Let's start out by talking about what Sacred 3 is not. That is to say, it's not an open-world loot-driven adventure like its predecessors. As its original developer, Ascaron Entertainment is no more, newcomer Keen Games decided to make an arcade-style game, much like Gauntlet Legends (or Dark Legacy). If you're coming into this thinking it's going to be a follow-up to Sacred 2, you're going to be sorely disappointed. However, if you're willing to look past that fact, there's a fun, albeit repetitive co-op game to be found, so let's focus on that instead.
There's an evil emperor, Zane who wants to do all of the bad things that evil emperors like to do in fantasy settings. In this case, he's gotten his three strongest lieutenants to steal the Heart of Ancaria, which naturally causes everything to go all pear-shaped. As one of the chosen Heroes, you will need to help spearhead the Ancarian Resistance and foil Zane's evil machinations.
While the story is fairly rote, it's somewhat surprising that Keen decided to pepper the whole thing with silly dialogue that often breaks the fourth wall or seems anachronistic to the setting. For instance, one of Zane's lieutenants consistently uses an incorrect vocabulary, and abuses homophones like you wouldn't believe. At first, the tone was grating, but I actually found myself being entertained by it. The game doesn't take itself seriously at all, for better or worse.
Combat is fairly simple - you have a basic attack, a strong attack that can break defense or interrupt spellcasting, an evasive move (either a dodge or block) and your two special attacks. You can grab some enemies or objects and throw them at other enemies as well. Dealing enough damage to *almost* kill an enemy will put it into a knockdown state which lets you tap a button to execute them, which you can eventually chain together.
My biggest gripe with the campaign is that too many of the stages are simple slogs from Point A to Point B. When the game decides to change things up, such as throwing traps, aerial bombardment, or a holdout/defense objective at you, it becomes a lot more entertaining. As you level up, so do your foes, who gain new abilities. By the time you're nearing the end, the screen will be awash in all sorts of nasty effects you must avoid, all while fighting, interrupting casters and prioritizing threats. Unfortunately, the first half of the game is tragically easy.
In addition to the campaign, there are two or three side missions per tier that let you grind out a little extra experience and unlock consumable items. At first you have simple health potions, but eventually you'll unlock totems that allow you heal or refill the energy of your entire team. There are even auto attacking sentries and smart bombs that deal massive damage.
Rather than provide loot drops, Sacred 3 grants your player gear and bonuses as you gain levels. You'll eventually be able to choose from several light and heavy special attacks, three weapons and what type of defensive maneuver you'd like to employ. Each of these has an associated skill tree that lets you create a simple character build. In addition, your armor levels up (and changes appearance) as you do.
As you traipse throughout the world, you'll also find weapon spirit gems, that unlock the souls of powerful heroes and creatures to inhabit your weapon. Each weapon spirit gives you or your team an ability or buff, but comes with a disadvantage for whoever wears it. For instance, the Demoness spirit I used in my playthrough makes all my attacks have a fire-based damage over time effect, but in return I take 10% more damage. Each can be leveled up several times by having the same weapon spirit drop again.
Unfortunately, the weapon spirits also make your weapon talk, and what they have to say isn't always as funny as the developers would have you think. Though I thought the Battlemage was the most effective spirit for my particular build, I grew tired of my weapon hitting on me or spewing salacious dialogue every time combat died down.
Out of the box, Sacred 3 is built to be played with others. Every game session is set to online and publicly joinable by default, though you can change that easily. Two players can play locally, with up to four online. There's even the fabled unicorn: combo co-op. Again, two local players can play online with two more players, and those can also be a pair of local friends. Online play is mostly fine, though due to my home router setup I was never able to host a game, but had no trouble joining others.
Taking on the campaign in co-op mode scales enemies up to the highest-level character in your party. Since enemies gain more powerful abilities relative to the character, you might want to choose characters within a few levels of one another, though you can ignore that advice if you like. Once a co-op session begins, players can buy items, alter their ability/gear loadouts and then vote on what level to take on. If players take too long to vote, or not everybody cares, the game selects a random level for you to play. Thankfully, the game records everyone's progress.
Co-op also works slightly differently, since now each character has a power meter that fills up as they use their special attacks. Once it's full, you can give various buffs to your team. In addition to being able to revive fallen partners, the various skill trees also give bonuses to reviving other players, or even being revived yourself.
If you're looking to scratch an arcade-style brawler itch, Sacred 3 is a more than acceptable choice. However, if you're looking for a game that expands on the mainline Sacred series, you're bound to be disappointed.
Special note for PC players: You will want to use a controller. The mouse/keyboard controls are awful.
The Co-Optimus review of Sacred 3 is based on the PC version of the game.