Sacred is a game you may have never heard of. The over 1 million-selling PC action RPG title was produced in Europe, and sold strongly there, but also made a bit of headway in the US. Enough for developer Ascaron to consider a sequel.
Sacred 2 is being developed for both PC and Xbox 360, and is due out sometime next year. The version I saw for the Xbox 360 looked fairly impressive visually, and although it's about four months behind the PC version (which looked stellar), the two will ultimately look nearly identical. Graphically anyway. In terms of interface - and even gameplay - it will be almost an entirely different game.
"We've been given the freedom to make changes necessary to ensure the Xbox version is a great game," said the game's lead designer, causing my jaw to drop. Rather than creating a game for one platform, and then porting it to another, Ascaron is taking a slightly different tack: they're making two games simultaneously.
The art, story and core technology assets are being created as one unit, then the PC team and Xbox team are each developing them - separately - into a game designer specifically for their respective platforms. The result(s) will ideally be two games which may look and sound a lot alike, but will play and perform perfectly on each platform. It's an ambitious plan to say the least.
The Sacred 2 world will be huge, seamless (no load times) and beautiful. Tall grass waves as critters make their way through it toward you. Fallen leaves flutter in your footsteps. Shadows dance and windows offer a dappled view of the world, through their thick, milky panes. The character creation and item-based RPG gameplay also offer tons of unique surprises, many of which are still in development, but what I saw looked quite nice.
But the real unique aspect of Sacred 2 will be it's customized interface. Xbox 360 players will have a much more streamlined interface than their PC counterparts, and the gameplay will likewise flow more easily, deferring to the faster-paced console play style. The Xbox 360 version will also offer single-screen co-op (for two players), as well as co-op over Live. Two players in one house, in other words, can join up to two more others via Xbox Live, and explore the game's gigantic world together, as party, or separately.
With still a year (or more) left in development, the game looked fantastic, but the idea of simultaneously developing two separate titles, for simultaneous launch, sounds a bit nerve wracking. I wouldn't be surprised if this one slips to summer of 2008. But I have to admit that for the first time in a long time I'm looking forward to a Diablo clone.