Return to Ancaria, or your favorite arcade?
Written by Super User
Published Monday, 13 May 2013 20:00
Sacred. Arguably one of the most underappreciated of the various RPG universes. Starting out on PC, the 3rd person isometric view and action-centered gameplay put it in a precarious position: Filling 2004’s Diablo void while many games moved away from PCs altogether. Fortunately, it had just the right amount of personality for it to stand apart from the Diablo-clone crowd, gaining a cult following from enthusiasts. This led to a proper expansion, as well as a full on sequel (one that made an appearance on consoles as well). With fans rabidly waiting for the third entry in the franchise (which is still due to arrive before the end of the year), publisher Deep Silver tasked SouthEnd Interactive - of Ilomilo fame - to give the fans a bit of history that will lead us into Sacred 3. The kicker? They jump into uncharted territory for the franchise, making Sacred Citadel a side-scrolling brawler...
Anyone who used to frequent the arcades of yore should find a generous amount of nostalgia among the offerings of Sacred Citadel. In fact, if you are a fan of SEGA’s classic Golden Axe, you’ll see more than a passing resemblance. I wouldn’t call it a reskinning so much as a very meticulous homage. All the basics are here: Cooperative (local and online) side-scrolling left-to-right battles against hordes of enemies, loot drops, special moves, the occasional mounts, and yes, even the roasted meats to replenish your health. Everything will feel very familiar to those who have dropped handfuls of quarters into their choice arcade machine.
"Fans may struggle with the genre shift, but Sacred Citadel is exactly what it set out to be: A pick-up-and-play side-scroller where button-mashing trumps anything resembling narrative depth."
Given the familiarity of the genre, the larger question is how it holds up against the rest of the downloadable offerings available today. Surprisingly to me, it holds its own just fine. While I love the genre itself, after jumping into the classics as they have been re-released on today’s platforms, I have been less than thrilled. The magic of the original experience seemed to have faded over the years. With that said, Sacred Citadel manages to take what was once a great time, and add enough of a smattering of modern love to it that I was able to recapture that brainless button-mashing feeling of my youth.
A lot of the credit goes to the variety. While it won’t knock your socks off with a bottomless set of options, it does have enough to expand upon the genre stalwarts and make it feel a bit less dated. Four playable character classes - Warrior, Ranger, Mage, and Shaman - each of which have their own stat specialties, making them play exactly as one would expect. The Warrior is your tank, the Ranger is your ranged fighter, etc... Every character can dual-wield, as well as use their class-specific weapon, opening up the combo count. As you lay waste with large combos, you’ll fill your special meter, letting you unleash an uber move on your foes. Although, you’ll probably be better served saving that for the various bosses you’ll face.
Loot drops will help keep your weapons and armor current, adding more to the character’s attack and defense stats. The balancing of the drops is perfect in order to keep up with the game progression. Unfortunately, it also made the gold you find, and by proxy the local shops one would spend such gold, moot. Not once during my entire jaunt through the game’s four chapters did I need to purchase anything beyond the occasional potion, as pretty much everything I already had was better than what was being offered, or I would soon find something better on the first or second stage of that particular chapter. It’s a shame really, as the townships could have played a much more important role in the player’s journey.
Each of the chapters carry a different theme, adding a diverse set of environments to play through. Murky swamps, cavernous cliffs, dark forests, and snowy mountaintops all are rendered in a cartoony style that is a large departure from the detailed visuals the series has had in the past. This also allowed for a bright and vibrant color pallet, which simultaneously furthered the separation between this entry and its Action-RPG predecessors, and enhanced the arcade-y experience it is trying so hard to facilitate.
Unfortunately, just as the visuals and the gameplay hearken back to our quarter-munching gaming of yore, the story-telling does the same. Over-the-top script and voicework do little for the already forgettable tale. You’ll try to stay with it, but after the first few stages, you’ll quickly see exactly where it is going and will pay it no more attention, instead staying wholly focused on mashing down the two attack buttons as much as possible, while occasionally doing a quick dodge to stay out of reach of your attackers.
To be honest, I can’t really fault Sacred Citadel. Sure, the campaign can be knocked out in a weekend, and the combat can get repetitive if you don’t take advantage of all the moves the game has to offer. And while it is supposed to set the stage for the main course found in Sacred 3, the story is as predictable as they come, so you’ll find yourself focusing on how high you can get your combo count up rather than seeing where the franchise is heading with the third entry. However, all of that is not necessarily a bad thing. Fans may struggle with the genre shift, but Sacred Citadel is exactly what it set out to be: A pick-up-and-play side-scroller where button-mashing trumps anything resembling narrative depth. It is a throwback to the days when gaming did not include complex mechanics or award-winning writing. As long as you come in expecting that, you’ll be more than happy with the $15 investment, especially if you have a buddy or two to join you.
+ Classic arcade action-adventure + Light, pick-up-and-play action + Fun co-op
- Forgettable tale - Moot economy - Franchise fans may not be thrilled with the genre shift
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Release date : 2013-03-19
Publisher : Deep Silver
Developer : SouthEnd Interactive
Gameplay : Action-Adventure
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