"In the realm that was my home, I had devoted my life to study of the arcane. No pursuit was too perilous, no sacrifice too great, until... Well... Under the many heavens, and in the many worlds, there are darker things than Men may dream of..."
Sacrifice is a unique breed of RTS games for PC, whereas instead of the isometric view from the above, it takes a 3rd person view behind the player avatar. This game is about battling wizards, each players gathers souls to summon creatures, and then duke it out with other wizards, also supplemented with various spells. Their goal, based on the name, is to find an enemy altar, desecrate it by performing a sacrificial ritual on that altar, and then kill the enemy wizard one last time to banish him.The story of the game is about a wizard named Eldred (or whatever the player chooses to name him), assisted with his familiar Zyzyx, who meets a wise man named Mithras in the aftermath of a great war that has all but destroyed the world. Through a series of flashbacks narrated by Eldred, we learn the story of how he served the five Gods in the game: Persephone, James, Stratos, Pyro or Charnel, and how the intervention of his arch-nemesis, Omnicidal Maniac Marduk, led to the world's present state.Sacrifice did not gain wide popularity, but garnered cult status.
This game provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob: The five gods are Persephone, Stratos, Charnel, Pyro, and... James?
Affably Evil: Charnel, despite his status as the unabashedly evil God of Death. In stark contrast to the brutal Pyro, Charnel is entirely understanding if you decide not to stick with him in his ending, and merely wishes you well.
Persephone's sixth, eighth and ninth mission. In all three cases, it backfires badly on the aggressors.
In the third Pyro mission you can either do this or it'll go wrong on its own.
A.I. Breaker: In skirmish mode, the AI never uses the low-level but powerful Teleport spell, giving human players an enormous advantage.
All There in the Manual: Much of the background surrounding Sacrifice, like what happened to the creator God and why the world is spilt into floating islands. It's also written in the style of the Gods themselves, which makes for an interesting read.
All Trolls Are Different: Trolls in Sacrifice are large, green humanoids with a Healing Factor that lack heads and have their faces on their chests instead. They serve the goddess of life, Persephone, and are as such benign. Pyro has a creature known as a firefist, which is a troll with flamethrowers attached to its fists — due to the resulting burns, they do not regenerate. Both variants communicate purely through Hulk Speak.
Ambadassador: Ambassador Buta, the rotund emissary of Pyroborea, is a powerful wizard in service of Pyro, god of fire, and doubles as one of Pyro's generals.
This handy spell is available if you serve Charnel. Despite the moniker, it actually serves more as a straight-up resurrection, sparing you the Mana and time expense of collecting the souls and re-summoning the creature manually.
Persephone's ultimate unit can cast a 'breath of life', which functions like this spell, at will. Keeping it constantly resurrecting your creatures prevents it from fighting though.
Death. Insta-kills a certain number of creatures but won't harm wizards and has no Friend/Foe identification, so if you try to capitalize on the situation and move in (or your opponent runs out of creatures) he might go for your army instead. Mostly he just leads to your opponent having to collect a few souls and teleport away in irritation. Furthermore you can tell when your opponent is casting it, so a good human player will just teleport away and leave the caster footing the bill. He is good for cleaning up heavily guarded manaliths, but those are rare in multiplayer. And then there is the tactic of repeatedly summoning Manahores (1 mana when even a basic spell costs 300) and collecting their souls as they are killed. Repeat until the kill limit is reached and Death vanishes.
All 5 top-tier spells have this a bit. Volcano is great against well-guarded manaliths but on the open battlefield your enemy can move out of the way before it erupts and the blast prevents you from taking any souls of creatures that do get killed. Meanstalks don't do much except throw units in the air for a bit. Bore can utterly destroy units but can't be used near manaliths and is relatively easy to avoid. And unless you get lucky and throw a few units of the edge of the map, tornado only delays the units it sucks up for a bit (though you can cast a cloudkill at the same position to do some more damage to the trapped enemies.)
Balance Between Good and Evil: Mithras notes that the five gods are bound by ancient ties and pacts that has so far kept them from fighting total wars of extinction. Marduk's presence throws those right out the window, though at least one god (Persephone) tries to avoid outright deicide. Fat lot of good that does her.
