Coming into Sacred Citadel, I was unaware that it was actually a spin off of the popular Sacred series. Luckily for me, and those who love a good beat’em up, you don’t have to be familiar with the lore of Sacred Citadel to enjoy this game. It’s a fun RPG progression based beat’em up similar to another modern beat’em up, Castle Crashers. The game is gorgeous, it has a cartoony style with bright colors, and everyone has big exaggerated movements. The art stands out and looking at the different scenery is almost as enjoyable as the game is itself.
There are four character classes to fulfill your hacking and slashing fantasies; The warrior is the brute who smashes enemies with melee, the ranger attacks long range with his bow & arrow attacks, the mage uses various magic abilities to demolish her foes, and the shaman specializes in lightning and plant magic with a the ability to buff the team when things start to heat up. Each character has the same basic control scheme with a light, heavy/ranged, and magic attack for offense along with using the right stick for dodge; you can pull the left trigger for block but I never found it to be too effective. Even though the characters all control the same, developer Southend Interactive has created a fluid and versatile combat system where each character feels very different from one another; tactics and strategies used for the warrior won’t be as effective as one used with the ranger and vise versa. Making use of combos is quite easy making x99 combo strings and air juggles fairly common.
As you advance through the game you’ll encounter a variety of different enemy types that will require different strategies to defeat and the bosses can be some of the most frustrating battles you will ever encounter. Not because they are too terribly difficult, but because by the time you reach them you will have most likely not be leveled up enough to defeat them. You’ll want to pay attention to the loot that you pick up along the way as random enemies will drop stronger weapons and defensive items. Characters can hold up to two weapons and a piece armor; you can see the physical change in the weapons used but not in the armor you wear. Weapon drops do get stronger as you progress and you’ll eventually find weapons with elemental attacks. In combination with your characters abilities, experience points dumped into character traits, and the elemental buffs on your weapons, fighting the waves of enemies can be easy yet very satisfying. If you’re thinking of getting this game for a younger player, just be aware there is some blood and light gore that is present when you kill enemies.
You would think that with four characters to choose from that this is a four-player co-op game, but in an odd choice, they’ve decided to only make it three players. You also can not mix and match online and couch co-op so there goes that right out the window. Online play itself worked smoothly after initial hiccups, though I did notice that my teammate would occasionally start floating across the screen; this was few and far between. One of my only gripes with the game was this issue where tutorial messages would appear and stay up for the rest of the level. The only way I was able to get rid of the message was exiting the level or finishing it. Loading the level back up and getting to that point again would once again cause it to hang around. It was very noticeable in the early stages where the game is still giving you these prompts and was just about non-existent late game.
Upon loading the game I was treated to a nice dub-stepy menu mix in the main menu. The in-game music was just as good but I never really noticed it while playing. Only when I just stopped to take in the world did I notice the music. One could make the case that it was just the right amount where it didn’t overpower the atmosphere, or maybe the game itself was so enjoyable that I just toned it out. The game also uses voice acting to read over the story bits during cut-scenes and in game dialog. It’s something so small but it was refreshing to have a game like this actually take the time to record voice overs so I don’t have to sit there and read the text. By giving the villains a voice, it ended up gave them a little more depth to their characters as well. I appreciated the effort and wish more games would take the time for it.
Sacred Citadel is fun, just plain fun, and holds up well against some of the other great alternatives in the genre already out there. With the difficult boss encounters, you’ll want to go back and play a few stages over again to level up and try taking on a boss battle again thus making this game slightly longer than a few hours. I ended up racking up just about 12 hours in total and I feel as if all 12 were enjoyable. At $15, you can get a whole lot of fun out of Sacred Citadel.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes.