If you are a fan of old school hack and slash games or dungeon crawlers, then Sacred Citadel is a title designed for you. Developed by SouthEnd Interactive and published by Deepsilver, the game acts as a prequel to the up and coming game, Sacred Citadel 3.
The premise sees the land of Ancaria in trouble as the evil Lord Zane has found a way to bring havoc to the world and its people, the Seraphim, in the form of the gatekeeper. A handful of heroes have been chosen to bring peace back to the world and this is where the player takes control.
When starting out your adventure you have the choice of four archetypes; Warrior, Ranger, Mage and Shaman. All have their own benefits but playing the game as a different character type doesn’t really change the overall gameplay you will experience. Sure enough, the ranger means you can stand back and shoot but the ranged attack is often quite weak meaning players will ultimately be drawn into the knitty gritty of up close and personal combat at points within each level.
The controls of each character work well and as you continue to play the game and level up from experience (gained through killing enemies and completing levels) you unlock a variety of different combos relating to that character archetype. Again, this is great but doesn’t add a lot to the gameplay, at least to my preferred class of warrior. The combos I discovered and used mainly moved enemies across the screen or up and down the screen.
The levelling up system not only unlocks combos, it also gives you experience points to spend on levelling four key areas; Attack, Defence, Power and Dexterity. Unlike the combos which offer little to the gameplay, I found that stacking the experience points into one area could make the challenge of progressing through each level considerably easier. Placing all your points into Attack and a few in Defence, turns any of the archetypes into a tank that can power through all the levels with minimal difficult.
Talking about the levels, the game is split into five acts, each composing of roughly five levels. At the end of each one, there is normally some sort of mini boss, which is where the game gets a little more entertaining before you repeat the monotonous level crawl that are the rest of the levels within that act.
Sacred Citadel tries to keep players entertained by adding in other RPG elements aside from the levelling up and customisation of experience points by littering levels with unlockable elemental weapons and unlockable armour that enemies drop.
When I was playing I found these ‘drops’ did little to change the overall gameplay and while setting an enemy on fire with an elemental fire sword took an extra couple of hit points from an enemy’s life bar, it was often better to just equip a standard weapon with a higher damage rate. It is a shame that the elemental weapons were not incorporated into the game in a better way as the developer could have perhaps added a more strategic element to the game in later acts with a Pokémon flavour of different element effects different enemy type differently but it didn’t really feel like this.
The main lure of the game I would imagine is the co-operative play, which again works well, however with the growing marketplace and multiplayer offerings, Sacred Citadel falls a little short in terms of what it offers. With a playtime of roughly five hours to complete the whole game and with very repetitive gameplay there are better games that I would recommend playing both locally and online with friends.
That feeling of being able to recommend stronger games in the XBLA sums up the whole package that Sacred Citadel offers. From its steep price tag of 1,200 MSP (which is overly priced for the title in my opinion) to the repetitive game play and short amount of game time. The graphics and colours are good but don’t push the XBLA forward and the story and cutscences are subpar for a rich RPG title. While the boss fights can be entertaining and break up the gameplay, they don’t really redeem the overall mediocrity that is Sacred Citadel. It is a shame as the game has potential that wasn’t really delivered upon.