Sacred Citadel Review
Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics.
Take Sacred Citadel. This download-only title is unapologetically clean and uncomplicated, pushing Sacred away from its more traditional presentation to offer up this quirky, feisty brawler. Whilst it might not quite strike the perfect balance owing to some sequences falling on just the wrong side of fun, it’s well worth a few hours of your time.
The story is… well, nothing new. An ancient evil schemes to take control of the fantasy kingdom. Good Guys swoop in to try and stop ‘em. Cue a few moderately amusing one-liners and then hijinx ensue, complete with swarms of enemies, boss fights, looting and plot “twists”.
You’ve probably heard this story before.
Sacred Citadel – Classy Game
The classes won’t feel unfamiliar, either. Take your pick from a warrior, mage, ranger, and shaman – you know the drill – all of which bring their own unique twist to combat proceedings. Yeah, there’s admittedly little narrative innovation here – but don’t hold that against Sacred Citadel. Sure, it’s an age-old story of good versus evil with swords and spells and potions and stuff, but the tale’s delivered with an unabashed self-awareness that – coupled with an infectious score and deceptively simple art style – is undeniably entertaining.
To be honest, the story plays second fiddle to the action, anyway. Citadel propels you through a 2D, side-scrolling world of pleasant but forgettable forests, deserts, ships and swamps that are – very loosely – linked to the enemies about to pounce you. It’s not quite as dreary as it sounds; whilst unmemorable, the backdrops are agreeable enough to carve carnage against, even if the 2D perspective occasionally messes with your ranged attacks. Add in the interactive environmental factors – think pounding stone blocks, swinging logs and puddles of toxic goo – and it all serves to dampen the monotony … which is just as well, given how repetitive the gameplay can be.
Controls are crisp, clear and pleasantly simplistic, although you’ll undoubtedly find yourself recycling the same old combos over and over again. And it’s here where things start to feel just that little bit same-y.
The greatest frustrations crop up at the beginning of your journey. As you get to grips with the gameplay and combos – all of which unlock with satisfying regularity – you may find yourself stumbling into an end of level boss fight unaware and ill-equipped to take on what’s waiting for you. Unfortunately, not even death helps your odds; use up your potions and they don’t come back, even after respawning, and enemies rarely drop anything of value in the boss arena. You’ll either have to slog your way through the battle slowly and steadily in the hope of besting the boss, or . . . well, exit out, stock up, and then replay through the (mercifully short) level again.
Sacred Citadel – Solo Play vs Co-op
Irritatingly, in the latter half of the game the boss battles offer very little challenge at all, particularly if you head in fully-loaded and stocked with all the Rage and Power potions you might need.
That said, the further into the game you delve, the better you’ll be able to gauge the length of each chapter, and it’s here where the fun really begins. Successful combat unlocks generous XP, armour, combos and weapons, and you’ll find yourself levelling up with surprising ease, even in latter stages.
But just as you settle into a routine, the game switches it up a bit. New enemies with increasingly more complex powers jump into your path, heralding a welcomed change of pace. That’s not to say they’re not frustrating – they very frequently are – but at least there’s no longer room for complacency.
Trouble is, tackling the hordes alone mean it’s easy to become overwhelmed, particularly if you find yourself lost in the on-screen scrum or you’re unfortunately clad in colours similar to your foes. When the going got tough, we found that the best strategy was to quick-roll around, smash out a couple of strong melee hits, and roll off again in the other direction. Crass and a little inelegant, granted, but it’s surprisingly effective.
To really wring enjoyment from Sacred Citadel, you need to jump on with some friends. Bringing the different combat classes into battle creates a balance that’s simply not achieveable if you go it alone, and thanks to the plentiful loot and spoil drops, there’s always enough to go around.
Sacred Citadel’s narrator will have you believe that this is not a place that the sane would travel to willingly. We respectfully disagree.
Version Tested: XBLA