Sacred Citadel‘s entrance was a rather small blip on the release radar, edging its way to retail without too much fanfare, at least for non-Sacred fans. Sacred Citadel takes the Sacred series and flips it RPG roots on its head, converting the franchise into a side-scrolling brawler. The cross-genre universe work surprisingly well as a dungeon crawler, giving bigger name titles a run for their money. There’s enough here to captivate, but falls a little short to make a mark for itself.
Developer: SouthEnd Interactive
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: Steam PC (Reviewed), PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Genre: Brawler, Side-Scroller
Release: (INT) April 17th, 2013
Arcade side-scrolling beat ’em ups have seen a resurgence in recent years so it’s hardly surprising to see Sacred Citadel draw inspiration from one of the greatest brawler-fests, SEGA’s Golden Axe series. It’s a trip down nostalgic lane where button-mashing, dash attacks, mount riding, fantasy artwork and a catchy soundtrack all come together.
Four class choices are available and they are as vanilla as they come. Choose between the beefy Warrior, trigger-happy Ranger, magic-slinging Mage or the buff-tastic Shaman. Although they sound vastly different, they all play out in very much similar style. Each class does have their own special moves and associated strengths to add a dash of variety but at their core, they are all fairly the same.
No matter which class you choose, they all carry dual weapons and require plenty of button-mashing to kill the unrelenting wave of enemies. Special charge attacks making use of their offhand weapon adds a point of difference. Mixing up the repeated actions are air juggles, ground slams, and long range moves.
The long suffering ailment of arcade brawlers is the repetitive game play and Sacred Citadel doesn’t do much to alleviate the predictability the genre so often falls into. Making your way across four different acts, the objective is to kill everything that moves as you progress from left to right, collecting as much gold and armour as you can, before tackling a bigger, nastier creature at the end of it all. Blocking and dodging maneuvers help to keep you in the mix for longer, as does a power meter that fills with inflicted damage to enemies. There are three powerful attacks to unleash that are as devastating as they are pretty to look at.
Adding a touch of RPG is the ability to increases stats for your chosen character. With each level increase, characters are awarded skill points to speed on Attack, Defense, Dexterity and Power. Customise your character as you see fit in a way that suits your play-style. Stopover in town in-between stages to purchase gear, temporary stat-buffing crystals, or play a spot of gambling with the townsperson, betting on completing the next stage under applied restrictions for a cash reward.
Controls are fairly basic, although playing on a keyboard proved to be more troublesome when trying to quick dodge an attack. Controller feedback aren’t as responsive as you’d expect from a brawler but still very much playable. The addition of a controller or playing via console is recommended for ease of gaming over a PC keyboard in this instance. Charged attacks do provide a wallop, but does leave your character open to oncoming attacks. The slow charging rate and pay-off is debatable depending on whether you see value in breaking out of the button-mashing routine, which can be difficult when playing alone as finding a free moment to charge without being interrupted isn’t so easy.
Fortunately, Sacred Citadel does allow up to three player co-operative gaming, both locally and online. As you’d expect, more players means more mayhem and it quickly becomes a messy blur of pixels flashing all over the screen. It took me back to the days of Guardian Heroes which although doesn’t sound overly appealing to have so many things happening onscreen at once, turned out to be plenty of fun to experience.
Sacred Citadel looks visually gorgeous with a cartoon art style that I personally love. It may not be as appealing to the more pure Sacred fans but I found the use of bright colours and textures a perfect blend for the brawling title that it so wants to be. Character designs are appealing and the backing soundtrack is an intoxicating blend of high tempo tunes that stick in your mind long after the adventure has come to an end.
I didn’t have much expectation going in to Sacred Citadel but it did deliver a quick-pace action experience with plenty of entertainment value. In terms of longevity, I’m not sure there’s enough steam to keep you coming back for more, however Sacred fans will find lots to appreciate in the universe it captures, as does gamers that enjoy brawler titles. It may not be the best of the bunch, but is still a solid effort that proves the Sacred franchise is more than just a one trick pony.
6.5 – Above Average. Fun but it is let down by some questionable design choices. While it has its own identity, it doesn’t go beyond its own limits.