Sacred Citadel screenshot

Sacred Citadel review: shallow button-mashing nostalgia

Sprinkle a dash of Diablo into the arcade classic Golden Axe and you get the mindless, keyboard-raping but fairly entertaining ride that is Sacred Citadel.

In the grand old tradition of the ‘side scrolling beat ‘em up’ (SSBEU), yours is a mission of murderous mayhem against the forces of evil against the those tried-and-true enemies of freedom across fantasy video gamedom, Orcs—or in this case ‘Grimmocs’, but an Orc by any other name is still an Orc.
View slideshow: Sacred Citadel screenshot

There is also a considerable array of non-orcs, including dwarves, ghost pirates, prickly monsters, and various unique monstrosities (bosses), most of whom are more than willing to walk into the business end of the various pointy things you’re armed with.

Your first mission is to choose from one of four standard issue heroes: Barbarian, Ranger, Wizard, or Shaman. It’s probably good that they used ‘Shaman’ and narrowly sidestep the cliché’ and stigma of calling it a Cleric. No one ever wants to be the Cleric—but a Shaman? Hey, that’s kickass.

Sacred Citadel is simple, shallow arcade-style entertainment. Fans of Golden Axe may enjoy a certain sense of nostalgia.
In your grand quest to save the world from villainy, you will venture tirelessly from left to right, destroy everything in your path, and loot it all for power ups. In addition to decimating legions of monsters and robbing them, you’ll kill many defenseless, innocent crates in your righteous quest to free glorious loot from their wooden tombs. Power-up potions, fruit, food, gold, and improved weapons and armor all await their freedom at the end of your tireless smashing of the left-arrow (attack) key.

You can also mount-rustle—i.e. steal creatures ridden by your enemies—in addition to crate-raping and non-orc-killing.

The sizable array of enemies are largely the same faces in different suits, all awaiting their predestined doom at your hands—in other words, most of them as dumb as a sack of hammers. Notice I said ‘dumb as’ and not ‘dumber than’—so there’s that.

Thankfully, your enemies always have superior numbers—which is good because they largely rely on you to screw up your button smashing once in a while so someone can narrowly avoid impalement just long enough to actually hit you. And odds are, by then you’ll have filled power up bar and be ready to shut down those aspirations with a massive “smart bomb” style attack.

Old school meets slightly newer school

Sacred Citadel adds some ‘new (or newish) school’, Diablo-esque action RPG (role playing game) elements to its old-school inspired gameplay. As you murder and pillage every last evil doer in your path, you’ll collect more powerful weapons and armor and gain experience levels. Level up and you get points to spend increasing characteristics (Attack, Defense, Dexterity, and Power), although it’s hard to see how much these increases actually help you.

At the very least leveling up grants a small sense of accomplishment, and you will eventually notice the effect—you can effectively out-level bosses and enjoy beating them up over and over while they impotently smash their super attacks on you. Bitch-slap them down to remind them who the real boss is. (My oldest son seemed to get quite a bit of entertainment out of beating the crap out of a boss called Mossback over and over and over.)

The game automatically saves your character in between levels, but you must successfully complete a level before the next one is unlocked. There are no mid-level saves, but you can freely replay any level you’ve unlocked at any time.

You can also visit town and spend your hard won gold on the more power up items (potions, weapons, armor, etc.) as well as crystals (another type of power up). In addition, you can engage in challenge levels to earn more cold hard cash by talking to a certain character.

Shallow Citadel

Sacred Citadel can be played single-player, but it’s really intended as a multiplayer game, much like its quarter-sucking arcade inspirations. You can create private or public games for some multiplayer co-op beatdown action with up to 2 additional players.

I played multiplayer with my sons (ages 7 and 9) and let them play together as well. Sacred Citadelis definitely best played this way. As a single-player game, I suspect most players over the age of 12 will likely tire of it pretty quickly. Younger kids will probably enjoy playing it single player or multiplayer.

But as a multiplayer game played side-by-side—the same way we played the arcade games ‘back in the day’—Sacred Citadel is pretty fun. It’s easy enough for relatively younger gamers to play, and parental units can still derive some enjoyment from a little mindless co-op button mashing (and perhaps a dash of nostalgia).

Sacred Citadel seems to have some problems detecting controllers. On one PC it never detected the Razer Onza game pad connected to it. On another PC it only intermittently realized that a Razer Sabertooth gamepad was connected, sometimes defaulting to keyboard and sometimes to the gamepad. In addition, you only appear to be able to use whichever controller the game detects (gamepad/keyboard), with no ability to customize or select alternate controls. (Fortunately, my kids learned to play with either pretty easily.)

Overall: 3/5 stars

Sacred Citadel is a shallow button-masher best played with friends or family—preferably in the same room. If you can play it this way, I’d give it 4 stars—although it’s a little expensive ($30) to buy two copies in order to do that. For the casual adult single-player minded player, I’d give it 2 stars; maybe 3 if I’ve had my medication—so I’ll average those out and call it 3 stars.

If you do play alongside your kids, you can regale them with tales of yore. Choose from the following:

“In my day…

  • “…we had joysticks with ONE BUTTON, and WE LIKED IT!”
  • “… we had to walk 7 miles to the arcade, where we had to STAND UP and PAY QUARTERS for the privilege of playing games that looked way crappier than this!”
  • “… we played fantasy games with GRAPH PAPER, and DICE.”
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