and ordering his creatures to move far, far away. Another fun spell is Charnel's "Death". A large grim reaper is cast, which proceeds to kill any unit with a single hit. The trouble is it doesn't much distinguish the 'good guys' (the army who cast him) from the 'bad guys', instead often destroying both players' army in a massive rampage. Each God has an insanely powerful Level 9 spell like this and of course there are many other spells that vary in terms of power. The trade-off is of course the mana requirement for these spells. Also, time becomes a factor since the larger spells require a good amount of time to be cast multiple times.

There is more to the mechanics of the game, little things like the fact you can 'gib' an enemy creature, which means the soul is free for both players to catch without having to cast a conversion spell. Casting 'guardian' means a creature will guard a structure and help to increase its stats. There are dozens upon dozens of spells, too many to recount for you in this review. Besides, we have to touch on graphics and sound, don't we?

Graphically, well, as you can see from the screenshots on the right, they're brilliant. The vast rolling scenery is fantastic, often filled with strange and gigantic plants and structures. While it may look a bit on the bland side at times, the dull terrains are often where the massive melees take place. The spell effects are all great and most creatures have a magical attack as well, creating battlefields overflowing with bright colors and lighting. In terms of sound, the music is a bit of a disappointment but the sound effects are great, particularly the casting sounds made by the wizards.

The single player is quite fun but really, if you're not going to be able to play on a LAN or via the Internet, you're really missing out. The AI is good enough to hold it's own, but there's nothing like facing a real human opponent and Sacrifice delivers in spades when it comes to multiplayer options.

I think I over-used the word brilliant in this review, but that's because Sacrifice is simply a brilliant game. Sacrifice seems to be a relatively flawless experience, perhaps because there's nothing like it out there, but also because this game exhumes quality. Shiny, as usual, has tried something radical with Sacrifice and once again, it's paid off big time.

[ 47/50 ] Gameplay
[ 10/10 ] Graphics
[ 08/10 ] Sound
[ 10/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 09/10 ] Controls
[ 10/10 ] Fun Factor


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