The idea of taking an action RPG such as Diablo and flipping it on its head and morphing it into a side scrolling beat-em up is pure craziness, however this is exactly what Deep Silver have done with their first outing in the Sacred universe.
Sacred, although not perfect, for me it is one of the more enjoyable action RPGs out there, playing like a session of Diablo, it does what it says on the tin, delivers a good story from a great universe. Set as a prequel to the forthcoming Sacred 3, Citadel is an arcade brawler, which may set the alarm bells ringing for the vast majority of you out there but it really shouldn’t. Yes there are going to be a fair few standard tropes, as you would expect, but once you delve into the game you’ll find an enjoyable brawler with some great visuals, a genuinely interesting set of combos and a story worthy of the Sacred world.
There are four characters to choose from, The Warrior, Ranger, Shaman and Mage. Due to the constant war between the Seraphim and Ashen Empire, a quite night down the local pub is rudely disrupted, leaving you suitably angry and tanked up enough to smash some skulls and see what all the fuss is about. Alright, I’ll admit the story is as deep as a conversation with your local carpet salesman (I’m generalising of course, your local salesmen could be a regular Archimedes), but if you’re a fan of any previous Sacred titles you’ll happily find some nods and tie-ins, remember this is a brawler, meaning any story often feels superfluous to the mass murder you’re about to commit.
Each character can carry two weapons which, as you go along, can be swapped out for whatever tools you may find among the ever flowing loot. This stripped back take on the RPG staple of looting works really well. You’ll still find yourself bitten with the bug to find bigger and better weapons but in a streamlined sense, offering you a small and prioritised list of item stats, leaving the action free to motor on.
The combo list is large enough as to offer you a fairly wide variety of options in any battle situation and is easy enough for almost anyone to learn, resulting in Sacred Citadel feeling really accessible, while not coming across as a dumbed down “RPG-for idiots” title. Playing more like a full fighting game, you have the option of knocking enemies around, stunning them and even swinging them straight into the sky for a good old juggling session.
My main gripe with the combat though is diversity. Definition between character classes is lacking, each class does offer their own special move which can be executed once your power bar is full, but beyond this, each character felt roughly the same. Each hero is equipped with their own standard attack yet when you talk of a secondary attack, each class shares the same ranged bow shot, with the exception of The Warrior who is happy to wield a huge, hulking great cartoon hammer (Timmy Mallet would be proud).
It’s sad to see a copy and paste job applied to multiple characters and considering character customisation as well as definition have been a problem in the past for the Sacred series, Sacred Citadel really missed a chance to add a great edge to the brawler genre it’s trying to flirt with. Between levels, you’ll have the option to visit cities and spend the gold you’ve hoarded along the way. You can purchase better armour and weapons or bet on trials, wagering how quickly you’ll be able to complete certain missions or being so bold as to bet your life (if you’re sure you wont die even once during a mission). This is another nice touch, again streamlining major RPG concepts to fit in with the arcade context and it works.
Visually, Sacred Citadel looks stunning, with a cel shaded cartoon style much like you’d expect from the Monkey Island series or Discworld, it’s bright and full of colour, the character designs are imaginative and make Sacred Citadel a joy to behold.
Sacred Citadel wears its heart on its sleeve, attempting to wedge a stripped back RPG experience into a brawler like Shank. Yes, on occasion it misses steps along the way with a weak story and a lack of variety amongst the classes. However with great visuals, a decent list of combos and a straight forward character upgrade mechanic, you’ll enjoy smashing skulls, fighting your way through the world of Sacred and with co-op bundled as both online and local, once you’ve traversed every level on your lonesome, you can grab a friend and kill Orc scum together.
Put simply Sacred Citadel is an enjoyable arcade brawler, it wont beat the best of the best but it will certainly sit very high in the list.