The ambitious psychological RPG Sacred Fire from the small, primarily Slovak independent studio Poetic, led by Andrej Vojtáš, finally shows us on Steam in a preliminary approach, after we were able to play a demo (from which Vašek brought you his impressions). And I looked at his tooth.
Early access offers the first of three acts, which means a good portion of the story driven by a pile of your own decisions. Choose this, or you will be at every step. Welcome to ancient Caledonia under the onslaught of the Romans!
Board game for heroes without a table
Behind the slightly non-standard term “psychological role-playing game” is actually a kind of hybrid between a visual novel and a table RPG. Everything takes place using text with accompanying static images and it is up to you where the story will lead.
I lost the feeling that Sacred Fire was just an ordinary visual novel at the very beginning, when I came across ingenious character creation. Here we find old well-known statistics such as strength, dexterity or intellect, but various character traits also add to them, which can further modify these values.
When creating a character, we often don’t see values such as trauma, anger, addiction or guilt, but Sacred Fire is definitely not afraid of them. You will create a hero or heroine, with whom you know how they will do in the fight, how they will resist fear or, for example, how they will succeed in the role of leader. You can create a bloodthirsty beast, a merciful commander or a heartless despot. And the icing on the cake are, albeit a bit limited, the possibilities of adjusting the look.
There are also other violations of the stereotype of visual short stories or text games. In dialogues or when dealing with various dangerous situations, you always bet on success depending on what qualities or characteristics the given option requires. The same goes for turn-based battles, where you will also make every decision and hope that you will succeed. Just deciding whether to join your brother’s side or choose your own path, the game exchanges for a choice of battle cry vs. arrow from the backup.
The fight doesn’t drag on unnecessarily, and the game dips so nicely. But sometimes it is too cruel and you simply die because of one decision, even if the indicator predicted a ninety percent chance of success. You can compensate for the effect of chance with so-called motivational points, which can increase your chances by up to 100%, but of course you only have a limited number of them. Unfortunately, the game on a lower difficulty can easily turn into the fact that it is these points that you pour all around you and the risk does not concern you.
Another interesting mechanic is indicators of anger and fear. Both can fly to unexpected heights based on some situations, which will affect the feast or even prevent some actions. When the hero is dialed in white and knocked out with fear like an aspen, motivation points can again help, which return the indicators to zero values.
It is true that a constant constellation of probabilities and statistics can be tiring after a while. One also has to throw slowly at whether he will smile properly or if he can pull an apple out of his pocket. The game can easily become a clicker in which the player does not follow the plot, but rather the statistics, which cancels immersion in the story and turns it into a pissed-off calculus.
However, the game does not lack relationships with other characters. These are spiced with a system of fame that displays a kind of popularity chart. And besides, your cousins or rivals give birth to pcoits, thoughts and concepts that are reflected in their qualities. A bit more generic Disco Elysium.
Audiovisual shine with a little misery
The Caledonian landscape and its people look stunning at first glance, but on the other they can act as an advertisement for a mobile game that is not even in development yet. The game graphics are created using renders and some other artistic stylization is missing. All the characters look ironed and clean, as if someone had washed them in Perwoll, and they look more like dolls.
But since you are reading the impressions of the preliminary approach, it is quite possible that the authors of their characters decide to get a little dirty and ornate or even move them somehow. Attempts to move otherwise statistical characters can also be seen in the blog on the official website of the game, so we may see it in the full version.
Unfortunately, the musical side of the Sacred Fire visual also shares some kitschy. The epic orchestra puts you in a chair and promises great adventures – I wouldn’t be surprised if you fell in love with it immediately. But it won’t let you rest for a moment, so one urgent and epic topic alternates with another, and players may rupture a tube after a few hours. It’s also a bit of a shame that the audio design is minimal, so you can’t hear the sounds of the environment or the clanking of the guns. Again – perhaps in the final version.
My impressions of Sacred Fire are obviously full of reservations. But all my dissatisfied moans easily overwhelm the game’s greatest triumph – a complex and branching story. The narrative has a gradient, the characters make sense, and without exception, I longed to know more about them. I felt sorry for even a random stranger who sacrificed himself for me.
But it wouldn’t have to. I could laugh at him through my character. To be an unbearable, aggressive tiger who only rides on himself. And the world would respond – and so would the hero.
The enormous freedom of choice is reminiscent of games from Inkle Studios, for example. But Sacred Fire enriches the branched narrative by focusing more on the main character’s inner processes. It squeezes the maximum from the genre of text RPGs and expands into new, unsuspected horizons.
The preliminary version does not contain any major bugs or bugs and the whole first act presents the game in the best technical light. This allows you to fully concentrate on the sometimes squeaky, but mostly truly impressive gaming experience and think undisturbed about your decisions and their implications. This is the main force of Sacred Fire.
Source: Games by games.tiscali.cz.
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