Sacred Citadel is the latest game in the Sacred franchise, but this one is a digital only title that serves as the prequel to the upcoming Sacred 3. Unlike the retail releases of Sacred proper, which are Action RPG’s, Citadel here is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up that harkens back to some old school classics. There are some RPG elements here; there are four characters to choose from and you’ll level them up and upgrade their abilities, pick up or purchase new weapons and armor, and so on.
The game features three-player co-op, though I only ever played with one other person. Like most things, having another player around definitely makes things easier. If a player goes down, another player can get to him and press square (PS3) and revive him. This is super handy in the first act when you’re low level and have standard weapons. Having help for the first act mini-bosses and boss will save a ton of frustration. The game throws wave after wave of enemies at you in some spots, and in the beginning these can be quite difficult.
To help deal with the many waves of enemies you will encounter both in and leading up to the bosses, you have different attacks and learn new moves and combos as you level up, and you’ll acquire more powerful weapons that have occasionally bonus affects (like setting enemies on fire). There may be some depth to the combat for those who really get into this game, but I suspect for most it’ll be just like it was for me: a button-masher with a go-to move if things start getting hairy (the knock back move). And that’s perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned because it’s what I expect from a beat ‘em up; it’s how I’ve always played them.
The four characters you can choose from are Warrior, Ranger, Mage, and Shaman. That’s two males and two females, and while the characters look different and have different secondary attacks and power moves, they all duel-wield weapons and typically require you to be up close button masher. There’s no major difference here and you’ll never be at a disadvantage because you’re one character class and not another. The world is comprised of four acts, each with five levels and a town. The town is where you go to purchase potions, armor, weapons, and even place a bet on the next level you to play (it either be in regards to your life, time, or score). The town is easily ignorable, but if you’ve got the coins you should check out the different stuff available.
Coins aren’t that hard to come by and accumulate. Every enemy you kill is going to drop something; coins, potions, weapons, armor, or food. The most common thing for them to drop is coins followed by food; the food obviously serves as a means to replenish some health. Get it if you need it, but when playing co-op it is always recommended to keep a check on your buddy’s health and let them get any food items if they’re lower than you are. You don’t want to be the guy who loses a little bit of health and grabs the first ear of corn that comes up while another player has lost half his life. Sometimes it’s going to be unavoidable, but always keep an eye for that kind of thing and be a team player.
I played the first act using co-op (of which there is local and online), but I completed acts two through four solo. It seems like doing it all solo would be a challenge in the beginning, but as you progress and get those better weapons and level up (I chose to focus upgrading my attack and defense, and finally power… I complete ignored dexterity), you’ll quickly see that it isn’t that hard at all. Sure, there are a few spots here and there where they just keep throwing big enemies at you, but for the most part you won’t even need to use a health potion so long as you know when to dodge, roll, and jump to get out of the way.
If you’re trying to play co-op, you’re going to want/need a buddy or two to play with you in the same room or organize a time for online. I have not been able to play with a random person online; every time I try to find a game online it says “no games available.” There is a trophy for completing every level cooperatively, I suggest if it’s something you want to do it using local co-op. Local co-op is funnier anyway, plus I can imagine I would probably grow frustrated if I were playing with a random person who would more than likely take health when he/she didn’t need it and try to grab all the better weapons first. Frankly, I enjoyed the co-op in the first act, but ultimately I’m glad I did the rest of the game solo.
Graphically, Sacred Citadel looks pretty good. The world is colorful and vivid, the environments are imaginative and paint a pretty backdrop, and the whole world has a lovely cartoon feel to it. Of course it isn’t a unique or new art style, but it packs and a lot of charm and help keeps you invested in the game and moving forward. Likewise, the game’s soundtrack is nice. The background music when you’re playing the game enhances its. The tunes are catchy at times, and at other times serve to let you know business is about to pick up.
If you’re playing Sacred Citadel for the story, then don’t expect a lot. Yes, there is a story and if you plan on picking up Sacred 3 later this year you should follow it since this game is a prequel to Sacred 3 and it does tell of things to come. I didn’t care for the story myself, but it is largely told in between acts and especially after the final act. The in-game dialogue is humorous enough to keep you reading it though. The game is short, but then what do you expect for a $15 downloadable beat ‘em up? I’d say four to six hours, depending on how good you are and if you die any; it can easily be beat in one sitting with no problem.
It had been a while since I lasted play a side-scrolling beat ‘em up. I want to say the last one I played was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. So this definitely scratched an itch for the old style games that I used to play in arcades or on the NES/SNES/Genesis as a kid. The most important thing here is that I had fun. I encountered no glitches or bugs, and it was thus a completely enjoyable experience from beginning to end.
No, I don’t have a desire to go back through it more times and level up all the characters and do challenges and improve my score, but it is definitely good enough to play though and enjoy once (maybe twice if you solo it and then have a buddy you want to co-op it with).
It may not quite be worth $15, as that seems a little high to me (I think $9.99 would have been the sweet spot for this), but if you have the funds/points in your wallet you could definitely spend it on much worse than Sacred Citadel so pick up if you have any interest in Sacred 3 or simply enjoy a good beat ‘em up.
Sacred Citadel gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A copy of this game was provided for review.