QuickView: Sacred Citadel

How does this happen? One minute we are starving for a brawler with decent netcode and the next we’re flooded with them! Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds had pretty good netcode, then Scott Pilgrim’s online patch finally hit and delivered decent netcode. Though not online, we just got our hands on Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons and its rough but challenging nature and now, Sacred: Citadel or as I like to call it: Dungeons & Dubstep (Shadow Over Mix-tara).

If you’re unfamiliar, Sacred: Citadel is a 3-player side scrolling beat ’em up spin-off of the Sacred series of Diablo clones. Not that you would be able to tell though as Citadel is brightly colored and cartoonish not just in visuals but in personality as well.

Initially I had thought the game was PSN exclusive but it is actually available on XBLA and Steam as well so it’s easy to get.

Initially the game seems to be very similar to Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara but with some Castle Crashers elements and not as good. The movelists, while bigger than most brawlers, are still sparse, the characters aren’t varied enough, and there isn’t much in the way of combo options. It isn’t until you play the Ranger that things click:

This is Castle Crashers meets King of Dragons!

It’s a very slight distinction but an important one and once you make the connection the game really clicks. The excessively fast attacks, the sparse moveset, the ranged attacks, even the odd choice of making the game 3-player instead of the more traditional four.

You get a choice of one of four characters: Warrior, Ranger, Shaman, and Mage. All characters are built off a similar base template: they all dual-wield the same weapons (swords, axes, and mace) and have a similar array of normal attacks. Mash X to combo, press Y and a direction mid-combo to knock the enemy in that direction, do a chain in mid-air and press Y to dive-kick, dash and press X to shoulder charge. The animations are different and the way the moves work may change slightly, but it is the same core set of attacks.

The reasoning behind this is that the different weapons have different effects. Axes can’t be blocked while maces have a chance to stun on top of whatever elemental attributes they have. In mixing and matching your two dual-wielded weapons you can personalize the effects of your basic attack string.

What separates each character is their Y button attack. This character-specific secondary weapon usually embodies their ranged capabilities. The Shaman shoots a quick magic burst, the Mage shoots a ball of magic, the Ranger unleashes a barrage of up to 5 arrows (and can move while shooting), and the Warrior just slams enemies with a giant hammer. As you progress you unlock more moves as well which further differentiate the characters. The Shaman can do a quick burst of magic that buffs nearby, the Mage can shoot an area of effect magic burst around her, the Warrior can throw his hammer, and the Ranger can juggle enemies in mid-air with his arrows. Characters also have 3 different super moves unique to them as well.

What I’m getting at here is that the characters seem really similar at first, but differentiate themselves greatly as the game progresses.

The items and inventory work identical to Castle Crashers: You only carry what you’re actually using, but there is a town where you can switch back to your collection of old weapons.

It is also worth mentioning that the game offers plenty in the way of defensive options. Blocking, double jumps, and even dodge rolls with the right analog stick are all here.

Though it does have some day 1 DLC in the form of extra levels, the packed in 20 stages are more than enough to justify the $15 pricetag.

But lets get to what you’re really wondering: How is the netcode? The answer: incredible. The game does not focus on sync too much and will instead teleport players to where they need to be should they lag. The result is that your control is never interrupted and the worst you’ll have to deal with is occasional camera hiccups from the sudden teleported player. I just played a 3-player game with someone in Japan and had no real issues.

So what are the game’s issues? Well once you get past the awkwardly fast attack speed and accept that this isn’t a super deep combo brawler, not too much. The biggest problem is that you can only have one player per class. If there is already a Shaman in your game and that is who you main? Well then you’ll either have to use a different character or find a different game. I find this to be the game’s biggest flaw.

The game also isn’t very clear on what your different supers do and once you have two meters it seems you can only do a level 2 super. This is an issue for the Shaman (guess who I main) as she uses buffs. Her level 1 heals the entire group while her level 2 is a big buff to the entire group. So sometimes you kinda want to heal everyone but you can’t because you can only buff them because you have too much meter.

Or at least I personally haven’t found a way to do a level 1 super with two bars.

Beyond that I haven’t found much to complain about. Again it’s not super deep so it can get boring if you play for too long, but I can safely say it is far from mindless.

Visually the game is interesting. It uses brightly colored cel-shaded 3D models to produce a very unique visual style.

The music is also pretty neat with some very odd style choices, such as the main menu music that can only be described as “Fantasy Dubstep”. Yes, mixing woodwinds and violins with dubstep “wubs”. It’s quite surreal.

The only thing more surreal was realizing that the entire first chapter consists of different remixes of Golden Axe’s first stage theme. Seriously, it sounds impossibly similar.

So yeah, in short a good time to be had! Not super deep and definitely more fun in multiplayer than in single, but good netcode and an awesome audio visual style make it well worth a look. It’s no Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, Dungeon Fighter Online, or Dragon’s Crown but it will at the very least tide us over until they hit and is good fun in its own right.

Ballparked Score:

3.7~4 out of 5

Oh right! Current progress? End of chapter 2. Level 18 Shaman, level 5 Ranger, level 3 Mage, and level 1 Warrior. Played some online in random public matches. No luck roping my friends into this one yet.

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5 Comments on “QuickView: Sacred Citadel”

  1. Billy Says:

    Yours may be the only positive opinion that I’ve read about Sacred Citadel. Most others have been fairly negative. Not because it is a side-scrolling beat’em-up/brawler, but because there have been better ones. (Which already described the Sacred franchise before this point. The previous two games were average-at-best Diablo clones.)

