Beat ‘em up titles have been around pretty much since the beginning of video games. I have played tons of them and have enjoyed more than a fair share. Beating up baddies with a few of your friends is always a blast, and even if the combat got stale, it was still fun to plow through to the end. Sacred Citadel could not be closer to that sentiment.
Sacred Citadel is an action brawler with RPG elements. Much like Golden Axe and Castle Crashers, the game pits heroes against screens of enemies. Hacking and slashing is the name of the game, and simple combos can be performed with only two buttons. In fact, those two buttons make up more than 90 percent of what players will be pressing. After reaching the end of certain levels, boss enemies may appear and some strategy will come into play, but not much.
There are four classes to play, each with their own unique moves. For the most part, each character plays the same with a few alterations. The ranger can fire arrows and the shaman uses special magic, but even with these variations, all characters dual wield two weapons and attack in the same way. Players can utilize finisher to knock back enemies for breathing room, and anytime a single enemy is on the ground, can walk up and madly stab them until they’re dead. I used this formula for the entirety of the game. Knock an enemy down, and then beat them before they get back up. If they get back up, rinse and repeat. Everyone also has super moves that can be unleashed when the rage meter is filled. There are three blocks that can be filled and each one represents a different super move. So a level one super may be nice, but saving up rage and breaking out a level three will take out tons of enemies and maybe even bosses.
There are four acts to play, each representing a different area. The acts are divided into levels that can be played both solo or three player co-op, either online or local. Each level takes around 10 to 15 minutes to complete. During the levels, players can pick up gold that can be used in town to purchase new weapons and armor, as well as potions and stat increasing gems.
Characters gain experience points for each kill, which are used to level up. After each mission, depending on how many times a character leveled up, skill points can be placed in four attributes. Also, at certain levels, characters will learn new combos and unlock more blocks for super moves.
The gems increase the four base stats for characters: Attack, defense, dexterity, and power. Gems, once equipped, will grant users a limited amount of time for a stat increase. New equipment will offer up harder hitting attacks as well as some elemental damage such as ice, fire and electricity. Weapons and armor can be found from loot drops during the levels as well.
Players looking for some more gold in their pockets can go into town and make a bet with the local gambler. These bets have the player trying to complete a level without dying, with a certain score, or within a certain timeframe. Think of them as challenges. Each act also has a special “final stage” that is not required to complete to advance the story. These offer up more of a challenge with harder enemies and bosses, but give players a change to gain extra experience points and new loot they may not find anywhere else.
Three of each type of potion can be equipped at one time. These restore health, fill the rage meter and increase attack power for a short time. Using these at the right time saved my skin in several sticky situations. Even when I did die, the checkpoint system was rather forgiving and never frustrating.
I love the presentation. The cartoony art style and overly comedic animations result in a colorful design that never takes itself too seriously. The small amounts of voice acting are well done and the musical score is fantastic. This is the shining part of Sacred Citadel.
The game was never difficult. In fact, I found it too easy in many aspects. The hit stun on enemies made the combat a breeze for me, even when playing solo. I could knock an enemy down and then just wail on them until they died. It got monotonous at times. The super attacks felt way too over powered. I could start a boss fight with a full meter, use my level three super attack and one-hit kill a boss. It made it too easy. After leveling up a single character throughout the game, I found that going to previously played levels offers very little challenge.
The game is rather simple in design, but never felt boring even when the combat got far too easy. The character level progression was addicting, and co-op with some friends is a really enjoyable and implemented well. It took me around five hours to complete the main story, and there were still challenges and special levels to complete. For $15, you and two of your friends can have a decent time beating up monsters in co-op.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.