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Pentium II 300/AMD 450, Windows 95/98/2000, 64 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM, 650 MB hard drive, 8MB D3D video card

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Sound FX




Game Review - by James Allen
During the last couple years, you cannot find a shortage of either real time strategy or role-playing games on the et. Both of these genres feature engrossing features and addictive gameplay. So, why not combine the best of both worlds and reap the benefits? That's what the fine folks at Interplay have done with Sacrifice, intertwining the personal touches of RPG's with the battles of RTS's. When you combine two genres of games, you can get neither one right and end up with a horrible game. Sacrifice is not a horrible game. In fact, this land achievement may well define a new hybrid: RPGRTS (pronounced "rip grits").

Sacrifice centers around an Earth where five gods compete for control of the planet. You, as a wandering wizard, can pledge allegiance to any of the gods, whichever tickles your fancy. The gods comprise a range of characteristics: Charnel specializes in necromancy, Persephone takes mysticism, Pyro owns fire, Stratos takes to the skies, and James, god of the Earth, who is the resident rock professional. Hey, I was a geology major! Coincidence? I think not! Anyways, each god has his or her own specific types of troops to destroy the competition.

Depending on which god you choose, your powers and available grunts change. The basic types of warriors stay the same: there is one general-purpose trooper, a flying beast, a big flying being, a long-range attacker, and several others. Each of the creatures is exquisitely detailed and look very frightening. As the wizard, you command your minions around, telling them where to walk and who to attack. You actually don't do any of the hand-to-hand combat yourself, but you can use spells to hurt the competition. There's nothing like firing off an earthquake from way downtown! Other neat spells include a rain of frogs, fireballs, and a demonic rift.

The usual graphics, sound, and control customizations are available. If you have a lower end system, you can adjust the graphics enough to make the game playable. Also, Sacrifice can auto-detect your optimum graphics settings to alleviate the guesswork. As is standard these days, the individual gaming experience can be insanely customized to your specific needs.

And then there's multiplayer. Now, you can desecrate your friends alters without leaving the comfort of your own home! Multiplayer events can take place on the local machine (against computer opponents), LAN, or Internet game. There are several game types: Skirmish, whoever desecrates all the opponent's alters wins, Slaughter, where the highest body count wins, Soul Harvest, where the first wizard to collect a set number of souls wins, and Domination, where you try to capture manaliths (similar to Unreal Tournament's Domination mode). Each of these modes can be tailored in several areas, so further expand the already wide-ranging gaming options. In addition, if that wasn't enough, there's a level editor. I'd say that there's enough to keep you busy.

Sound FX:
You never really notice the sound, because it is so natural. Insects fly about, lightning crashes in the distance, a dramatic musical score rumbles out of your speakers. All of the characters speak with a distinctive accent. All of the players wizards also sound completely different. Each of your spells has its own phrase. To sum it up, everything sounds right.

The gameplay in Sacrifice compares with all the other aspects of the game: right on target. Your missions usually comprise of completing an objective: rescuing a person, desecrating an altar, or some other noble deed. You character has three important characteristics: your soul counter, how many souls you own, your mana bar, how much "power" you have to create being and cast spells, and the life bar. Once your life bar runs out, you turn into a ghostly form, and need to gain mana to resurrect yourself. You only have limited abilities while you are not of this world, so gaining more mana is a priority. If you have a soul to spare and enough mana, you can create one of your god specific creatures to ally with you to defeat evil. Your main task is to order the living things around, commanding them to attack certain units, align in formation, or use their special abilities.

Mana can be gained at several locations. First is your altar, which serves as your home base. A more plentiful location is mana fountains, which spout the stuff just like a geyser. If you wish, you can construct a manalith around a fountain, to prevent other wizards from using the supply. You must have manaliths to have manahoars, which provide a constant supply mana wherever you go. Every time you use a spell or create a creature, you use mana, and it does not regenerate on its own, so it is paramount that you use manahoars. If you want to go even further, you can construct a shrine at a manalith, which affords as a drop off point for Sac-Doctors who wish to purify souls. You can gain more souls of your dead warriors by picking them up, and you can use them instantly. But, you can also collect the souls of the opposition, but they need to be purified first, thus the need for the Sac-Doctors.

As I stated earlier, the altar serves as your HQ. You can always rise from the dead after an unfortunate mishap, but once your altar is destroyed, it's all over. Sac-Doctors can be used to desecrate an altar, and this eliminates your competition. Conversely, it is very important that your altar survive the outing. You can always teleport back to your altar if the enemy has snuck by, and thwart their plans. These attributes only touch on the overwhelmingly complex and interesting gameplay in Sacrifice. The only lack I can find in this game is a difficulty option. Sacrifice is really hard, and you'll find your altar getting desecrated more than is healthy, at least for the novice player. As you play more, you will develop appropriate strategies, it will get easier, and you'll recognize and deduct the AI's tactics. Still, it seems surprising that in a game of this comprehensiveness, it overlooks a difficulty setting. Still, you'll get over it.

The graphics are amazing. I cannot think of a good enough adjective to describe them, maybe the thesaurus can: astonishing? That still sells the graphics short. I cannot remember the last time I was immersed in a game environment on this scale. You feel as if you are peering though a window into a strange and engaging world. The sweeping, eerie skies. The slowly falling snow. The strange plant life. The mountainous and uneven terrain. It is utterly unbelievable. Heck, the main menu screen is pretty psychedelic. Screenshots do not do this game justice.

Sacrifice is for any fan of role-playing or real time strategy games. The graphics are awesome, the gameplay is captivating, and sound is stellar, and it's a fresh whiff of air in a sometimes stale genre. Plus, Sacrifice is just WEIRD, and sometimes that's good. In this case, it's magnificent.

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