Strategy & War
Note: yes, this is IMG’s second look at Sacrifice, following a short “first look” published in November of 2000. The following is based on hands-on experience with the actual Mac beta of the game, and all screenshots are from this build.
Shiny Entertainment is a company known for pushing the extremes of game design, from the surreal third- and first-person shooter MDK to the nutty console title Earthworm Jim. Always taking the cue from an existing genre and then bending it into new and different forms, their unusual, surreal and always cutting-edge titles have won many accolades and awards, though they haven’t had a 'Sims-level' hit to make them a household name. Then again, you don’t often top the charts with games that are as deeply weird as the ones that Shiny crafts; there is always just enough freakiness involved to scare the kiddies away.
Sacrifice is indeed quite weird. A blend of RTS and tactical strategy game with some third-person shooter and RPG thrown in, this title borrows liberally from the games before it and yet manages to feel wholly original. One of the first RTS titles to go full-3D, Sacrifice mixes stunning visuals with a surreal world crafted from bits and pieces of mythology and a liberal dose of odd.
While Sacrifice has RTS roots, it manages several unique twists on the aging genre. Rather than having a floating “god’s eye’ view of the battlefield, the camera is fixed on your character (an immortal wizard). Instead of gathering mundane resources such as gold, wood or oil, you have to harvest the souls of your dead opponents (or rescue the souls of your own slain armies) to create more warriors. And to defeat your opponents, you not only have to destroy their armies, you have to find the altar of the wizard and defile it with an unclean sacrifice – hence, the name of the game.
I warned you it was weird.
Sacrifice is set in an ethereal realm ruled by five gods, each of which zealously guards their territory (and worshippers) from the others. These immortal rivals have the power to rip whole worlds asunder, but being gods, they prefer to have others do their dirty work. This is where you come in – an arcane wizard who inadvertently left your own world in pursuit of more magical knowledge, you find yourself offering your services to each of the five gods of this realm in return for more power and souls to add to your army. Each god has an aligned set of creatures and spells at their disposal, and whom you choose to ally with will determine what powers you can use in combat.
Combat itself is carried out by your armies, which you can command to attack, defend and take up positions in realtime. With a mix of offensive and defensive magical spells you can both aid your creatures and wade in yourself and whack a few heads. Your armies will be composed of melee attackers, ranged units, flying units and a few rare (and extremely powerful) beasts that can do all three.