There are some stories that are so entertaining we can't help but want to relive them time and time again.
St Nick's whirlwind gift-giving tour on Christmas, the bloody reign of Count Dracula, Aladdin's magical hijinks with the genie in the lamp - tales told a thousand times over, yet we're captivated by their imaginative twists and turns in spite of their familiarity.
Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden is a familiar gaming adventure. The quest to save a princess in peril, her kingdom under threat from an otherworldly demon, draws you in not because it's a wildly innovative experience, but because the sheer quality of gameplay makes revisiting this tale worthwhile.Hyperlink
As the eponymous hero Ayden, you're called forth to save the magical land of Lasgalen from the ancient demon Amonbane. Defeating it means collecting a series of powerful artefacts hidden deep within dungeons and temples across the land. Action-adventure in its purest form, Sacred Odyssey delivers a nice blend of open world roaming and hard-hitting combat.
It's a notch above button-mashing - you jam on attack and defend buttons to battle enemies, switching among weapons you acquire along the journey including a legendary sword, gauntlet, and boomerang. Boss battles make use of these and other items, testing your ability to come up with tactics and act quickly.
Since some obstacles can only be overcome with specific weapons, you're pushed into varying your attacks. It's enough variety to keep things interesting, without forcing you to constantly switch weapons. The ability to evade and block also prevents the combat system from being completely shallow.Target audience
You automatically target the nearest enemy when attacking, which is fine when you're facing a single foe. Take on a handful of orcs, however, and directing your attacks is much harder. Although you can move the analogue stick to change the direction of your attack, it results in a lot of missed attacks.
As such, it's better to work with automated targeting system, using Ayden's shield to block attacks and evade when surrounded by a group of enemies. Tough enemies that appear deep in the game also stress the need to balance offensive blows with defensive moves, moving it beyond just a dull button-masher.
Challenging combat together with an assortment of tasks and rich exploration - solving puzzles, galloping across the fields and hills of Lasgalen on the back of trusty stead Miya (there's a second horse hilariously named Moto), searching for hidden treasure chests - are enough to keep you playing.Not until your chores are finished
Not all of these tasks are a pleasure, though. The game's sprawling dungeons are impressive, but some feel like a chore to complete. The chilly, snow-covered Temple of Altemagus, for example, is one giant mirror puzzle. It's not bad, just unexciting. Tweaking mirrors on two floors to line up a beam of light feels more like work than fun.
Tons of side quests and a lengthy story ensure there are plenty of hours of gameplay, though the dungeons often are a grind. You want to enjoy them, but ultimately you work through them to get to the good stuff - the boss battles, story scenes, and combat scenarios in which you're grossly outnumbered.
It helps that Gameloft has taken great care with the voice acting (it's actually good!) and the graphics are eye-catching. There are regular hiccoughs when travelling between areas and noticeable pop-up on the horizon, though it hardly ruins the experience.
Any criticism for drawing inspiration from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series is less salient than the game's inability to provide more interesting puzzles. Still, Sacred Odyssey is a game of quality, so thoroughly packed with good gameplay that it's hard to not recommend.