There’s only one thing worse than a rubbish game that everyone loves, and that’s a great game that no one’s ever heard of. These mysterious gems don’t occur often – people tend to find out about them pretty quickly, and then BAM, they’re as popular as they deserve. But that’s not the way it always happens. In the year 2000 such a game came along, a PC game for Windows 98. My dad bought it when it came out, and I’ve been installing it, attempting to beat it, failing and forgetting about it periodically ever since; I only completed it this summer. It’s called Sacrifice, and you’ve probably never heard of it.
So, because it’s a game from only just the right side of the millennium, you expect the values to be poor, right? Wrong. These are graphics the likes of which had never been seen before, and even looking at them today, it’s incredible to think of them playing out on Windows 98. It’s not picture-perfect, but the character models, landscapes, and rendering are even serviceable by modern standards.
Sacrifice also pulls out the stops with its original musical score, with themes to match each location. And then you’ve got your professional voiceovers, handled by acting stars like Tim Curry and Brad Garrett (you know, the elder brother from Everybody Loves Raymond?) as well as classic voiceover artists like Jennifer Hale (the voice of Samus from the Metroid series).
It looks and sounds awesome, and then you come to the gameplay, and that’s awesome too. In Sacrifice you play a wizard, and your job is to make a sacrifice on the altar of an enemy wizard, thus desecrating their altar and making them dead. Getting one of your creatures to their altar in order to sacrifice it is the challenge, because you’ll have to get it past their creatures, and that’s where things get very, VERY messy. To make creatures, you’ll need souls – and to get souls, you’ll have to steal them from the bodies of your enemy’s dead creatures.
Each wizard gets a set number of souls, so there’s a real structure behind the game. Add to this your own offensive and defensive spells, and you have a magical tactical war on your hands, unfolding in real time. Did I mention that between creature summons and spells there are more than a hundred tactical spells to use? Oh. Well, there are. And those spells include landscape-altering effects like volcano, bore and cloudkill.
Getting the hang of this game is not easy, but once you know the commands the gameplay is like no other game I’ve ever come across. Combining tactical strategy with real-time combat, this is just an incredible gaming experience, and with fifty separate missions in story mode alone, the replay value is just massive.
As a reviewer, and as a gamer, I think this game is as close as I’ve ever come to a perfect ten. That’s a story in itself – but the thing is, no one has heard of this game, and I just can’t get over that. It didn’t sell well, people don’t talk about it… It just wasn’t an event. It got good reviews, but the release was mis-timed and under-marketed, and Shiny never got to make a sequel. It’s so unfair.
But it’s not too late! Game download site GOG.com has made Sacrifice available in download form, and it’s only $9.99. There’s still time to grab a copy and find out what the fuss hasn’t been about, and to give your support to a development team that did the right thing at the wrong time. Let’s start a retroactive revolution; I want to hear from you. Did you ever play Sacrifice? What other gems have we overlooked?