    TotalBiscuit’s “WTF Is”, for example, paints any Y button attack variation as meaningless, because mashing X stun-locks enemies while Y attacks knock them away or otherwise get them out of stun-lock. His video showed a game where mashing X, with the occasional block or dodge of a telegraphed attack, simply worked too well. (At one point a ranged enemy even abandons plinking arrows from a distance in order to run into the blender of X attacks.)

    Other sites and sources have had similar opinions.

    • GEL Says:

      So I’ve noticed. Watched that WTF Is the other day in fact and was constantly facepalming.

      “I’m probably NOT going to find a game *finds 3*”
      Wow you really ARE cynical!

      “They have access to MY characters”
      no they just all happen to have Level 9 Mages.

      “Why would you ever play this game with friends? What do you GAIN from that?”
      Umm…because games are more fun in multiplayer? Because the netcode is really good?

      “The fact that you can’t hit your friends takes away the interaction between players”
      It’s generally a bad idea (makes playing with Genjuro in Guardian Heroes near impossible) AND it would require keeping players perfectly synced and thus would make the netcode bad.

      “This game should be striving to be Guardian Heroes! Just play Guardian Heroes HD!”
      Except that it has abysmal netcode and is only 2-player. Otherwise I agree.

      “The AI is just absolutely terrible”
      Welcome to brawlers. You ever play one with GOOD AI? They aren’t nice. Go try Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds. I will be AMAZED if you don’t whine about the bosses like everyone else.

      “This is the problem with making co-op optional. It should have been more like Guardian Heroes or Golden Axe!”
      Ummm…what? WHAT?! What the WHAT!?

      “There are no juggles of any sort”
      There are 3 achievements/titles for doing juggles. The first of which is “The Juggler”. Having said that, they are not the focus.

      “In Guardian Heroes you could heal other players if you played the healer, which you can’t do in this…well I dunno I never played the Shaman. MAYBE you can.”
      *facepalm* (Healing is her Level 1 super. She gets an AoE buff at level 15 or so.)

      Was THIS CLOSE to doing a Your Review Sucks of it but I will give him credit: the stun lock thing is true. I hadn’t noticed it before and it does in fact seem to make the game easier than intended, if slow and boring. I’d also like to point out that he still needed to use potions. Having said that the challenge DOES ramp up in later stages as it comes not from fighting one enemy but fighting large numbers of them. Also there are far faster and more efficient ways to defeat enemies, which becomes important when doing the Challenges. Namely if you knock an enemy down you can wail on them REALLY fast with no breaks. You can also get weapons with a freeze effect, the Mage gets a time freezing skill, there’s a specific stunning smash you get later in the game, ect.

      It’s kind of awkward to me really because I AGREED with him up until I played the Ranger. I HATE when people half-ass their brawlers and I continually bitch about the small movelists and lack of combos. When you play Denjin Makai II and realize the whole world needs to catch up to 1995, it is kinda ridiculous. The closing of my favorite brawler MMO (Dungeon Fighter Online) makes the sting even WORSE!

      …but then you realize maybe combos aren’t everything. This game went a different route and indeed it may not appeal to everyone. The focus was on speed and enemy numbers. To put it another way, it could also be called a side-scrolling Gauntlet…except a touch deeper…so a side-scrolling Diablo? HOW ODDLY FITTING.

      *ahem* Yeah the game kinda grew on me. Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds is undeniably BETTER, but different.

      • GEL Says:

        Spent some time testing out the stun lock on the second to last level. It DOES work but it is harder to utilize and is completely ineffective against bosses.

        Having said that, with everything that stuns enemies INTENTIONALLY they SHOULD have planned for stun lock a touch better.

        Things That Stun Enemies in Sacred Citadel (that I know of):

        -Maces
        -X-Down-Y Attack
        -Ice Element
        -Mage’s Time Freeze Attack
        -Ranger’s Lv.2 Super

        So a Mage with two ice maces would cause enough freezing ANYWAY!

        You know, I *STILL* like it but I think a patch might be in order :P

      • Billy Says:

        To be fair to TotalBiscuit, he did say that he’d not been able to find a game online previously. He’s playing the PC version, and I assume your experience is with a console (PSN?) version.

        As for the level 9 Mage part, I can’t believe it. All three players coincidentally had level 9 Mages? The middle player, who briefly had a level 9 mage selected before switching to a different class? The host, hosting a level 1 game, who only had access to the first area of the first act, had a level 9 mage? It looks to me that either the other players had access to TB’s mage or the game was reporting the levels wrong (and showing TB’s character levels instead of the appropriate levels for each player’s characters).

        On the character levels, it could be a difference (whether intentional or a bug) between PC and console versions.

        I agree about the hitting other players part, though. It can be bad enough with two people, but really becomes annoying with three. I can only imagine his complaints after playing online if the game *did* have friendly fire.

  2. GEL Says:

    Quite.

    Actually no it really WAS a weird coincidence. Because it shows what levels YOU have locked, not the person you’re playing with. Hence why he was looking at the other stages despite them being locked, because they AREN’T locked for him and if he plays one it unlocks for everyone else. And yes they were locked for TotalBiscuit because the unlocks are per-character. But that IS a really odd coincidence that EVERYONE in that game had only played a Mage and gotten her up to level 9.

    But PC bugs are highly plausible. It is DEFINITELY made for consoles first and the keyboard control scheme sounds abysmal. I’m playing on 360 myself.


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