Sacred Citadel is a side scrolling beat-em-up available to download on the PS3, Xbox 360 and for members of the self-dubbed PC master race. The game is an offshoot of the Sacred series, which comprises of loot hunting RPGs, that although decent have been overshadowed by Blizzard’s Diablo franchise. I purchased this game a few months back as the hype surrounding Dragon’s Crown had me in the mood for some fantasy hack n slash fun. In that regard it succeeds as the gameplay feels a lot like the classic Megadrive game Golden Axe coupled with some light role-play elements.
Prior to starting your quest players are able to pick from a party of four characters – namely a mage, shaman, warrior or ranger. For the purposes of this review I played through the game as the mage because I like spell casters… and she was also the hottest of the bunch. That said, as far as basic attacks go, the characters all seem to play similarly. Whether you pick the beefy warrior or a bow-using ranger expect to spend the majority of your time engaged in melee combat. Combatants can carry two weapons at a time that can be used to pound on nasties. I tended to favour whatever weapon dealt the most raw damage, but at times you’ll need to switch things up if your target happens to have elemental resistances to whatever you are wielding.
Aside from their aesthetics, what differentiates the four classes are the special moves they can pull off. Each character can execute one of three signature moves by expending some of their rage meter, which gradually increases as you fight through levels and can also be restored by chugging down consumable potions. My mage for example was able to toast foes with fire magic, whilst the Ranger can pelt enemies with arrows. The shaman seems like a good support class as she can heal allies whilst the warrior… erm I don’t know. I never used him. I don’t like muscular chaps, as I am envious of their physique.
ROLE PLAY PROGRESSION
Sacred’s RPG elements come in the form of level-ups that trigger whenever you accumulate sufficient experience from vanquishing enemies. Upon gaining a level players are given a couple of progression points that can be spent on beefing up their character’s dexterity, power, defence or attack. This system allows the player to tailor characters to suit their play style of choice. You could for example distribute points evenly across all attributes to make a good all rounder, pump points only in defence to create a resilient tank or go all out attack to become a destructive glass cannon.
Although not as deep as the mainline Sacred games, Citadel does have some loot hunting for players to partake in. Downed enemies sometimes drop weapons and armour, along with gold that can be spent in towns that are accessible in between stages. As you might expect the settlements you visit have stores where you can purchase new gear along with health potions and stat enhancing crystals. The towns also house a gambler who challenges players to replay levels for a reward. You may for example be requested to clear a stage within a certain time limit. To be honest I didn’t bother with the challenges as I have an aversion to gambling. Let’s just say that during my youth I quickly learned that betting on Ipswich Town FC winning matches isn’t a good way of making an income.
My rating for Sacred Citadel is three stars out of five. I had a lot of fun playing through it, but compared to other downloadable brawlers (Scott Pilgrim and Double Dragon Neon) the combat doesn’t feel quite as fleshed out. The early stages can be a bit dull as all you do is run up to enemies and smack them with basic attacks. Thankfully things get better once you gain a few levels and unlock new combos that allow you to stun enemies, juggle foes in the air and knock opponents off their feet. It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me it helps crowd control feel more tactical and less button bashy.
Story wise the game has a humorous tone to it, but the plot itself isn’t especially memorable. As it has been a few months since I played the game I am having a tough time recalling exactly what happens. The adventure starts off at the tavern were some bad guys spill your pint. This sends you off on a quest for revenge that involves bashing goblins and finding an artefact for a shady looking hooded character. It’s no Game of Thrones, but nothing I would penalize the game for given that fighting games are not renowned for having a gripping narrative.
As far as the multiplayer goes I cannot comment on how good it is, as I was unable to find online co-op partners to play with. If you are not a reclusive reviewer with no friends you may want to increase the game’s grade to four stars. I haven’t returned to it since completing the story, but if you have the option of playing Citadel with a couple of pals I would imagine you would get more mileage for your money than I did.