Sacred Citadel – Preview
Sometimes the most unexpected of games can turn out to be some of the most interesting, and with this in mind I turned up to my meeting with Deep Silver unsure of what lay in store for me; I knew of some of the titles that they had published before, but I had no idea what I would be seeing. As it turns out, I got to have a look at a new side-scrolling brawler called Sacred Citadel, and I left mightily impressed. The first thing that struck me was its look – we were told that Sacred Citadel was an arcade-style game that would be available over XBLA and PSN, so my first thought was that the world would be dark and grungy, an impression built through the only other side-scrolling brawler that I have played: Streets of Rage. Sacred Citadel is nothing like that.
Rather than a dark and dingy environment, the world is splashed with liberal stretches of bright colour; plants and bushes are layered with a dozen different shades of green, and even colours that by rights should be dull and grey somehow seem to pop. The designers have taken the classic pixel art style that some of the most popular old brawlers were presented with and have brought it into the modern age, and despite the fact that the borders are smooth and completely undistorted, the graphics still manage to keep the unique depth that only pixel art presents. The characters themselves are the best example of how attractive the game is; the world is populated with stylised versions of characters and enemies that can be seen in other parts of the Sacred series, and not only are they bright and colourful, but they’re easily recognisable – despite the unusual style – as denizens of Ancaria.
Set in the same world, the aforementioned Ancaria, as the flagship Sacred titles, Citadel takes place decades after the events of Sacred and Sacred 2. The world itself is a 2.5D creation – the game is a sidescroller, but the world has interesting depth, and you are able to roll in any direction in order to evade attacks and flank enemies by sliding past them. There are also items that, while seemingly just part of the scenery, can be turned against your enemies – or your team mates. It’s incredibly easy to make use of these items, as indeed it is fairly simple to do anything else in this title; the focus is on making the experience as fun as possible while ensuring that it is easy to learn and play. The control scheme is simple and easy to wrap your head around, as a short hands-on proved – going from knowing nothing at all about the game to juggling enemies is a matter of moments, though getting to the point where you are actually good may take a little more time.
In terms of what you’re controlling, the choice is also fairly simple, with players taking on one of three classes – the Warrior, the Shaman and the Ranger – and going forth on an epic quest of discovery, though I’m not sure what they are discovering as nothing in particular that was mentioned. Each of the three classes play completely differently, with the Warrior taking the role of tank; walking into crowds of enemies and absorbing damage while dealing out equally spectacular amounts. The Ranger on the other hand, is a fast, ranged character with the capacity to deal a ton of damage without ever coming into harm’s way. This has the added bonus of being able to manoeuvre enemies into traps and danger from a distance, making killing them a simple task. This tactic also makes juggling enemies easy, and you can keep them airborne for ages, but he is equally dangerous when he closes in on an enemy, dealing out quick attacks that do a nice chunk of damage.
The third and final class – the Shaman – essentially works as a medic by healing allies when need be and otherwise buffing their damage. She can also damage foes in her own right, making use of two neat little blades to pile on quick but weak attacks. All three characters also have the capability to do super attacks, which are impressive, vastly powerful moves that must be charged by damaging your enemies to fill up the energy bar, removing the option to spam your way through levels.
The focus of the gameplay is on co-operative play, with the part of the game we witnessed demonstrated by a player showing off each of the characters and how they could combine to deal masses of damage. The three available classes closely mirror a basic party structure in an MMO: a tank who takes and deals out plenty of damage, a fast and powerful fighter who can alternate between ranged and melee attacks and a buffer character, who ups the damage output of the other two and makes sure to keep them healthy. This is the optimised setup for the game, and though it is possible to play through and complete in single player, all the signs suggest that it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good an experience as the multiplayer looks to be. That’s not to downplay the single player, because Sacred Citadel looks like a blast whether you play it through alone or with your chums. After all, beating the crap out of things with bladed instruments is always entertaining; it’s just made blatantly obvious that the game was designed with multiplayer in mind, and so that is how you are expected to play.
Many of the highest scores are given for combining with your team mates to do big damage, and extended combos can only be achieved in combination with your chums. It’s not all smiles and hugs with your team mates though, because we all know that some friendly competition is healthy and that it all gets a bit boring if everyone co-operates. Some of the traps and dangers around the environment can be turned on your allies with hilarious results, and each player is scored throughout. At the end of each level – after the obligatory boss fight is complete – the marks are shown and the players are ranked, because bragging rights are important.
Although the genre may seem a little outdated, Sacred Citadel seems to be taking an old concept and making it fresh and fun. The multiplayer aspect of it is well-implemented and I can’t wait to spend some time blitzing through the levels with a couple of mates. It’s another one of those “it’ll be out sometime in 2013” releases though, so I’ll be waiting to get my hands on it for way longer than I would have liked, but rest assured that from what I’ve seen it’ll be worth the wait.
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