Have You Played… Sacrifice?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Centuries ago, some unknown ancient sage called Keeron Gillan wrote about a strange action strategy game called Sacrifice. I haven’t heard anyone mention it since. We have failed.

Sacrifice did interesting things in a genre that still struggles to do more than copy notes from the nearest RPG. A portentous tale of multidimensional chaos and inevitable deicide, it nonetheless had a great sense of humour, and kept its clever storytelling from ever getting in the way.

The multiple paths through it are almost hard to believe today. Any complete playthrough features nine levels, but exactly which ones you play depends on which of five warring gods you side with at any given moment. You could complete Sacrifice multiple times and still miss over half the levels, and on top of that, your roster of units and spells depends on who you worked for on previous levels, multiplying the effect futher. Madness.

And you’ll want to replay it too, just to hear more of the script. The gods are bursting with character and increasingly dangerous flaws, but even the openly villainous ones are likeable and sharp witted. I find myself seriously pondering their arguments before (often reluctantly) choosing which one to support, not even caring what it meant in gameplay terms. It’s a bit special.

53 Comments

  1. DeusExMachina says:

    Thank you very much Sin, I never heard of this game and I will play it now.

  2. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Wonderful game. Well, I say that, I remember it used to annoy the hell out of me at the start of levels when you have like five souls and the enemy has an army, but I got over that and finished it (a bit of a rarity for younger me). The gods probably got me through, Charnel and Tim Curry’s Stratos are delightful.

    Also, in this day and age of wizard-battling games/MOBAs/whatever, I’m slightly surprised no-one’s had a crack at remaking/updating it.

  3. emotionengine says:

    Glad to see that a certain sinister agent is atoning for past sins.

  4. JatApp says:

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  5. HASJ says:

    Holy shit! I played this game so much! I loved that depending on the gods you chose, eventually the other gods would stop offering you missions to go. Such a small but great touch of personality.

    Also the later spells are land-breaking, powerful demonstrations of what each god concept can do. As well as the creatures. Pyro’s Phoenix is my favourite one.

    To anyone who hasn’t played it: Play it.

  6. Reapy says:

    I actually found this game on my college network poking around shares people had. Tried it out for the hell of it and ended up not being able to put the thing down until it was done.

    The theme and way the game played out was really quite the thing. Really a lost little gem.

  7. cpt_freakout says:

    One of the greats of the ‘RTS with a twist’ genre. Man, Shiny could be so, so good at this videogame shenanigans.

    Anyway, the GOG version is pretty good, if anyone’s wondering where to buy this.

    • kud13 says:

      Did GOG get it to play nice with 64 bit systems yet?

      I own it, but last time I tried playing, it kept CTDing

      • Immobile Piper says:

        I just reinstalled my GOG copy and it CTD’d when I first attempted to play, but after that I was able to play a tutorial and a full mission with no issues. Seems to work just fine.

        64bit Windows 7.

  8. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Spot on, Sin. The characterisation of the gods is brilliant. They bicker and snipe at each other like five people who have been trapped together for a long time would.

    Charnel the death god, although he can chew the scenery with the best of them, can make some good points and deliver them well. The nature goddess Persephone, who would be Absolute Good in a lesser-written game, is a self-righteous zealot once her serene mask is disturbed. Pyro, the god of fire, is determined to improve everyone’s lot by industry and progress, and will burn anyone who gets in the way of his utopian vision. Helios, god of air and knowledge affects an airy intellectualism that masks a deep contempt of everyone and everything not as smart as he is. James, the earth god, is just a nice guy who isn’t too bright, is easily manipulated by the other gods, and has the slow inexorable power to destroy everything if he’s properly riled up.

    Sacrifice is one of the few games where I take ten minutes to turn off subtitles and listen to every god’s pitch before I choose a mission without just scanning to the objective or skimming text.

  9. nullward says:

    One of my all time favorite games. Some of the work it did with in-game story delivery was very unusual for a strategy game. Back then, I was impressed when characters gestured as they spoke, though. I guess things have changed a bit.

    It’s still an amazing game. The art style needs to be mentioned — the world looked gorgeous, like a cross between surrealism and Dr. Seuss.

    And my god. Some of the spells! The scale was truly astounding to me. Like the volcano spell. Makes a little volcano, right? Kills a couple units, does damage over time? Ha ha ha. No.

    You cast the spell. The ground would bulge, distending, creating a miniature mountain. A rumbling would sound. Then, a GIGANTIC GOUT OF LAVA explodes out of the earth and shoots sky high, launching everything nearby into the air, and lasting for a good half minute. And it leaves a crater behind, if I remember correctly. Now that’s a Volcano spell.

    Vertical scale was, at that time, something a lot of games forgot about, I felt. They put mountains in the distance, but keep the game itself very flat and simple. Sacrifice had some lovely towering terrain and effects that you had to crane your head to really take in. And the sky was gorgeous too.

