Want the next Castle Crashers? This probably isn't it, but it's mindless fun you can have with a buddy or two.
Sacred Citadel is a 2D action-brawler from Deep Silver and developer Southend. It’s a prequel in the Sacred franchise, originally released for the PC back in 2004. Having not played the previous Sacred entries, I can only judge what I played in Citadel.
The story is a classic tale of medieval fantasy with warriors fighting against evil creatures for ancient artifacts. There isn’t anything novel or interesting with the plot. Cutscenes only appear at the beginning of each act, and dialogue is only spoken through text bubbles. The characters do have voice acting, but there is very little skill on display in the “actors’” performances. The writing and acting are terrible. One example is a villain named Grimmoc Mama, who should be menacing, but doesn’t seem very threatening. In one instance, referring to her hostages she wants to torture, she says to her henchmen, “Tickle them until they talk!” I’d probably laugh at someone whose worst threat would be to tickle me. Several times, the creators try and put some humor in the dialogue, but I just found it corny and cringeworthy most of the time.
The graphics are nothing spectacular. There are some good-looking background details here and there, but the environments and characters are very bland. Gameplay is similar to Golden Axe and other action platformers. Nathan Stevens called this “a tamer Castle Crashers.” RPG elements are abound; as you fight, your character levels up, and you will earn abilities points to upgrade abilities like Attack, Defense, Dexterity and Power. Certain enemies will drop weapons, armor items, potions, and money. Weapons and armor have hit points to indicate how tough they are against enemies. Items can also be bought from towns with earned money. Also, you can bet money on certain challenges to try and win more money.
You can choose from 4 character classes: the warrior for strong melee attacks, the ranger for ranged attacks, the mage for magic attacks, and the shaman for healing other heroes as well as performing attacks. Each class has a list of combos to take advantage of, but I only really used about 4 combos. Every character has options of a normal attack, a strong attack, and the strongest Power attack, which can only be used if at least one part of the Power meter is filled up. In addition to fighting enemies on foot, you can also take control of creatures and vehicles. One of my favorites was the Tank Cannon. Even though these vehicles and creatures make killing enemies a blast, it makes the game a little too easy. In fact, the whole game has an easy difficulty. I only died about 3 or 4 times the whole game, and even after I died, convenient checkpoints made the game very forgiving without much of a penalty. Bosses are a little bit tougher, but are easy to dodge with the right stick, and then wail on.
Sacred Citadel is much more fun to experience with 1 or 2 allies. Up to 3 players can fight cooperatively, either online or offline. Regarding online play, I had a much better experience with just 1 partner. I played 2 games with a total of 3 players each, and in both of those games, myself and another player were unable to move and progress from the start. Once one of the players left, and the player total was down to two, I was able to play pretty seamlessly. This makes me think the developers didn’t really test for 3-player games online.
There are hardly any people playing Sacred Citadel, at least on PSN. Matches to join are few and far between. Leaderboards are available, but only for local scores and with online friends; there are no worldwide leaderboards as far as I can tell. The game is very short; the entire campaign took me four and a half hours to complete. There is, however, the Jungle Hunt downloadable bundle with 3 bonus levels to continue the story, available for $5.
If you want some good, cheap fun with some friends, you’ll get some thrills from Sacred Citadel. As a standalone game, this comes up a little short in quality compared to other games this year, and even other sidescrolling fighting games.