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.
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.