    Worth playing!

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      Plus the spells ranged from the horrific to the absurd. Bovine Intervention still cracks me up and is where I get my handle.

  10. HigoChumbo says:

    Yes I have and it’s still to this day the most unique game I’ve ever played.

    15 years after I still keep crying that someone should develop a remake/sequel.

  11. HigoChumbo says:

    By the way, it’s also worth noting that it probably has the best original soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a videogame.

    • Noodlemonk says:

      Sacrifice is brimming with atmosphere. The aesthetics is just so otherwordly odd yet wonderfully tied together. And on top of it all sits Manthei’s brilliant soundtrack – which I still frequently listen to. Oh, Gods, I love this amazing game!

  12. pendergraft says:

    This sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole. Back when I played EverQuest, I ran into a mage in the Desert of Ro. We grouped up, fought some bandits, and became something like friends. The reason I bring it up is, he wouldn’t stop going on about Sacrifice. If he wasn’t playing EverQuest, he was playing Sacrifice. So effusive was he about Sacrifice that I made the mistake of going to the store to buy it, forgetting the name, and instead picking up Summoner.

    I’ve imbibed, as one might suspect from a person who suddenly recalls something completely uninteresting from a defunct, over-a-decade-old MMORPG, a great deal of bourbon in the intervening years, but out of the fog I have recalled this mage’s name, entered it into Google, and discovered, by way of various EverQuest-related forums, that he was a bit of a twat. Other people refer to him as a “well-known, and heartily disliked, crybaby.”

    And to think I was associated with him.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Lol, I played Summoner a lot but many of people seemed to hate it including some guy writing a hater guide on gamefaqs.

  13. Troika says:

    Simply one of a kind. And it has absolutely astounding in-game skies.

  14. Chaoslord AJ says:

    A flawed but unique gem. I loved this a lot as it reminded me of the lost days of Magic Carpet.
    The way the volcano spell obliterated anything for instance. The wraparound map. The wizard enemies who would reappear in later levels when “killed” in a realm. The gathering of souls instead of mana.
    Sure the strategy part was weak but a great game nonetheless. I’d wish they’d make such games again.

  15. Troika says:

    P.s. seems like it still has a living MP community
    link to youtube.com

  16. HigoChumbo says:

    I see several of you mentioning “Volcano”, but I some other spells were trully imaginative and unlike anything I’ve seen again in a video-game. Now everything is just about generic fireballs and increased crit chances, back in the day we had this:

    Meanstalks:
    link to youtube.com

    – or –

    Bore:

  17. Warduke says:

    This is one of my favorite games ever… Really excellent.

  18. Kido says:

    One of the best games of all time. Period.

  19. Warduke says:

    Anyone ever try this in multiplayer? Always thought it would be fun to play with a few friends but never did it.

    • Immobile Piper says:

      I only did a few bot matches but I’m not sure how well it would work. Due to the way soul reclamation works, it’s fairly difficult to push back the tide so once someone starts winning it will just snowball from there. I’m not sure the game is fast enough to accommodate that.

      But that was against bots and I’m not big into MP anyway. Worth a try I suppose?

      • Herring says:

        This used to be a LAN staple for us. It was great fun; the change in perspective and the totally different play-style for the gods made it great.

        Not sure if it would work as a team game though; we played it FFA and that countered the natural ‘swinginess’ of the game a bit.

    • Troika says:

      Ahem.

    • Hunchback says:

      We did play it quite a bit, in 4 man FFA modes it was great cause you could always observe fights from afar, then decide who you would “backstab” and go pick his souls for free while he’s fighting with someone else.
      Don’t think it would work 1v1 tho.

  20. Immobile Piper says:

    One of my favourites. I highly recommend people give it a look. Third person RTS with good gameplay and story bits. It does have a few annoying levels where it’s a bit too easy to fail, but no more than you’d find in an average game.

    In terms of single god playthroughs, Earthworm Jim is probably the easiest while I would strongly recommend not picking Tim “Stratos” Curry for your first playthrough. Basically every god in Sacrifice has a mechanical theme with their units. Earth units are sturdy, while Stratos’ units put the glass into “glass cannon” (if you want to find the cannon I suggest you pick Pyro). Could just be that I suck at keeping units alive in RTS games.

  21. Gemberkoekje says:

    I’ll never forget how Pyro said to Jim “I didn’t know you could READ”

    I sometimes use the quote, and obviously, no-one knows what I’m talking about… Still, the memories.

  22. Hoot says:

    I signed up to RPS (long overdue) just to post this.

    People of the Comment Section, PLAY THIS GAME.

    I played it through many, many times when I was in my mid teens despite protestations from my friend who liked MS Flight Simulator and who called Sacrifice “pokemon shit”.