Beware the Nice Ones: James makes it clear that he does not want to fight, but if he's pushed into it he can be really dangerous. His ultimate attack spell is probably the most destructive effect in the entire game, and unlike Persephone he responds to Pyro's slave-taking by commanding you to kill him.
Big Bad: You'd expect Charnel to be the Big Bad, but really it's Marduk. And Stratos is the reason Marduk's here. Charnel's evil but he's on your side here.
Blow You Away: Stratos's spells tend to do this; his most powerful spell summons an actual tornado.
Boring, but Practical: Shield spells and most of the first level blast spells. Stratos' Lightning is the crown example: It has a measly 200 mana cost and an extremely short recharge time, but will kill most level 5 and 6 creatures in two castings without much trouble.
Thestor switches from Persephone to Charnel in Persephone's first mission, only to turn right back if you kill his underlings before killing him. He stays loyal for the rest of Persephone's campaign.
Faestus switches from Persephone to Pyro in Pyro's first mission. If you at any point attack Pyro's capital of Helios, he will switch sides to your side and stick with you for the rest of the campaign no matter whom you serve.
It's also perfectly possible to play Eldred as one. Several scenarios are designed with the ability to backstab the god you work for and join the opposing side, and at several points in each god's campaign you're given the option to turn your back on the god you did your last mission for and go join some other (usually an enemy) god.
A mild example, but still: See the big, creepy red-eyes thing on the cover? That's Charnel, not Marduk, and Charnel is not the Big Bad or in any way as relevant to the story. He just looks a lot cooler than Marduk.
One version of the cover features Gracchus, who is James' second champion, in Eldred's place.
Crippling Overspecialization: Can happen if you stick with one god through all 9 levels. Persephone is probably the biggest offender, since she has creatures that heal fast by themselves AND a creature dedicated to healing others AND 2 additional healing spells... but hardly any offensive spells to speak of, mediocre ranged units, and either slow or fragile melee units. So while your units can survive long, you're not killing many enemies either if your opponent is any good. A level dip to get one of her healing abilities on the other hand is quite useful.
Creative Closing Credits: The end credits feature a machinima in which all the people who worked on the game, each represented by a different one of the game's character models, come out and take their bows.
Creepy Long Fingers: As seen on the cover, Charnel's fingers look like skeletal claws that (by human standards) would be at least a foot long.
Deader than Dead: Souls are essential to unit creation and normally cannot be destroyed, but if a unit's body does not land on one of the flying islands its soul(s) are lost. Additionally, Charnel's aforementioned soul-eating minions and James' ultimate attack spell, which causes a section of island to drop into space (ironic given that James is the most sympathetic god). Stratos' Tornado, Persephone's Meanstalks and Pyro's Explosion can fling creatures off the edge as well.
Sorcha does this in the last level of the Pyro campaign. It doesn't do her any good.
In the fifth chapter, if Eldred sides with Pyro and Charnel he can switch sides to Persephone and James before the game starts. In the eighth Charnel chapter the player can turn against Charnel and side with James.
Defiant to the End: Charlotte's final action in James' final mission involves cursing out her killer and throwing a big rock at his head.
Disc One Nuke: Sirocco, an upgraded version of the strongest unit in Persephone's army, can be acquired as an ally in James's second mission, making the next few missions a breeze.
Dishing Out Dirt: James's wizards and creatures have the abilty to do just this.
Doomsday Device: In Pyro's 5th mission he builds one of these, and it's activated by the slaves gathered in the 4th mission.
Dumb Is Good: James, probably the only wholly decent one in the pantheon. Of course, he's not actually stupid, just sounds like he is.
Edge Gravity: Insurmountable Edge Gravity prevents anyone from walking off the edges of the flying islands. It has no effect on flying creatures, though, which is good for shortcuts but bad if one is killed while it's over the bottomless abyss.
Elemental Powers: James is god of earth, Stratos of air, and Pyro of fire. All three follow the personality profiles of their element to a tee.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Stratos admits to have summoned Marduk, expecting to be able to control him. Unsurprisingly, it failed.
