EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
BORN IN FIRE
You are born in fire - waking from a mysterious ritual to find yourself in a small cave, lit by glowing symbols. You have no purpose, only the clothes on your back and the world beyond. This is how every player starts in Citadel: Forged with Fire, an online fantasy sandbox RPG from Blue Isle Studios.
I made my way out of the cave and exited the castle, one of the game’s many safe areas that acts as a respawning point. I found myself quickly gaining experience, unlocking a generous number of points per level that could be used to unlock recipes. I was also able to build most of these items due to the abundance of resources on the game map.
Unfortunately, the crafting system has the same mechanic as The Long Dark, where you must wait for a loading bar to complete when making an item. Despite this annoyance, the crafting system is very in-depth - there are a huge number of recipes for clothing, weapons, spells, potions and buildings. These open all sorts of possibilities, from flying and taming wild creatures to building your own structures. I was impressed wandering the map and observing the buildings made by players who were obviously a lot further along than I was.
THE NO MAN’S SKY CONUNDRUM
So you build a world, filling it with resources and animals, giving the players loads of things to craft and huge spaces to explore. We’ve seen this before, No Man’s Sky did the same and divided gamers, because where one player saw a world empty of overall purpose, another saw a world ready to be filled with their own: it’s a philosophical debate really. Citadel: Forged with Fire brings that same debate to mind - at the moment, the crafting system is great, the map is reasonably fun to explore, but there is no individual purpose for the player. After crafting for a while I began to become bored because I didn’t know why I was crafting. There were no quests for me to take part in, and those occupations that there were, such as creating ‘a house’ and warring against other houses, was reliant upon a large number of other players. It seemed I could only perpetuate the cycle of crafting.
The term RPG is almost synonymous with the fantasy setting, but in the same way I wouldn’t call No Man’s Sky an RPG, I wouldn’t call Citadel one either. An RPG must offer players a choice of roles, most often through narrative, which I don’t think Citadel does at this stage. The only choice of roles that the game seems to offer is a very limited character creation interface. Citadel is a crafting/exploration game, where the player interacts with the world. Some might argue with my assessment, but the debate about No Man’s Sky was predicated upon the fact that players were faced with a world - and where some saw emptiness, others saw an opportunity to create their own meaning.
There is potential in Citadel: Forged with Fire, and as an early access game, there is time to add more. I think if the game is going to continue to market itself as an RPG, then some form of narrative needs to be added to the game, as I think that the lack of such will put off a lot of fantasy RPG players more used to being handed a purpose. If not, then I think the game should just focus on the things it currently does well, such as the crafting and exploration. I wouldn’t say it’s there just yet, but if you’re both a fantasy and crafting fan, I’d say keep an eye out on this one.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.