    He was a fool and is now married to a fat, ugly sow with a gaggle of kids that torment him, history lesson aside, this game is a unique gem and should be played by all.

  23. EkoAzarak says:

    SACRIFICE WAS AWESOME!!! its still awesome.

    omfg this was the first RTS that really captured my life lol. sooooo good.

    get Sacrifice cheap on GOG. works perfect on my win7 64.

  24. MadJax says:

    A true gem of a game that I bought way back when thanks to a PC Gamer review on release (Yes, I was one of the 13 people that bought it), a truly underrated gem that stood at the time alongside Giants and Outcast! I still boot it up every year (November is Half Life 1, March (My birthday) is Sacrifice and July is Giants) for a playthrough and it still amazes me how ahead of its time it was.

    • Premium User Badge

      Al__S says:

      I was also one of the 13 people who bought this. Go and play. It’s ace. And James, of course, is long forgotten video game and cartoon character Earthworm Jim.

  25. montorsi says:

    Sacrifice was such a great game, with the kind of zany flavor we just don’t see very much anymore.

    • Turkey says:

      I miss Shiny. MDK blew my mind when I first played it. Everything was so huge and strange.

  26. malkav11 says:

    I loved Sacrifice in spirit but never came anywhere near beating one playthrough, much less experimenting more widely. The soul mechanics and purposely limited perspective and unit control made it a real uphill battle.

  27. Jackablade says:

    Ah yes, Sacrifice. Imagine the RTS sections of Brutal Legend expanded out to a full game. Now imagine that being a good thing.

  28. dorobo says:

    Oh yes i did and it’s still very unique and holds up to this day.

  29. WuXeS says:

    Love this game. I can’t remember anything that came close to the originality of Sacrifice. It’s a product of wonderful minds and it still blows me away when I think about it.

    Trivia: apart from the countless jokes, it had a pretty high-profile cast (Tim Curry as Stratos, among others).

  30. Kirasath says:

    Have it on Steam, cant get my computer to run it :(
    I want to play it badly.

  31. Hunchback says:

    Oh i have mentioned Sacrifice on a multiple accounts in the interwebs of RPS. It’s such an amazing game, i am still stunned by how awesome it can be, considering it’s age. And as the author said, that nowadays RTS makers are struggling so hard to find anything fresh…

    The OP forgot to mention the completely INSANE “ultimate” powers you get in this game, basically each god having it’s own natural disaster. And by insane i don’t just mean “op-ton-of-damage”, these things are HUGE and have very obvious effects in the gameplay, they change the map and can even lead to the irreversible loss of the only resource in the game – souls. A huge volcano can erupt and modify the topology of the map, on top of dealing a lot of damage, a tornado can suck you up in the air and throw you to the other end of the map (or out of it, if i am not mistaken)… and the Earth-Worm Jim god can give you the power to drill a HUGE hole in the ground that will immediately collapse, destroying everything in the zone, including the souls… forever. And there’s “Bovine Intervention” spell too.

    Man, the memories!

  32. Premium User Badge

    FrostByghte says:

    One of the best games ever…highly recommended if you have not played it.

  33. Unsheep says:

    Tough, quirky and still unique today in terms of gameplay.
    If you don’t mind the old graphics you’re in for a cool ride.

  34. SomeDuder says:

    Imagine this game being made today (no, I mean, in a positive way, not with DLC, exclusives, season passes, F2P or whatever), the world would be absolutely breathtaking, it has such a great original setting.

    I actually replayed it last year, and despite the crude textures, the audio is still top notch. Controls are a bit clunky, but you get used to them quick enough. Play this, please.

  35. bill says:

    How difficult/annoying is it?

    I got it on GOG years ago, but then I heard it could be really difficult and I had visions of being forced to replay levels multiple times. Does it have quicksaves? Does it have an easy difficulty?

    I love the idea, but i find a lot of RTS wearing as it is, and I’m worried that running back and forth will only add to that.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      It’s difficulty lies in breaking the balance. Because your unit count is limited by souls and you can only gain more by finding patches of them strewn around or killing your enemy’s minions the early stage of each level is critical, as you whittle away at their forces in order to be in a position to strengthen your own. This makes every engagement tense and interesting, even in the early game, and often requires an early tactical withdrawal other rts games don’t engender. It’s well worth though for the later game and the writing, which is as wonderful as has been suggested above. Hope that helps.

  36. Ralphomon says:

    The reason I signed up for the early access to GOG.com back when it didn’t exist and was still called Good Old Games is for this game. I played a few missions on it and then it refused to work, and continues to refuse to work on the newer computer I have now. It’s a shame because I had a high school friend who played it and loved it, and I’m convinced that my girlfriend (who otherwise only plays Populous: The Beginning) would love it.