PAX East 2013: Sacred Citadel Hands-On

Developer: Southend Interactive / Publisher: Deep Silver / Release Date: TBA April 2013 / Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC / ESRB: Not Yet Rated [No Descriptors]

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Sacred Citadel is a comedic, side-scrolling, beat ‘em up that’s as much Wind Waker in aesthetic as it is Golden Axe in design. Though it’s largely unlike its older RPG brothers, this combat-focused spin-off on Deep Silver’s long-running series is all about quirky art and gear upgrades.

Much like the side-scrolling combatants of gaming’s past, Sacred Citadel places its focus squarely on providing a proven combat experience with a colorful, cel-shaded art style. Much of the environment and its non-interactive pieces flow across the screen, and much like Limbo, the background is like a painting in motion: with gears, chains, trees and bridges swaying and turning gently in the wind.

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The combat in Sacred Citadel should prove familiar to those introduced to the genre. One button is assigned to the normal attack, one to the heavy attack, and one to the special attack. As you level and enhance any one of four characters of different combat styles, you’ll be able to chain new moves together that you progressively unlock, resulting in higher-tier finishing blasts, slashes and punches.

Though you’ll mainly scroll from left to right and fight enemies that pour on-screen, you’ll also be pitted against handfuls of enemies while locked in one area: a bridge, a minecart track, and so forth – and you’ll have to do so while dodging environmental hazards like minecarts. If your health gets knocked down, you lose a life, and avoiding the smack of those non-enemy hazards certainly adds an additional layer of challenge in these more tense segments.

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After slaying many goblins in the two levels I experienced, I plowed through a boss fight with a chained-up cave monster who had no issue with tossing me around like an old rag. It was nostalgic round of “run, stop, slash, slash, slash, run, repeat” fun, and was balanced to the point where I wasn’t getting thrashed by the big guy – but came close a number of times. Stacking health potions proved beneficial in that instance.

The game has a light focus on weapon upgrading through swapping with newly introduced equipment found in the environment, and strays away from keeping you in upgrade menu screens, time that could be spent simply playing the game. In fact, much of the weapon differences are displayed in a small bubble on-screen in real time as you peruse them, again keeping you from digging your heels in menu screens.

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Sacred Citadel will launch on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC sometime next month. Look out for our full review then.

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