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Touted as a revolutionary RTS, can Shiny's Sacrifice rejuvenate the downtrodden genre?
By - Lee "Grignard" Haumersen

It's always been fairly easy to pin a game down to a specific genre, especially a real-time strategy title. Easily recognizable, these titles are often the ones that adhere to genre conventions the most. But forget about conventions -- Shiny is throwing all of that out the window with Sacrifice, and it's a great move.

It's understandable why everyone is unwilling to classify Sacrifice as merely another real-time strategy game. I truly cannot recall another RTS that strung its missions together by such an intriguing means of story telling, nor one that gave the player the ability to play a single campaign in so many unique ways. Nearly every RTS available has two sides -- some have even managed more -- each with its own set of missions and its own side of the story to tell. Every side generally has its own unique units with which to battle.

There is only a single campaign to play in the game, but like any good adventure, game choices you make between missions have a great deal to do with how the rest of the game will play out.

Given the five gods available in Sacrifice, most would assume that there are five sides to the campaign, or five small campaigns to play. That's not really how it works here, and this is where Sacrifice makes a rightful claim to being more than just a gorgeous, full-3D real-time strategy game. There is only a single campaign to play in the game, but like any good adventure game, choices you make between missions have a great deal to do with how the rest of the game will play out. It's hard to say without playing through the game several times over whether the final battle is variable as well, but even if it isn't you'll be able to play through it many times before you really start duplicating too much.

The game begins with a nice background cinematic giving your character a reason for being in the circumstance he's in. While not the first to do so, it is refreshing to see Shiny make the choice to use the actual game engine itself to run the cinematic cut-scenes, as opposed to using live-action filming or pre-rendered movies. Given the right hardware to run on, these cut-scenes actually look a lot better than I've seen using any other technique, with only a few select exceptions. Voice acting and sound engineering during these cinematic sequences are also first-rate, with many known professional actors lending their talent. If you really want to get picky, points could be taken off for the bad lip-synching and the limited range of gestures available to the characters, but the end results are still satisfying.

In between missions, and some times at the beginning or the end of a mission, you'll be introduced to further plot points with these in-game cinematics. You will also have the opportunity to speak with each of the five gods before each mission starts as well, at which time they will each offer you a mission to complete. It's your choice as to which god you want to perform services for, and this drives the way the story unfolds for you, as well as the units and spells you will have available to you during the future missions. So with careful planning, you are actually able to custom tailor your abilities for the final mission as you play through the entire game. I found the general back-story being told throughout the game refreshing after so many "side A vs. side B in a fight for the limited supply of critical resources" variety of campaigns in other RTS'.

The missions themselves do very little to actually tell any part of the story, outside the occasional plot-point cut-scene triggered at set times and locations in the mission. They really boil down to battling in an environment relevant to current plot elements against a resident wizard or nuisance beast, with each battle increasing in difficulty and skill as you progress. There are even some "named" creatures that you'll be given as starting forces. But even if you lose them in battle, they'll be back to fight for you again in later missions.

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