Deep Silver and SouthEnd Interactive’s Sacred Citadel is an interesting spin-off on the Sacred franchise. While the original titles are of the isometric RPG variety, this latest addition is a love letter to the side-scrolling beat-em-up, complete with light RPG elements. Does this radical departure from the franchise’s role-playing roots breathe new life to the series, or is it the game no one actually wanted?
Developed by SouthEnd Interactive / Published by Deep Silver
Available on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the PC.
Sacred Citadel takes place in the same setting as all the other games in the series. Here, the evil Ashen Empire has attempted to destroy the Sacred Citadel, a place where the warriors known as Seraphim pray. Utilizing the Gatebreaker, a monstrosity of great power, the Ashen Empire fails in their mission, but realize that in order to destroy the Citadel they need two artifacts that can give them the power necessary to complete their goal. Four adventurers, resting at a local tavern, are then unwillingly drawn to the conflict when they are attacked by the Grollocs seeking the artifacts.
As you can well deduct, players choose from these four adventurers: The Warrior, The Ranger, The Mage, and last but not least the Shaman. Then they must venture forth into side-scrolling stages divided across four acts, and take on a variety of foes, both big and small.
If you haven’t seen gameplay videos or trailers of this game, then you must know that Sacred Citadel is basically an ode to Sega’s Golden Axe series, and does it very well. The love for the classic arcade game is apparent from the very first stage, though it comes with a few new bells and whistles here and there that make it feel more like an upgrade.
In order to survive the waves of enemies that will pummel the player, adventurers can attack and dispatch foes with sword and sorcery. All four playable characters come armed with a light attack, a power attack, and a special attack that can be used when a segment of meter is filled (similar to potions in Golden Axe). They also come armed with a block/dodge button. Attacking and defending is very responsive and fluid, and it feels fantastically similar to arcade brawlers of old. It’s pretty addictive too, and it only gets better when players gain access to new combos that transform characters into powerhouses.
Not straying too far from its inspiration, Sacred Citadel also features mounts, large creatures or monsters that players can jump upon and use to devastate foes with powerful attacks. These appear every so often during the campaign, but are pretty fun to use when you’ve got a chance, as they can wreak havoc with the least amount of effort.
As I mentioned before, the game also has some light RPG elements. One of the most important here is the leveling up system, which allows players to assign points to attack, defense, dexterity, health, and power, keeping them in tip-top shape for later levels. Players can also gain new equipment, dropped by enemies or purchased from visits to towns. These range from new armor with better protection, stronger weapons that may have elemental powers, and potions that increase damage output, heal the player, or charge up the special attack. It’s a great system that rewards the player for going through stages over and over again, and at the same time keeps them coming back for more. It also lengthens the game quite a bit, as the main campaign is pretty short despite having 20 stages.
Playing alone is all fine and dandy, but playing with buddies is where the real fun is at. Players can choose from local or online co-op, and up to three can take on the main campaign together. There’s nothing better than slaughtering hordes and collecting loot as a team.
Visually, Sacred Citadel is eye-candy. The cel-shaded animation in the game lends to some of the most action-packed action seen in a side-scroller to date, and the environments look like they come straight from animated movies. Character and enemy designs are also well done, and feel like they fit in the world created in the game. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie made out of this.
Sound is also pretty decent, with great sound-effects and music. Only problem I had here was that the music was pretty repetitive, as you’ll be hearing the same songs over and over in each act. Other than that small issue, everything else is good.
At the end of the day, Sacred Citadel is a good, entertaining game that’ll keep you and your friends busy for a good chunk of time. If you absolutely adore classic arcade brawlers like Golden Axe and Dungeons & Dragons, or just want a quick-paced and action-packed game, then you got to try this game out.