Evil Is Visceral: Charnel's units and spells. Many of his units are skinless, decaying or otherwise disgusting looking, their special abilities or attacks are often equally gross (Blights can shower enemies with itching parasites to weaken and slow them, Fallen attack by vomiting clouds of flesh-eating flies, Abominations rip out handfuls of their guts and throw them at enemies), and Charnel spells include the likes of drenching foes in slowing, sticky slime, causing a rain of blood and pus, and creating a wall of screaming faces.
Evil Versus Evil: Serve Pyro or Charnel, and the two will eventually come to blows. Stratos will also be joining in.
Evil Versus Oblivion: When there's a prophecy that one of the gods is going to bring about the end of the world, suspicion immediately falls on Charnel, the god of death and suffering. He denies it, pointing out that if the world ends, there will be no people left to suffer and die, so it's in his interest to keep the world as it is.
Faux Affably Evil: Charnel is very jovial and cheerful for a God of Evil, especially compared to the odious and crude Pyro, but he nonetheless delights in wickedness and evil. In a less-evil example, Stratos seems charming and courteous but it soon becomes apparent he has an It's All About Me attitude.
Famous Last Words: Nearly everyone has one. Except the Gods you kill, for some reason. Possibly justified in that they technically aren't dead, just put out of action for a few generations.
Fantasy Pantheon: Sacrifice has a Pantheon of five gods — James, Charnel, Stratos, Persephone and Pyro.
Fate Worse than Death: "Charnel, death is not the answer to everything." "True... Torture also has its merits"
Repeated as a Brick Joke after completing the game serving Charnel, regarding Eldred's decision to 'attend to' another of Charnel's minions who plotted to kill him.
Eldred: Charnel, death is not the answer to everything. Charnel: Yes, torture also has its merits. Eldred: Exactly.
In the introduction, Stratos' line "in any halfway-civilized world, I would be its only god" might at first come across as him having his head in the clouds, even by god standards... Then it's revealed that he was the one who summoned Marduk for the purpose of killing all other gods. Whether this plays out well for him or not is up to the player.
As Charnel's second mission reveals, Stratos had stewardship over the Demon Gate between the War of Purification and until Charnel retains control during said mission.
Mithras' prophecy also contains some foreshadowing. As expected, one might say, considering it is a, well, prophecy. One notable line is "For lost to all are holy arts"... And, indeed, no matter which god's storyline you follow, Persephone always dies.
For Want of a Nail: By playing through multiple playthroughs you soon get to see which missions which gods are capable of doing on their own, and which ones their own wizards will cock up because you didn't play a part, and how this begins affecting and twisting the overall story. Generally speaking, every god succeeds at their first three missions and the story progresses in the same way up to that point no matter which god(s) you serve, after that all bets are off.
Genre Savvy: Reading the manual reveals Charnel is quite savvy about his role as the source of all darkness and evil in the world, recognizing it as necessary for someone to be 'evil' so others can proclaim themselves 'good'. He's also the first god to immediately jump at the 'we must defeat Marduk' bandwagon, because he doesn't like competition for the role of Big Bad.
Glass Cannon: Pyro's proles and Charnel's minions — especially the latter, since they only heal by damaging other creatures.
Gods Need Prayer Badly: The main method of 'killing' a god is to desecrate their prime altar - thus demonstrating that the god is unworthy of faith, and depriving them of power. However the god is not dead, merely weakened, and can come in a different form given time.
Happily Married: Abraxus and Lord Surtur. You'll most likely see Surtur wandering around if you fight Abraxus.
Healing Factor: Persephone's faithful all have better healing than the other gods' creatures.
Healing Hands: Persephone also has the best healing spells in the game, with two dedicated healing spells and a healing-only creature.
The Hecate Sisters: Persephone makes the claim of being an aggregate of all three aspects.
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: If you finish as one of the good guys, you can pick either to do Persephone's or James' last mission. James survives either way, and Persephone apparently dies either way, making her the only god that doesn't survive in any ending. And There Was Much Rejoicing.
Heel-Face Turn: Sorcha pulls this off in Pyro's 9th mission. This one is an interesting take as you get to see this from the evil side.
