Sacred Citadel Review: Arcade Brawling at Its Okay-est

by David Sanchez May 14, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

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There’s no shortage of beat ’em ups currently available across digital download platforms. Still, despite the genre’s profound availability, some games are definitely worth playing while others can be disregarded like an unwanted acquaintance. Sacred Citadel is an interesting brawler because it manages to straddle the line between exhilarating and routine. It’s not without its flaws, and it to call it innovative would be foolish, but the more you spend playing it, the more you realize that this is a nice little action game sprinkled with some neat mechanics geared toward the brawler fan.

Before you begin your quest you have to choose between four different characters. The warrior is an expert at combat and works well in close quarters situations. The ranger can pick off enemies from a distance. The mage can dole out some heavy magic attacks whilst still being proficient in close-up combat. Lastly, the shaman is good at beefing up his partners or himself.

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There are four chapters each with their own sets of levels. These stages are quite lengthy and feature a number of hazards. Obstacles include environmental dangers as well as enemies. As you progress, bad guys range from basic grunts to skilled creatures that can harness either great strength or fierce magic. Like most arcade titles, it’s a lot of fun to traverse levels and beat the crap out of enemies. Unfortunately, there are moments where it’s impossible to deny the fact that the combat in Sacred Citadel could’ve been much more, and after playing for a couple of hours, you’re bound to have played through your share of less than exciting sequences where all you really had to do was mash on buttons to succeed.

Thankfully, there are also some trickier areas that require more finesse. As you progress through the adventure, you obtain XP and level up. Points can be used to enhance specific categories such as power, health, and magic, but you also obtain new abilities. These abilities come in the form of combos that can be performed by dishing out certain attacks in a specific order. The mage, for example, can suspend enemies in the air if you hit Square, Triangle-up, and Triangle. This attack allows you to deal sweet aerial offense to those fools.

Sacred Citadel is a much more enjoyable affair if you take the time to memorize a few combos. The game goes from being a mash-fest to a actually requiring you to pull off some calculated moves. When you come across bosses, you’ll find that knowing some combos is essential as purely delivering basic moves will leave you more vulnerable to attacks and won’t deal the same amount of damage to your foes. Even if you know a handful of combos, however, you can expect bosses to be especially devious and even a tad cumbersome at times.

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Some of the more entertaining moments in Sacred Citadel occur whenever you encounter mounts. Whether it’s a vehicle or a beast, there are a handful of sequences where you can jump on top of said mounts and run roughshod on your enemies. You need to be careful, though, because other foes can knock you off and take over these massive “weapons” of sorts. Mounts are so much fun that it’s a shame that you only get a few chances to take advantage of them. A bit more of this type of gameplay would’ve undoubtedly provided some welcome changes of pace from the standard brawling mechanics.

Colorful graphics make up the visual style of Sacred Citadel. The game is a treat to look at, and while it’s certainly not a technical powerhouse, its art is effective, easy on the eyes, and enjoyable to witness. The way the colors combine to create the backgrounds and foregrounds works incredibly well, and there’s a great sense of artistry that I truly hope we see again in a beat ’em up somewhere along the road.

The musical presentation is another story. Unlike the art, which is great, the soundtrack in Sacred Citadel is generic and kind of boring. Nothing sounds even remotely interesting, and even when the music gets a little wilder, all you really get are some unimpressive arcade brawler tunes. On the flip side, the voice acting is at least tolerable. It’s not amazing by any standards, but it’s okay, and the script in Sacred Citadel is lighthearted enough to make the characters’ delivery pretty decent.

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You can get through the 20 levels in Sacred Citadel in roughly four hours. The game encourages you to replay stages without dying or within a set time limit, but the gameplay isn’t nearly exciting enough to make you want to play more than a single time. There’s also local and online co-op for up to three players. Beat ’em ups tend to be a lot of fun with multiple players and Sacred Citadel is no exception. Again, though, while the game is fun to play maybe one time, it’s hard to see anyone eager to invest more than a single play-through into this adventure.

What you get with Sacred Citadel is a functional and enjoyable beat ’em up that’s undeniably unremarkable. There are a number of games in the genre that are more worthy of your time and money, but if you’re a diehard fan and have run out of brawlers to play, Sacred Citadel is pretty fun. Additionally, if you’re a Sacred fan and are anticipating the release of Sacred 3, this prequel offers a few hours of derivative spin-off entertainment.

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