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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 300 MHz    24x CD-ROM    Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit


Sacrifice
January 25, 2002 | Michael Eilers
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Note: Many of the details of Sacrifice's backstory and setting were covered in our detailed preview of the title, so this review assumes that you've read that article in an attempt to avoid needless duplication.

Sacrifice is yet another Mac port with a tortured and twisted path to the Mac OS. Originally announced in November of 2000 as one of the "launch" titles celebrating the return of MacPlay, it promptly vanished for over nine months, finally reappearing at Macworld Expo NY in 2001. Due to ship at the end of the summer, the game finally made it at the end of December, a few days short of a 2002 release.

Unfortunately, it is an arguable point as to whether the game was actually completed before it shipped. Plagued by poor performance and a lack of multiplayer support (the patch is due in March, 2002) the game has a rough, unfinished feel and a lack of polish that may very well condemn it to the same place the PC version of this game can be found these days: the bargain bin.

I'm aware that these sentiments seem to conflict with my very positive preview of the same game, but I want to emphasize that I still find the concept, story and graphics of this game to be very inviting and original. With an interesting backstory, stellar voice work (including celebrity talent) and many twists on the staid RTS genre, this game can be a heck of a lot of fun — just not at 5 frames per second.

Overview
Sacrifice is essentially a realtime strategy title, and it seems fair to say that it is in no small way influenced by the Myth series of games by Bungie. This influence can be seen not only in the "god's eye" viewpoint but also in the emphasis on manipulating and controlling small numbers of units in a tactical manner. As with Myth, you can't win the game by just cranking out endless numbers of units and sending them to the slaughter, a common tactic in other RTS titles; preserving the lives and health of your creatures is a critical aspect of gameplay which must be managed carefully at all times. Unlike Myth, there are also resources to gather and strategic bases to protect.

Sacrifice plays as a traditional kill-your-enemies RTS cross-bred with Capture The Flag. Regardless of your style of play, the goal is always the same: reach the enemy base with at least part of your army intact and sacrifice one of your creatures on the enemy altar, thereby defiling it and destroying the enemy wizard. This goal can be accomplished by bold attacks or by a careful war of attrition — most often, you will need a combination of both techniques. In any case Sacrifice's style of play not only requires strategic thinking but also some very deft mouse and keyboard skills.

The game has a steep learning curve, and a set of keyboard shortcuts that can take up almost every key on the board; the initial frustration level can be very high. This fact alone may be the reason that this game never became a big seller on the PC side, despite dozens of extremely positive reviews and magazine cover/splash pieces. While unit management and control and unit formations are extremely effective and intuitive compared to other titles, being able to execute these functions rapidly in the heat of combat takes a cool head and a lot of skill.



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