Hero Unit: The wizards, and the creature heroes. The former are players' avatars who form the centre of an army, while the latter are stronger, tougher and larger versions of regular units. Persephone has Thestor (gnome), Toldor (ent) and Sirocco (dragon), James has Gammel (icarus), Stratos has Sara Bella (braniac) and Lord Surtur (storm giant), Pyro has Faestus (gnome/pyromaniac) and Charnel has Gangrel/Astaroth (both scythes). Some show up on single missions only and have a <Hero> Must Survive clause, but some of them (Thestor, Toldor, Sirocco, Gammel and Faestus) will stick with you through the campaign as long as you stay on one god's side and will even fight for you in the final battle, provided they don't die at some point during the campaign.
And an excellent, if boring, strategy in most missions. Link your creatures to your furthest building, and defend it against an enemy wizard's attack wave, converting some of his army's souls along the way. Rinse and repeat until he has so few souls left he can't field a proper army anymore. Then attack him with the army you stole from him. This strategy is pretty much a must if you want to stand a snowball's chance in heck of beating the last boss.
Holier Than Thou: Persephone. She is one of Sacrifice's good deities and genuinely seems to care for her followers, but she is far more self-righteous about it than James, and much more aggressive.
How We Got Here: Most of the game is told in flashback, as Eldred looks back from just before the final battle.
Human Sacrifice: As part of the ritual used to destroy another opposing wizard's altar (for a loose definition of "human").
I Am Very British: The Icarus is an obvious 'stereotypical RAF pilot' reference and speaks in an extremely posh upper class accent (in contrast to the rest of the Yeomen, who mostly speak with various lower-class accents from both Britain and the USA).
Implacable Man: Death cannot be targeted, cannot be injured, has no time limit on his existence, and cannot be banished. He targets units unerringly and will chase them to the ends of the map and back until that unit is dead, teleports be damned.
Instant-Win Condition: Missions can only be won by desecrating the other wizard's altar — although if your enemy isn't sufficiently weakened, odds are he or she will pop in and stop you the moment you start doing it.
Persephone's faithful. About the only thing they excel at is having a better-than-average regeneration rate.
And not a bad strategy to go for when you build your custom spell list in multiplayer (or pick times to switch sides in the singleplayer campaign). For instance, Persephone has 2 healing spells and one healing creature, all of whom are usefull but taking them all leaves you with a vastly reduced offensive arsenal. Much better to mix and match it with creatures and spells from, say, Pyro.
Justified Tutorial: Eldred is described as an old archmage with probably decades of experience under his belt: A tutorial for him would feel somewhat out of place. Therefore, the tutorial you play as Shakti, a novice mystic who's just entered the service of Persephone.
Kill the God: What the struggle between the gods inevitably leads to.
Klaatu Barada Nikto: Some of the magic words spoken by the wizards include "klaatu", "barada", and "nikto", though not necessarily all three together or in order.
Knight Templar: Marduk claims to be a physical incarnation of all creation's sins, and that his mission is to destroy everything that he judges 'sinful' — in other words, everything that reflects himself, however little.
Zyzyx: Now, Grakkus there is none too fast on his feet. It may be because he lives such a... Sedimentary lifestyle. Eldred: ... Never Say That Again.
In the Book of Persephone, she reacts to her own lame pun, apologizing after warning that the Rain of Frogs spell has a tendency for friendly fire and telling you to keep your own creatures away "lest they croak".
Language of Magic: Throughout the game, every wizard shares a common pool of phrases they chant seemingly at random when casting spells. Some wizards have phrases and words unique to themselves, and others do not.
Large Ham: Stratos, and to some degree most of the other gods too.
Last of His Kind: Jadugarr, last living Centaur. Eldred, last survivor of his homeworld Jheira.
Lethal Lava Land: Pyro's maps are like this. In the campaign, there is even the risk of a volcano (created by Pyro's Doomsday Device) randomly popping up underneath the wizard's feet. (Sadly, in the mission where you play as Pyro to defend it, the volcanoes still pop up where it's inconvenient for you, since your starting position is identical to the one in the mission to destroy it.)
Level Editor: Scapex, developer-made. Notable for allowing you to alter the game's official campaign maps and triggers with a little knowledge of scripting, allowing you to fix/tweak small campaign triggers or simply cheat like a one-armed bandit.
