Sacrifice is a game which seems to be the going trend in RTS
games. It's made by Shiny Entertainment
, and is out now.
Unlike most current RTS games, in which the player has to manage a large and complicated set of resource gatherers, and develop an intricate tech tree, all from the POV of an omniscient observer, Sacrifice puts the player onto the game map, as a wizard serving one of the five Gods. The simplified tech tree develops as the wizard gains experience points by casting spells, and killing enemies. The only resource in the game is the soul, which is used by the wizards to summon minions. As the wizard becomes able to summon more powerful creatures, those creatures may take two, three or possibly four souls to summon. These creatures are usually able to account for several of their single-souled brethren, however.
To collect more souls, one must kill enemy creatures, and keep their controlling wizard from recovering the souls before you can convert them. There are two types of souls. Blue souls are collectable simply by the wizard moving near them. When your own creatures fall in battle, they produce blue souls which can be collected and recycled. Enemy creatures produce red souls, which means they have a belief system too foreign for you to use directly. You can convert them by casting the convert spell. This summons a Sacrifice-Doctor, who will take the fallen enemy back to your altar and perform a purification ritual. Once this ritual is complete, the soul becomes immediately available for your use. Because souls are so vitally important to the game, you may have to kill the enemy wizard before killing his forces. A discorporate wizard cannot collect souls, nor cast spells.
Each wizard has an altar to serve as their home base, and a direct link to their patron god. So long as a wizard's altar stands, they cannot be permanently killed. A dead wizard can reincarnate by standing next to a mana fountain or their altar until their health is full, and they've recovered a quarter of their maximum mana. To banish an opponent, and win the map, one must desecrate the enemy altar. During a desecration, one of your own creatures must be sacrificed to the effort, and sac-doctors will perform a ritual. During this ritual, the altar's wizard will take magical damage. If the wizard is slain during a desecration, then they are permanently banished.
Any wizard standing near an unclaimed mana fountain will recover mana and health automatically. A wizard can claim a mana fountain by casting a manalith on it. Manaliths prevent any opposing forces from drawing from a mana fountain. At higher levels, mana fountains can be converted into shrines, which becomes useful because sac-doctors need only take souls to a shrine to convert them. This may prevent a cross-map run by the sac-doctor. The other useful feature of manaliths is that they may have a spell called guardian cast. Guardian binds one of your creatures to the manalith, and receives increased stats, and regeneration for it. Also, the manalith cannot be destroyed until all guardians are slain. The downside is that it may not stray far from the manalith. Any number of creatures may be attached to a manalith.
Combat is simple, with a paper-rock-scissors approach, (or Fire-Water-Groo if you're a Zork fan). Flying creatures counter melee troops, melee troops counter ranged attackers, ranged attackers counter flyers. Some of the higher-level creatures don't fit so neatly into these categories. Also, the wizard can directly effect the battle by casting either direct damage spells, or healing magic, in addition to spells that summon walls, freeze enemies in place or similar effects. Most creatures have some special ability that recommends them over similar troops of a different god.
Sacrifice has five gods, Persephone, James, Stratos, Pyro, and Charnel. Persephone is the goddess of life, James resembles Earthworm Jim, who seems to have been deified after defeating Queen Slug-for-a-butt, and controls rock and earth. Stratos commands the air, Pyro is a fire god, and Charnel is the god of death and strife. Each god has a distinct personality, and their units and speeches in the single player campaign reflect this.
Sacrifice can be played as a multi-player battle, much like Warcraft, or Starcraft, in which each player starts with a given number of souls and must exterminate his or her opponents with the resources available. In this variant, the player chooses a god, and uses only that god's spells, with more becoming available as the wizard gains experience. It also has an intricate single-player campaign in which the player may choose which god to perform missions for. This means that deep within the campaign your wizard may have a hodgepodge of spells from this god or that. Every choice you make has a consequence, and by making one god happy, you earn the ire of one or more others. Eventually, the gods you have disdained will no longer allow you to work for them.
Shiny was good enough to include Scapex, the level editing tool for Sacrifice. It seems powerful, and has useful triggers, much the same as the Starcraft Campaign Editor.
All in all, Shiny Entertainment has produced another excellent game, one which will become a benchmark against which other games of this genre are compared..