Blizzard’s Diablo series is one of the most successful franchises in gaming. As with any success, everyone wants to recreate it by making something similar but putting their own twist on it. One of the more successful imitators is the Sacred series. I only mention this because while I know the Sacred series, the latest game in the series, Sacred Citadel, took me a little by surprise. So much so that I did not actually realize it was a Sacred game.
Sacred Citadel, developed by SouthEnd Interactive, is a side-scrolling arcade style 4 player co-op brawler. By any viewpoint the game is a far cry from the action-adventure, loot grind RPGs that have made the franchise what it is. Still despite the obvious changes, once aware that Sacred Citadel is a Sacred universe game, it becomes very clear where inspiration for certain aspects of the game came from.
A variety of standard classes are provided for players to choose and I decided to go with the warrior. Big and strong, the warrior is the standard tank character offering heavy damage attacks in close and being as this game is an arcade brawler, it seemed to be the logical choice. The game starts out with the heroes defending a town attacked by a tribe of orcs. These orcs set everything ablaze and it is left to the player to hand out some justice.
Like most arcade brawlers, Sacred Citadel throws a handful of enemies at a time at its players and figuring out how to manage the crowd is the first key to success here. Fortunately the game offers a variety of options to help figure these things out, including dodge rolls, attack combos and special attacks that can devastate the arena. It all controls quite nicely, although one can’t help but think it would feel more natural with an arcade stick and big action buttons.
While Sacred Citadel gets the arcade brawler feel correct, it also adds in some RPG elements that help it distinguish itself from every other similar game. There is a very basic leveling system that awards points to be allocated in areas like strength and dexterity as well as being able to apply buffs that last a certain amount of time (generally a level’s worth of play). The quickest way to buff one’s skill set though is to acquire new weaponry, which can either be bought or found on the battle field. The loot system at play here is not nearly as intricate as its step-sibling but it spices up the reward system more than one would expect from an arcade brawler. However, the most fun aspect of Sacred Citadel is the wagering system, which is really just in game survival or time trials with the twist of failure costing you something tangible.
As mentioned, the gameplay in Sacred Citadel is spot on for an arcade brawler and the RPG elements help it stand out a bit from the crowd. Unfortunately the game also has some major downsides, the first of which is the poorly cobbled together story that basically paints the heroes of the game out to be the biggest imbeciles on the planet. Anyone who has ever spent any time dealing with fantasy will see the “twist” coming a mile away and the game’s narrative suffers for it. Worse though is the seemingly limited enemy modeling that was done. It seemed I was consistently coming across the same 7-8 enemy types over the course of the game’s four acts and it made the game feel a bit too grindish for its own good.
Ultimately Sacred Citadel is a game caught in the middle of where the franchise has been before and this new thing that wants to be something different. It is not 100% successful though and that might be something of a disappointment. For me though it was a good, solid six hours of brawling.
Review Note: This review was conducted on the Xbox 360 using a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and PS3.