Persephone is the goddess of life and the one most eager to show off her 'justice and righteousness' credentials. She's also big into "those who cannot be purified by the word must be so by wrath". Charnel implies she is just as bad about picking pointless fights as the other gods are, she just dresses it up with pretty labels like "righteous crusade" and "holy war", and the fact that Persephone is just as quick as the others to shout down James when he suggests they avoid going to war again (though to be fair, she was the injured party in the affair that started it) suggests Charnel may not be completely lying.
Stratos is the setting's god of the heavens. He's egocentric and unashamedly exploitative of his servants and allies, if not actively malevolent like Charnel and Pyro.
Louis Cypher: Mithras is Marduk. You've spent the entire storyline telling your story to the Big Bad.
Ludicrous Gibs: A frequent occurrence when poking first-tier units too hard. This can happen to any unit however, no matter how powerful, and is encouraged as gibbed units produce blue souls, free to take without the need to convert.
Mutants: Sacrifice has Mutants, which are available if you choose Persephone. In Misson 4 of the campaign they randomly turn up after you meet the misguided Jadugar, a cutscene later plus a little talk from Persephone and they join you against Jadugar.
Eldred: In my own world, dragons were long since extinct, hunted for tooth and scale and heart. As the boneyards drew near, some part of me thought ahead in sorrow at the prospect of slaying so magnificent a creature. Zyzyx: Oh, but imp slavery? He's fine with that...
Mordor: Charnel's realm of Stygia is a dark and gloomy land inhabited by Charnel's minions.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Many of the gods are a lot cleverer than you would think from their initial personalities. Stratos is probably the main example.
Omnicidal Maniac: Marduk. His stated purpose is to destroy all 'unworthy' parts of Creation, and by the time the game has begun he's already destroyed Eldred's homeworld and is on the verge of destroying this one.
Only Sane Man: James has elements of this. While the other gods are busy trying to kill each other, especially after a prophecy warns that one of their number is plotting to kill the rest off for real, only poor James wonders if they should give all the fighting a rest.
Dragons are green and look like short-necked Apatosauruses with wings. They attack with their bite (which also entangles foes), and their Breath Weapon shoots life energy that can resurrect your own creatures. They are intelligent, good-aligned, and serve Persephone.
There is also a spell called 'dragonfire' for Pyro, whose description hints at more 'traditional' fire-breathing greedy dragons. That variant appears to have gone extinct, however.
Playing with Fire: All of Pyro's spells, and all of Pyro's Proles, in one way or another.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: Charnel's Netherfiend, Styx and Hellmouth minions' special abilities are fuelled by blue souls; additionally multiplayer maps usually feature peaceful villages that you are encouraged to massacre for additional souls.
Prophecy Twist: Mithras' prophecy. Stratos claims it's a false prophecy intended to sow discord, but everything in it comes true (and Marduk implies that was the intention). Also note that "seal the gaping maw of doom" could mean either averting the doom before it has eaten anyone, or that it has come to pass — Eldred and Marduk are both 'vagrants' to the world and Eldred ends up fulfilling it in the former sense, but Marduk would have done it in the latter.
Pyro Maniac: Pyro's Flame Minions, who can be heard constantly giggling about the possibility to set fires. One of Pyro's units (a gnome with a rocket launcher) is called pyromaniac, and is probably also this.
Royal "We": Persephone does this. It really doesn't help with her attitude problem, and Stratos even lampshades how pretentious it made her sound. Her justification is that she's The Hecate Sisters combined in one form.
Symbol Drawing Interface: One possible way to navigate through the tactical menus was to use mouse gestures. This was a bit overkill, however, and it was usually easier to click or use the keyboard shortcuts.
The Stinger/Sequel Hook: "This is not over! I will have my revenge!". Sadly, sales of the game kept this from becoming a reality.
This Cannot Be!: Eldred's reaction upon learning that Marduk has followed him to this world. Also, Marduk's final words.
Stop Poking Me: Sacrifice continues this fine Blizzard tradition of units getting pissed of more and more if you click on them too much. It's actually quite impressive when you consider that there's TONS of individual units and hero units in this game.
