by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
Not an RPG
The RPG elements are sadly over-sold in the game's description. The best RPG-like quality in Sacred Citadel is character progression but it fails to feel consistently meaningful. Slaying enemies yields experience which allows your character to gain levels and boost stats, but depending on your class, most feel negligible. This is in part due to the regular upgrading of weapons, gear, and stat gems.
Sadly, for a game with such an eye towards gear upgrades, most feel throwaway. I found myself upgrading weapons from stage to stage but, apart from the skin, they all felt exactly the same. Armor and gems are invisible on characters and their stat boosts are all but imperceptible. The best quality of the whole system are the elemental weapon effects. Even with bland, repetitive button mashing, it was still fun to see an enemy burst into flames.
Exploration is also totally absent in Sacred Citadel. The game world is presented in linear stages with very little room to stray from the beaten path. If smashing crates counts as exploration, Sacred Citadel delivers. Otherwise, I would advise looking elsewhere. Thankfully, the game isn't shy about introducing new enemy types which challenge you to learn their patterns while still fighting large groups. This keeps things fresh through the learning process, even if it is too short and too little for the whole game.
When you venture into town, you can buy new gear, potions, and accept challenges. Challenges are a great way to add replay value and task the player with completing levels under certain times or without dying for a gold wager. Challenges are great and pair well with the existing scoring system which rewards you for unused magic, health, and spell power.
Lack of Co-Op
The game also offers online and local co-op. Unfortunately, the community is either anemic or not playing online. During my review period for this game, I was only able to see a brief handful of matches and unable to join even one. It is also impossible to create your own game and allow others to join mid-stage, so waiting in a lobby is required to begin. That said, I could see Citadel being much more fun when played with a group of friends. I regret not being able to experience it myself.
Better on iPad?
While playing Sacred Citadel, I couldn't escape the feeling that the game would be better suited for the iPad. The painterly visuals fit well with other games on the device and its structure is a natural fit. That is to say, Sacred Citadel is too shallow to shine on the PC but would be a cut above in the tablet market. Is the PC a test bed? It could be, especially since the graphics options are sadly lacking and missing higher resolutions. Either way, I won't be surprised to see it make the move in the future.
For now, however, Sacred Citadel is only recommended for fans of the franchise or genre. There is fun to be had here but only in small bursts, so it's hard to recommend the $15 investment. With a disappointing combat system and ineffectual character progression, the game falls short of its potential.
Nice art style, Enemy grouping requires strategy
Repetitive and halting combat, Weak character progression