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Sacrifice
Minimum specs:PII 300, 64Mb RAM, 3D Card
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Publisher: Interplay
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Release Date:  Unavailable No Players:  Unavailable
UK price:  Unavailable PC Gamer Score:  Unavailable

Article first published: Issue 85, August 2000
Writer:  Matthew Pierce

Shiny just won't leave the Messiah alone.

their Messiah should have been omnipotent. In reality, it was a little devil to control and featured a control system that would test the patience of a Saint; and the game’s success was not helped by a release date that slipped every other month.

Despite its failure to revolutionise the third-person action adventure, though, Messiah did hint at better things to come. The once-cutting-edge scaling technology is a feature that lives on in Shiny’s next project, Sacrifice, as well as the twisted religious theme that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among its puritanical critics.

But that’s where the similarities end, for Sacrifice is to Messiah what Messiah was to Shiny’s other famous creation, Earthworm Jim. Gone are the dull warehouse-themed environments, the linear nature of the levels and the repetitive gameplay. For Sacrifice, Shiny have not only gone back to the drawing board, but invested in a new set of snazzy felt-tips with which to colour in their vision of 21st Century real-time strategy.

As all who witnessed the game at the recent E3 trade show can attest, Sacrifice isn’t easy to pigeonhole. Part real-time strategy, part third-person action adventure and part RPG, it blends a frankly incredible amount of visual detail into one utterly absorbing, deeply complex whole. Briefly, five gods control the floating island environments of the game. You play one of five wizards working for one of these deities, and, as the title suggests, must make sacrifices to your chosen god in order to be granted new spells. The more creatures you ritually sacrifice, the more your holy arsenal expands, and the more damage you’re able to do to your rival wizards and their followers. Like the ageing RTS Magic & Mayhem, you can choose to use the island’s indigenous creatures to fight for your cause, or simply do all the scrapping yourself. However, the sacrifices are imperative for collecting the bigger, more impressive spells. Like Planet Moon’s regularly delayed Giants, many of the 50-odd attacks in Sacrifice directly affect the terrain – either eating it up and creating mammoth holes for opponents to fall into infinity, causing it to roll violently like a giant land tsunami, or erupting massive volcanoes that spew fireballs from their peak.

Again, as in Giants, these effects are so visually striking that many of your first few attempts will be spent simply gazing at the awesome widespread damage they do. From the swirling smooth curves of the Tornado to the explosive power of Lightning, the spells are as stunning to look at as they are devastating. With such a fast pace to the action though, admiring your handiwork isn’t viable if you’re serious about success.

Switching to first-person mode and ignoring the spectacle that’s going on around you is the only way to win – especially in the already manic-looking multi-player mode. Literally hundreds of creatures can be on-screen at any one time – largely thanks to Shiny’s scaling technology which removes polygon detail from characters the further they are away from you. As a result, the frame rate rarely dips below a playable 20fps even on a relatively low-end system (check out this month’s CDs or DVD for a breathtaking video of it in action). It’s gone wrong for Shiny before, of course, and we mustn’t forget that Messiah’s perpetual lateness resulted in the finished game being less groundbreaking than we’d hoped. We’re sure though, that lessons have been learned. And if Sacrifice arrives before the year is out, it should easily be capable of living up to our great expectations.
   

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