Shiny tries to tackle the problem of the over-the-shoulder RTS, and succeeds about as well as one can.

"Dude you gotta check out Sacrifice!" Another recommendation from Abaddon, which (as usual) I interpreted as, "Dude this game has weak play but really good graphics!" I put it off and put it off until Wen accidentally received it in the mail. After months, I installed it.

The 3D RTS has always fallen flat with me. Either you wind up in a very uninteresting game where you are completely unable to orient yourself quickly (Myth) or you are trying to build structures and move formations while looking through a shooter perspective (Battlezone). Sacrifice takes the latter approach, and managed to solve the base-building problem very neatly… you don’t build bases. You can pop structures in specific locations and maybe slave creatures to them for defense, but no barracks, town hall, or annoying little miners. And, as expected, it is graphically excellent.

As a strategy game, it seems to lack one important idea: strategy. You can toss your troops into basic formations and try to get them to walk to different places and attack stuff, but basically you tend to wind up doing one of two things: slaving creatures to structures in an effort to defend the enemy to death, or you form them up, tell them to guard you, and run your wizard around the field in the general direction of the enemy, supplementing your troops with spells and their own special abilities. Not very interesting.

The resource management is very inventive, but tends to fall apart after the first big skirmish. You have two resources: mana and souls. If an enemy dies and you can prevent the enemy wizard from snarfing up the soul, you can try to grab it and convert it to your side. Souls determine how many troops you can produce, and there are a finite number of them in the game. Once there is a significant balance shift in the souls owned by each side, it’s very difficult for the weaker player to make a comeback. The power of the wizard character and his ability to cast offsets this, but not by much. The single player game, more often than not, turns into an exercise in two phases: (1) defend the enemy to death and steal his souls, (2) tromp all over the enemy who cannot fight back.

At least there’s a story in the SP game, but it’s fairly predictable. Remember the Starcraft formula? You fight some small stuff, you get an ally of some sort, you fight some more stuff, your ally inevitably betrays you, big ass fight. Sacrifice has a similar feel; you may be sent on a mission to negotiate a truce or something, but it always comes down to "kick the other guy’s ass."

Still it’s not a bad diversion… I would just hesitate to call it a "strategy" game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really fit any other genre.

Mu rating: 6/10. It’s like television. Fun to watch stuff happen, and you don’t have to think too hard.

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