Sacred Citadel Review

Sacred Citadel Box Art

Sacred Citadel reminds me of games that hold a special place in my heart: The old side-scrolling action titles that riddled arcades and took up spots in my NES- and Genesis-era shelves in my younger days. Games like X-Men Arcade, Turtles in Time, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, and more come to mind when I’m playing through Deep Silver and Southend Interactive’s beat-‘em-up endeavor. But as much as the game gets me all nostalgic, it’s ultimately a short trip that doesn’t leave its own endearing mark the way those classics did years go.

The game’s plot is rather basic, but that’s not really the most important aspect of a beat-‘em-up title. I play as one from a group of four mercenaries/adventurers who are looking for glory and gold. Through the allure of a big cash reward, my character unknowingly brings about a world-threatening event. It’s then up to me to do the right thing and stop the menace that I created. Simple and effective.

Sacred Citadel Boss FightsThe combat, while proving more advanced than those from generations past, isn’t anything that sets my heart on fire. Blocking and dodge-rolling are key, and prevented me from hacking away… for the most part. There proved to be a few combos – the knockback one in particular – that,  when timed correctly against grouped enemies, can be spammed with ease and make most levels a breeze. This negatively affects a fair share of the game’s positive aspects – higher-level gear drops, stat-boosting crystals, four-attribute leveling system, interactive objects, mounts – simply because the game’s typical encounters are too easy.

Unlike the usual scrubs, Sacred Citadel’s boss fights are challenging enough to demonstrate the importance of the game’s full combat suite. Using power attacks gained through a gradually building meter help whittle down their health, while knowing when to block and which combos to use can be crucial to success or failure. It’s a shame these foes weren’t encountered more often than their appearances every few levels, as they made the game exciting and interesting.

What makes matters worse is that although campaign is enjoyable the first time through despite its ease, it’s only four to five hours long and has no New Game + feature to make the earlier levels challenging for any character that’s been heavily beefed up. Had there been more than simple leaderboards, rankings, and bets for in-game cash that’s almost useless after the campaign’s been beaten, I would’ve been enticed to play through a few more times. It doesn’t help that the same tactics can be employed by all four characters on enemies; the lack of distinction kept me from wanting to fully explore them all in multiple playthroughs. Once I got that nostalgic fill and saw how the story played out, there wasn’t much desire in me to play further.

Sacred Citadel Combat

Co-op is a fun way to get in a little beat-‘em-up action with friends or strangers online and makes things more entertaining. However, it also makes the game even easier. Sacred Citadel doesn’t appear to be a title with a multitude of online players, however, so finding a game to play with others took forever. The wait was so long, in fact, that had I not been responsible for a review, I would’ve given up on it altogether.

The mediocre combat and design qualities were made less glaring thanks in part to some beautiful and unique art design combined with a catchy soundtrack. The tunes got stuck in my head after playing and still pop up from time to time, and the art feels like a perfect blend of the genre’s Genesis/SNES/90’s arcade days and more modern entries.

It’s unfortunate that Sacred Citadel could only reignite my nostalgic love for classic side-scrolling beat-‘em-up games and not recapture it. It had me thinking about the days of old and how much fun they used to be, instead of reminding me of just how much fun they can still be to this day. If you’re a big fan of the genre you could find some good times here; but if you’re looking to have a memorable experience that will join the ranks of those from the genre’s glory days, there are certainly other beat-‘em-ups out there more deserving of your time.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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