If you have never previously heard of the Sacred series, then we wouldn’t exactly blame you. The first game was released on PC only, with the second title receiving a port to both PS3 and Xbox 360 which didn’t exactly set the world alight back in 2009. These titles are action RPG’s featuring a wide variety of character classes, and the forthcoming Sacred 3 will continue in this tradition. Today though we are here to talk about the PSN and Xbox Live game Sacred Citadel, which is an altogether less serious affair. Billed as a prequel to Sacred 3, rest assured that you won’t need any prior knowledge of the Sacred series to play it, as the title is best described as a retro side-scrolling brawler with some light RPG elements.
There is a story of some description in Sacred Citadel, however it won’t be winning any awards for originality, and you will likely forget it as soon as you have witnessed each cut scene. Lord Zane’s Ashen Empire has created an army of Grimmocs, modified Orc henchmen at war with the Seraphim. Only when the heroes unite and use their skills to support each other they will stand a chance. There you go, told you it was forgettable. The game’s plot is told in a humorous way throughout with full voice acting. Of course when I say ‘humorous’, I really mean ‘buttock-clenchingly unfunny’, but then nobody comes to these types of games for the storyline, and Sacred Citadel is no different, being all about the slash-em-up action.
Anyone who has fond memories of arcade classics like Golden Axe and Knights of the Round will feel right at home with Sacred Citadel. The charmingly simple hand-drawn graphics and hack and slash nature of the game will bring back the feel of pumping quarters into arcade machines in your local pizza joint, which would seem to be the intention of developer SouthEnd Interactive. As mentioned earlier, however, the game does feature some (very) light RPG touches, from leveling up your chosen character to purchasing new weapons and armor from towns along the way.
You can choose from four character classes, the Seraphim Mage, Safiri Warrior, Ancarian Ranger and Khukuri Shamen. Each of these has unique weapons and move sets, and of course the game really works best when three of you (yes three for some reason is the maximum), work together to take on the bad guys both locally and online. If you play as a group you can choose from any level in the game (as long as one of you has unlocked it), however single players must work through a campaign which features four acts, each containing 5 levels.
Is it any fun to play though? Well, yes and no. In short bursts Sacred Citadel is a fun way to spend a few minutes, and the slight depth offered by upgrading your character does make things more interesting. Ultimately though all games of this type eventually feel dated, and this isn’t a particularly amazing or original take on the genre. At times when you are pinned into the corner by one of the bosses for example it can get very frustrating, although a dodge roll manoeuvre does help. Some of the bosses in the game (particularly the ones at the end of each act) are impressive, however the majority are just larger versions of creatures you have already faced, and the games insistence on throwing normal enemies at you whilst you are concentrating on fighting the boss is extremely annoying.
It is important to remember that this game is styled at times like an RPG, and grinding is at times a necessity. Whilst the first few acts are fairly easy particularly when you start to learn and use your special power which can operate in a very similar way to the magic in Golden Axe, the last couple of acts and the bosses in them are very difficult. The only way to beat them really is to revisit and replay old levels to buff up your character to higher levels.
So should you drop your digital dollars on Sacred Citadel? If you are a big fan of side-scrolling beat-em-ups then you will certainly get some enjoyment from it, particularly if you have two other like-minded friends. Otherwise though there is really little to make it stand out from the crowd. Frustrating gameplay, a lack of originality and just its sheer averageness make it difficult to love, despite being fun in small doses. 6/10 then, although you can feel free to add an extra point if you have friends to play it with.