Sacred 2: Fallen Angel Xbox 360 Preview

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Earlier this month, we reported that Ascaron Entertainment's Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is in the works for Xbox 360 as well as for the previously announced PC. I recently spent some time with Ascaron's Heiko tom Felde to take a look at the console version of the company's action RPG sequel.

Sacred 2 is a third person action RPG with gameplay that is along the lines of Diablo but is set in a more massive and much less linear world than is typical for the genre, accompanied by further environmental refinements such as a full day/night cycle. For more information on the main aspects of the game, check out our prior coverage from this January.

While Ascaron has not yet finalized a publishing situation for Sacred 2 on Xbox 360, the company is pursuing development full steam. Heiko stated that the studio is looking to bring the game up to graphical speed with its PC counterpart, with some areas "even better because of the capabilities that the 360 offers." Indeed, the game seems to be shaping up to deliver visuals on par with the PC version. The framerate saw frequent periods of light choppiness; as the game is still fairly early on in the development process, Ascaron should have plenty of time to bring it up to speed.

Heiko also noted that the Xbox 360 game is currently using only "one and a half" of the CPU's three cores, giving the team room to progress. As development continues, the team plans to dedicate one core to artificial intelligence and visual effect, and one to managing the large streaming world. Within the game itself, there are expected to be no loading times. Some graphical features claimed to be made possible by the system's triple core architecture will be unique to the Xbox 360 version of the game; among these is a fluid-based simulation of the motion of leaves kicked up from the ground, creating an attractive flurry of flora as the player's character traipses through forested areas.

"We are very lucky that we do not have to reduce the quality of the monsters and characters and the effects," said Heiko on Ascaron's first move into home console development. "Everything works."

Multiplayer is a key area of focus in the PC version of Sacred 2, so the team is targeting full Xbox Live online support as well as local options. Two players can play cooperatively on the same screen, while up to four can play via local system link or on Xbox Live. I was able to join Heiko's game to play cooperatively, and it appears to allow players to join a friend's game world at any time.

"It is not a one to one port," Heiko noted. "We do respect the specialities of the controller and the technical aspects of the Xbox 360." In that vein, there are certain streamlined control elements in the console version of the game. Due to the lack of a mouse cursor with which to easily target specific enemies, the game has an auto-lock function that directs the player's character over to the next appropriate enemy if the player continues attacking after his or her target has been killed. Heiko was quick to note that there will be a second locking option that allows the player to lock on to enemies manually, but it had not yet been implemented at the time of the demonstration.

"We have forseen six months only for interface design to make it suit the controller," he explained. "PC players and console players want to have different things." Part of this six month time budget will of course be dedicated to refining the game's camera system, crucial in a third persion console game.

I asked Heiko about plans for downloadable content through Xbox Live. "We have ideas, but we are still in the design phase," he stated, going on to say that it is likely that the game will feature the same item, quest, and monster additions planned for the PC version, but that the logistics behind distribution are still under discussion.

With its action-driven RPG gameplay and online features, Sacred 2 seems well suited for the Xbox 360 audience. It is clear that the version being shown was still early in development, with a less than optimal framerate and some glitches while in cooperative mode, but Ascaron is confident in its abilities to get the game polished up. With both the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game not due out until the first quarter of 2008, that goal seems reasonable.

Check out our galleries of Sacred 2 PC screenshots, Sacred 2 Xbox 360 screenshots, and Sacred 2 concept art and renders.

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