May 11, 2013

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Sacred Citadel Review

Sacred Citadel Review

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There’s just something about side scrolling beat-‘em-ups that are so appealing that even the most standard of them are still very enjoyable; and that’s the case with Sacred Citadel. While I don’t think Southend Interactive has brought anything entirely new to the genre, they did create a very enjoyable experience especially those who like the genre.

Sacred Citadel is about a land called Ancaria that is coming under attack by Lord Zane of the Ashen Empire. This is where the warriors come in hoping to defeat the empire and save the land. Yep, pretty standard story and while the presentation of the story is decent it’s not going to grab you. That said I never expected the story to be all that gripping and if you are, well you’ll be disappointed.

The gameplay is really what this brawler is about and for the most part Southend gets it right. There are four character types to chose from, each with their own abilities and unique weapons. In a classic RPG style you have the Mage, Shaman, Ranger and Warrior.  Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses and they are designed to work with each other. The co-op gameplay really allows each player to fully utilize each characters specific skill. The mage and ranger are best using their range attacks, while the shaman adds buffs to the party and the warrior is at his best in close combat situations. Even though you can’t play four player co-op (a slight disappointment), three player co-op works well as long as everyone is playing their part. Each character can still deal a good amount of melee damage as well so its not like you can’t be successful that way, its just more fun to utilize each characters abilities.

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The combat consists of very specific combos that pretty much do the same thing for each character. There aren’t too many controls for the game, which is good, and if you are coordinated  enough you can string together some great combos between you and your co-op partners. I would have liked a bit more variety in the combos, especially since there are four different classes. The combat can get a little repetitive though, especially once you start playing more and realize you can corner a few enemies and stop them from getting up at all or keep them at bay using range attacks. Once I found what worked for me I just kept dodging, blocking and then hitting the same combo over  and over. Again, this is where the co-op comes in. If you are coordinated enough there’s a lot of opportunities to vary the combat style, even though it is easy to get back into the old school beat-em-up style. The other aspect that helps break up the repetition are the boss battles. Most levels have mini-boss and each Act has a final boss. I enjoyed almost all of these fights save for a few which were just too easy. The variety in boss battles forces you to approach each in a different way especially since they can’t be knocked in the air or thrown to the ground.

Overall the combo system works well and the simple controls both for console and PC makes the game more enjoyable not to mention more accessible. I will note though that it was a little easier to play the game using a controller rather than using a keyboard, mainly because dodging was easier on the controller.

Upgrading your character and random loot drops bring more RPG elements to the game and it works well enough. While I found that purchasing weapons and armor was sometimes better, it’s always fun to have loot drops and to see everyone on the screen rush to the weapon to see if they could use it. This also causes arguments, but that’s part of the fun, right? The good thing is you can’t pick up a weapon while you’re in combat which solves the problem of that one player who just can’t help it to check out the loot while you’re in combat.  The weapons and armor you get can have some buffs on them as well like chance to add fire or ice damage or increasing your attack ability. This presents some interesting choices especially when you’re playing solo. I often came across more powerful weapons but kept the one I had because it had the ability to freeze enemies, which is great for crowd control.

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Upgrading you character is a nice touch and you’ll have plenty of skill points to spend as you’ll almost always level once or twice each level. Playing solo you’ll have to spread out your skills wisely, but playing as a group you can spend them based on your character’s strengths which is nice.  While these RPG elements are great it would have been nice to have some sort of skill tree adding more abilities or changing some of the character’s special abilities.

The art style looks great and the music is very similar to old school side scrollers. The level design though gets a bit repetitive, much like old school titles, but there are the occasional objects in the environment that you can use to kill your enemy which adds to the overall gameplay. There are only four acts consisting of about six or so levels per act. If you play through each level not trying to complete any challenges or not trying to get the highest score, you can get through the game is about 6-7 hours. However there is a lot of replay value with all the challenges that you can attempt for each level and trying to get gold for each as well.

I didn’t have too many issues with the game outside of finding players online to play co-op and I think not having drop-in and drop-out functionality really hurts the game. That said you won’t have a problem playing co-op if you have friends who own the game or don’t mind playing on the same system. I would have liked to have seen more done with the RPG elements like a skill tree and more variety in enemies would have been nice too. But these are all minor issues as most side scrollers suffer from repetitive combat and enemies.

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Sacred Citadel doesn’t do anything one thing exceptionally well, but combined it’s an enjoyable side scroller. It’s not too challenging, the AI isn’t all that smart or all that varied, but the boss battles are exciting and sometimes challenging. While I found the Ranger class to be the most enjoyable, each player will have their own preferences and its nice that each character plays slightly different than the next. Sure there are better side scrolling brawlers out there, but the RPG elements definitely help Sacred Citadel stand out just a little more than other titles in the genre. Though the game is on the short side, Sacred Citadel is a fun game and any fan of side scrolling action games should pick this up, but I would say to wait for a sale first.

Sacred Citadel
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Developer: Southend Interactive
Publisher: Deep Silver
ESRB Rating: T
MSRP: $14.99


7.5