Poor AI and progression leaves Sacred Citadel feeling a bit dull and repetitive.
Sacred Citadel is a side-scrolling beat-em-up set in the same world as Sacred. If you don’t know, Sacred is a series of action-RPG’s that have previously released on PC, PS3 and the 360. Citadel positions itself as a spin-off from the main series but also offers up a story that apparently will lead into Sacred 3 while also revealing new information about certain characters and aspects of the world. Story aside you might think of this as Golden Axe with loot. For those who aren’t familiar with the Sacred games you’ll find a beat-em-up with some neat ideas that are ultimately held back by enemies that are the definition of “damage sponge”.
In Sacred Citadel you’ll choose between four different classes. (Warrior, Shaman, Ranger and Mage.) Each class can dual-wield weapons for close range combat while also each featuring their own class specific abilities. The Ranger for instance wields a bow that can be used for range combat while the Warrior can equip hammers to deliver devastating blows in close-combat. Each class also has their own specific three-tier special move that can be used with a meter fills throughout the level. An example of this might be the Shaman class whose first tier special heals all party members, the second tier then grants stat buffs for a short time and the third tier focuses some sort of curse-like spell on all enemies for a short period of time. The special attacks for each class are all dramatically different and prove to be quite useful in many different situations. If nothing else, while I spent most of my time playing as the Warrior and Shaman, I appreciate that each character really does feel different in the way that they play. Each are completely capable of fighting up close but they all branch out from that in four distinct ways. Effort was put into creating four unique classes to play as and it shows.
Throughout the game you’ll level up and find plenty of loot. Leveling up allows you to spend stat points in Attack, Defense, Dexterity and Power. In addition to that you’ll also learn new combos throughout your progression in the game. Loot of course comes in the form of new weapons and armor to equip to your character which will also in certain cases change how your character appears. Unfortunately I never actually felt myself getting stronger. Mostly due to the fact that it’d take forever to actually kill enemies. It also doesn’t help that the majority of enemies will simply stand there and let you kill them. I lost track of the number of times that I was able to walk up to three goblins and continuously mash the square button as they just stood there watching me kill them one by one. In this respect spending stat points seemed pointless. I put every stat point into Attack until that was maxed out which left me with just a few points in Defense, Dexterity and Power. This should work and it should be a great mechanic but instead I just felt like I never really progressed in any meaningful way. As pointed out above it doesn’t help that the game doesn’t really require much skill to get through.
That said Chris and I played a fair amount of online and I actually found myself enjoying the game a good deal. As with any other beat-em-up you’re going to want to play with friends. You can jump into either player’s game and play through any level that they have unlocked while also leveling up your own character. The online runs mostly fine with the exception that there were times where I saw Chris teleporting across the screen but nothing that made the game unplayable. Unfortunately you can only play with up to two other people so you’ll always have to leave at least one class out of the action.
In between levels you can visit a town that’s specific to each of the four acts in the game. In the town you can buy crystals that boost your stats for a short period of time, weapons, armor, potions (health, rage and mana) as well as take on challenges. With challenges you’ll wager a set amount of money and attempt to complete a stage under certain restrictions. For instance you might be tasked to finish a level in under six minutes. Completing these challenges will earn you new loot and money. Each act has five levels and each level has three challenges assigned to them. Normally I’d imagine this would be a great reason to replay levels but the repetitive combat and simple AI is probably enough to keep me from picking up the game again any time soon.
There’s a story here, probably more-so than most other beat-em-ups, and it’s clear that some amount of effort was put into it. I can assure you now though that if you haven’t played any of the Sacred games before you probably won’t really understand if there’s any significant events going on. The story itself is pretty simple but I still can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot of things by having no experience with Sacred. That said I did find myself somewhat worried in a weird way by how the game would actually end. The game contains four acts with five stages in each act. By reading the in-game challenges you’ll see that the boss for the fifth (DLC) act is one of the main enemies for the majority of the base-game. This made me fear that I’d be left on a cliffhanger forcing a purchase of the DLC to see a proper ending. This luckily isn’t the case as the game itself does wrap up in a satisfying way. That said there’s definitely unresolved conflicts that were clearly left to sell as DLC for $5. We didn’t receive the DLC for review so I can’t comment on the quality of the fifth act. I can assure you however that the four acts the game comes with feel complete. Say what you will about day one DLC but I wasn’t left feeling cheated out of content.
It’s not great but Sacred Citadel does at least feature some cool ideas as well as a really great art-style and some awesome music. (Seriously this menu music is FANTASTIC.) The character progression could feel a bit more meaningful and the enemy AI needs work but Sacred Citadel is at least good mindless fun. Not something I’d really recommend for single player but if you’ve got a group of friends you might want to give it a shot.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
What I Dislike:
Release Date:April 2013
Players:1-3 (local and online)