Good or bad? Well... both. It depends what you're looking for, though.
Sacred's an old game. Like reaaaaally old. This brings with it some issues, unfortunately. The game itself is good, but the problems may be off-putting, so let's cover the technical issues first as they can be a dealbreaker for many people given what they are.
First off, Sacred is hard-coded to be 1024x768 resolution; this means that, under normal circumstances, it will fill a 4:3 square on a widescreen monitor with large black boarders on the sides. There are a few workarounds, but the largely involve forcing it to stretch out the horizontal which makes everything look remarkably fat. This also means that the resolution can't normally be increased, and it won't get prettier or fit more stuff on the screen.
The second major issue is that multiplayer is not naturally supported by steam, steam does not give out CD-keys when you buy the game, and it's irrelevant anyway because the servers for the game are down regardless. Hamachi, Gameranger, and most other options will flat out not work. Evolve, found at evolvehq.com,
is the only one known to be able to run it (though some have reported that Hamachi can run it by changing some setting, but I don't speak german so have no idea what they changed). Evolve, however, can link itself to your steam account which... is a little unsettling. I didn't want to play sacred with friends quite THAT badly, so for me, it's stuck being a single player game.
With that out of the way, if you're still interested in the game despite the technical difficulties and problems with it being ancient, let me state that the game itself is actually quite good with nice gameplay elements.
Yes, it's old, and no, it won't be better than Path of Exile (which is free), but it has a certain charm and feel to it that makes it quite enjoyable. If you pick it up for $5 or under, it's probably worth the cost.
A few major things:
- There are quite a few different classes in the game (races, acutally...) and each get their own unique set of spells and melee attacks. They each play fairly differently, and have enough customization that each playthrough can potentially feel quite different even if playing the same class.
- Skills are a bit odd in that you don't get access to all skills; each class begins with two skills and get a number of new skills unlocked at levels 1, 3, 6, 12, 20, 30 and 50. Interestingly enough, you just get to PICK a new skill at these levels (starting at 3) but have more options than you can choose from, so you customize your character each time you play. This means you can have a melee mage or a fire mage or a mage that specializes in a wide range of elements or one that spams out a small number of choice spells more often, one which autoattacks, or one which utilizes combo attacks as their primary method of damage, or even one which tanks (well, alright, not so much a tank mage =P ). The point is, you get some pretty good customization so two players can both pick to be the seraphim and play her entirely differently and not step on each other's toes. Assuming you get the multiplayer to work from the earlier issue. *Cough*
- Mounts exist in the game and you can ride a horse. In fact, you can even learn mounted combat, use your horse to charge over people, or teach it to run faster. It's kind of a neat system, but isn't really explored too much, yet moreso than probably any other game of the genre.
- Combat's pretty fluid, enemies have easy to see radial healthbars around their feet which indicate their relative difficulty, level and remaining health clearly. You can highlight items on the ground as well, which is handy. It's especially fun to bounce around the battlefield unleashing multihit combos and seeing your character do more than just overhand swing 5x in a row, but instead actually use a variety of strikes from different angles, and some will even perform acrobatic attacks, backflips, and so on.
- The storyline's not the best the world has ever seen, but it's certainly not awful, and by diablo-style dungeon crawlers, it's way above average. There's actual reasons for going through the various quests, the world opens up in a reasonable manner as you complete them, bosses tend to make you want to slap them good and hard before you even fight them... generally it does a pretty good job at what it sets out to do.
- The spells in the game are pretty varied, and the characters do distinctly feel different from one another, even if they have a similar role. Sure, the vampiress and daemon are both female melee characters, yet the vampiress gets to change between a knight form and vampire form, preferring physical or magical abilities in nature, can summon wolves and bats to help her, drain health and so on. The daemoness, in contrast, gets things like the ability to fly over terrain, attach elemental properties to her weapons, fling fireballs and enact creepy japanese hentai tentacle porn scenes with dead bodies. No, I am not making that up, and my nightmares would prefer that I were. Alright, they're not nightmares. >.>;;
- Individual classes have different item slots available to them. Most of them tend to share similar gear, though there are a few bits which are very specific to certain classes, such as say... the iconic seraphim's wings.
- Money MEANS something. Zoh. Mah. Gerd. Know how in Diablo 2 and such, you'd get huge stockpiles of gold that were worthless? Or most any other diablo-style game? Yeah, turns out that you can actually buy uniques and set items off of vendors. In fact, if you get the skill for it (sacrificing a combat skill...) some classes can even actually increase the quality of stuff that merchants will sell (along with reducing the cost of such, and increasing the sale price of vendor trash, yay!), making it actually reasonable to build a set to some degree and not feel like your gold is worthless.
- Big bosses. If you fight a dragon, you know bloody well you're fighting a dragon because it tends to not exactly fit on the screen. There's things like "don't stand in the fire" on bosses as well, stuff that needs to be dodged and so on. As in things that you didn't actually see until much later games for the most part. Sacred's not quite as great as a modern game, but compared to anything else from it's timeframe, it was quite a few years ahead of it's time in this regard.
Overall, it's dated. Sacred has low graphics, major technological problems, and some real massive flaws to it... but compared to other games of it's time, I'd honestly recommend it and say it's quite a lot better than it had any real right of being. It's enjoyable for awhile, and worth a good $5 or so. As of the moment of this review, it's on for $2.49, and for the single player game, I'd say it's well worth the cost. It probably won't be a regretable purchase, as it's really not that bad and does a lot of good things that even many of the modern diabloesque games fail to live up to.
If you ever want to go down a trip on nostalgia lane and play diablo 1 for some reason (I get that every few years myself =P ) I'd honestly recommend playing Sacred for your binge this time around. It's the better game of the two in large part, and has some really attractive features to it. It has some nuisances as well, but hey, it's old, give it a break. NO! NOT THE HIP! NOT THE HIP!