Straw Nihilist: Charnel's obsession with conflict kind of paints him as one of these.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Ranged units beat flying beat melee beat ranged... In theory. In practice, fliers are further divided into flying ranged and flying melee (the latter are excellent against buildings, and also murder ranged units if they get close) and ranged units are divided into basic first-tier archery-types, artillery (inaccurate, deal heavy area-of-effect damage, good against ground units but seldom hit fliers), snipers (extremely accurate and long range, but very slow rate of fire and is easily overwhelmed by a Zerg Rush) and the warmonger/rhinox, who don't really fit any other category than 'walking murder machines'. Plus, fliers fly low, and all but the lowest tier melee units are tall and can actually reach most fliers (but fliers have 90% damage resistance against melee attacks from ground creatures, however, so beating them to death takes a lot of time).
There Can Be Only One: Only one of the gods survives the war. Stratos started it with the assumption that it would be him.
Sorcha is much more kind-hearted than you'd expect for a Pyromancer. She eventually betrays Pyro over his repeated acts of brutality if he isn't killed first.
Lord Surtur has been heavily influenced by his long 'imprisonment' in Elysium and looks and sounds like a Persephone faithful rather than a Stratos unit. Ultimately, he sticks with his wife and his god however.
Treacherous Advisor: Mithras, the blind prophet and benevolent advisor to the gods is revealed to be Marduk in a cunning disguise, playing them against each other for his own purposes.
Treachery Coverup: If you side with James, the hero covers up the fact that the prophet Mithras was the omnicidical demon Marduk in another form.
Unstable Equilibrium: Once a wizard has a soul lead, it's very hard to change it, as it's much harder to steal a wizard's souls than it is to recover your slain creatures.
Unwinnable by Mistake: Or at least, not able to get 100% Completion by Mistake: In one of Charnel's missions, it's impossible to collect the boon. The bonus objective is to keep Gangrel alive. Too bad the mission can't be completed until Gangrel is possessed by a demon, turning him into Astaroth, causing the game to decide you no longer have Gangrel. Even should you banish Yogo before the channeling is complete (which is hard but doable), you still do not receive the boon as the condition is that Gangrel must be under the player's control. During the channeling Gangrel is held immobile and can't be controlled by the player.
Useless Useful Spell: Averted. The instant death spells Intestinal Vaporization and Bovine Intervention can and will one-shot even the mightiest creatures. Even better, they instantly gib their targets, meaning the souls are up for grabs for anyone. If you're not careful, you can lose a lot of souls to a crafty opponent this way.
Videogame Caring Potential: Several missions reward you for caring more than the mission parameters require you to. Most famously, the mission in which you're sent to slay a troublesome dragon rewards you really well for taking the time to find out why the dragon is behaving the way it is and coming up with a better solution.
Videogame Cruelty Potential: Wizards can slaughter the innocent, defenceless peasants with the nastiest spells in their spellbook while the peasants beg, whimper and cry for mercy. Wizards are encouraged to slaughter the innocent in multiplayer — they're a good source of soul income and are flagged as hostile for this reason.
Waddling Head: A number of units have this design. Charnel's basic fighter, the Scythe, looks like a hovering skull with rotating pendulum-razors strapped to its forehead. Pyro's basic fighter, the Cog, is a mechanical head with spinning hammers attached to it. Persephone's upper-tier melee unit, the Ent, is a giant head carried by four spidery legs that grow out of its forehead.
We Have Reserves: The key to playing a Necromancer. Due to the cheapness of Animate Dead, the Glass Cannon nature of Charnel's minions and the somewhat indiscriminate nature of many of his spells, a one-to-one kill/loss ratio is entirely tolerable as long as you've got your creature's corpses around to animate/detonate.
Weaksauce Weakness: Pyro's ultimate weapon, the Magnafryer, fires a heat ray that deals heavy damage over time and will kill everything in the game eventually... Except it counts as magic damage, so James' first level melee attacker, the Trogg, is completely unaffected.
Zyzyx: And to think that Faestus used to be one of Persephone's brightest Gnome inventors... Well, I guess it's best that he's on our side now.
World in the Sky: Sacrifice is set around several floating islands in a large void. The manual provides a vague explanation for this.
You Lose at Zero Trust: At the beginning, you are able to perform missions for any deity whenever you choose. As you accomplish these tasks and the plot progresses, you gradually fall out of favor with those you ignore, until the endgame leaves you permanently aligned with one of them and opposed to the four others.