Genre: Beat ’em Up
Developer: SouthEnd Interactive
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 4/16/2013
If you aren’t familiar with the series, Sacred is a series of hack and slash action RPGs reminiscent of Diablo. Sacred Citadel is a spin off title meant to bridge the gap between Sacred 2 and a yet to be released third title, and interestingly, it strays from the action RPG style that the series is known for. Instead, Sacred Citadel is a 2D side scrolling beat ’em up with some very light elements from RPG games, such as experience points and leveling up.
I’d say it’s kind of like Castle Crashers, but it’s essentially an updated version of Golden Axe. Not that crappy 3D Golden Axe: Beast Rider, but the SEGA Mega Drive original.
The game takes place in the world of Sacred, and I believe follows some of the storyline from the Sacred games, but I honestly don’t know, because even though I’ve played Sacred 2, I don’t think I ever once paid attention to the story. The game lets you choose between four different characters: The Warrior, The Ranger, The Shaman and The Mage. Each has their own different techniques and special attacks; the Warrior, for instance, will throw an axe for damage as his first level of special attack, while the Shaman can heal damage. The game can be played either solo or with two other players, online or locally.
Graphically, the game the looks great, with detailed sprites for all of the characters and enemies, detailed backgrounds and good looking effects. The only issue I had with the game graphically is that the hit detection can be wonky. There’s a giant piranha enemy at the end of a stage that can do a charge attack, which somehow hit me when I was standing on the opposite end of a platform with a lot of space in between. The audio is really well done, from the main theme (which sounds an awful lot like the main theme from Golden Axe) to the funky level select music. There is some voice acting for the enemies and townspeople, and the dialog is more light-hearted than serious.
The game plays out with a lot of hacking and slashing. The square button is for basic attacks, the triangle button is for heavy attacks, the X button is for jumping, and the circle button is for special attacks. There are specific attacks unlocked as you progress, like a stun attack, an attack that launches enemies in the air, and other attacks. L2 is for blocking, R2 is for running, and the right joystick is for dodge rolling. The D-Pad is for selecting between different potions.
For the most part, though, a large percentage of the game plays out like this:
Square, square, square, triangle. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Use health potion or special attacks as needed. Rinse. Repeat.
Through the game, you gain experience and get stronger weapons and armor, however, the enemies get more difficult and do more damage at about the exact same pace, so it’s difficult to really feel a sense of progression. Of the weapons you get, there are only three weapon types: Axe, Sword and Mace. While they each have their different uses within the game, each new one you get doesn’t differ much visibly from the one you may already have, and they don’t have a notable impact on how you play the game. The game just feels sort of like you are trapped on a hack and slash treadmill. Even the characters with their different strong attacks don’t really feel individual, aside from their special attacks. If you are playing solo, then it’s wisest to play as the Shaman, since that character can heal damage done.
The game becomes kind of monotonous, quite honestly. I love the game it is an homage of, but Golden Axe wasn’t a very long game. At about four to five hours, it isn’t long by many current game standards of course, but it’s considerably longer than Golden Axe, and what felt fresh in a game that can be beaten in under an hour feels slightly tedious over several hours. The game attempts to keep things fresh with some environmental hazards and a few different mounts to use, but the instances are either too brief or don’t change the way the player interacts with the game enough to make much of a difference.
It’s sad to write that, because Sacred Citadel, by all accounts, is a very solid, well made game. However, in the effort at trying to provide an experience like an old hack and slash game, it ends up feeling like an out of date hack and slash game. As someone who enjoys that sort of thing, I still had fun while playing, but I could only play a couple levels at a time before I’d get bored and wander away. This is the kind of game that only a very small niche of players may enjoy, and those who are fans of the Sacred series in general might be disappointed in the change of style.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Sacred Citadel is a hack and slash arcade brawler that feels a little too â€˜old school’ to the point that it already feels out of date. Well made, but try the demo first if you are curious before plunking down your fifteen dollars.