Sacred Citadel review for XBLA, PSN

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Southend Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

If you are a fan of the “Sacred” Series, you are probably wondering what would happen if the action RPG elements of the series were removed and you were left with an action side scroller. If you are not a fan, or don’t know what the Sacred series is (like myself), then you are probably wondering what Sacred Citadel is and if it’s worth your time. I’m here to answer both questions!

Like I said, I have no idea what the Sacred series is, other than it’s a game. Apparently a third in the series is on its way, and this game seems to bridge a gap between the new release and the previous one. So my play through is based on what is presented and how this game plays on it’s own, with no connection to previous games in the series. The story is pretty straight forward for this type of game. The land of Ancaria is besieged by Lord Zane’s evil Ashen Empire (No relation to YouTube Star Dr. Ashen), The population is enslaved and and uses an orc-like creature called Grimmoc to destroy the protectors of the land. Three warriors are chosen to battle Zane’s empire, and the battle for the world begins. It’s pretty standard stuff, but it works. Once you select on of the four available classes, you begin in a town that is under attack and spring into action.

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Sacred Citadel consists of 4 acts, with five areas in each act. It’s short, so it does’t have much time to get monotonous. Your main goal is to fight your way through all of the enemies blocking your path to the end of the level. All the while picking up better weapons, armor and power ups to help you bring them down faster. You also gain access to new combos as you progress to deal even more damage. After you complete an act, you have a chance to enter a town, where you can stock up on life potions, and power up your weapons, using the gold you acquire from destroying enemies. You will mostly stick to the basic attacks rather than trying to memorize all of the new ones, but it’s good to have variety. There is also a super meter that fills up as you attack, that, once fully charged, basically unleashes an overpowered attack that can annihilate everything on the screen, including bosses. It takes a long while to power this up, but if you are in danger it comes in handy.

Control is a mixed bag, with some of the more complex combos being forgotten in favor of something simpler. Movement can also get a little disorienting, as sometimes you don’t know what you can jump on safely or what is just there as part of the background. It’s really nothing that takes away from the fun of the battle, but sometimes I took unnecessary damage trying to pull off a move that just didn’t work, or jumping into a pit I thought was a safe area. You can also easily miss an attack just by standing to close or being one pixel off, which makes winning against a group of enemies a little tough. It reminded me of classics like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, where your position is key to surviving a pummeling. While fighting the enemy groups is fun, it’s the Boss fights that are somewhat uninspired, usually consisting of a more powerful version of an enemy you previously faced. It drags down the gameplay a bit when these guys show up. They start out pretty easy, but in the later levels, you’ll be screaming in frustration with their cheap hits and insane difficulty.

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Going at Sacred Citadel alone is fun, but with online co op you have a much better chance of getting through the more difficult levels. The Online works great with no drops outs or lag, but I did have a rather difficult time finding someone to play with. Once I got a few games going online, I discovered that this is a game for more than one person. it can be played solo, but it’s WAY more fun with partners. Up to three heroes can team up to take on the hordes of Lord Zane, and dominate the game within a couple of hours.

Graphics are a nice mix of hand-drawn animation and animated backgrounds that fit well together. Sometimes you see an enemy in the background thinking it’s just there for decoration, then it runs for the background into the foreground and you are in a fight! There is no slow down even when there is tons happening on the screen, although sometimes it can get hard to see whats going on. Sound is your standard hack and slash fair, with your typical grunts, screams and evil roars of monsters. Music is largely forgettable, but I didn’t get the sense that any audio was misplaced. It all sounds and looks decent enough, but it’s not the visuals or the audio that will draw you in. The pick up and play style is what really shines though.

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Sacred Citadel isn’t going to win game of the year, but it’s fun enough for a quick play session. It’s even more fun to gather friends online or off and just have a blast. If you are a fan of classic arcade brawlers, then you will feel right at home here. Hardcore fans of the Sacred series no doubt have already decided they need this, but others who aren’t familiar with Sacred will also have a good time. While later levels might give you more of a challenge that you can handle, nothing here is impossible or hard to understand. It’s a good solo game, but I strongly suggest plaything with friends for a richer experience.

Grade: B+