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Sacred Citadel Gamescom 2012 Preview

Sacred Citadel is an upcoming side-scrolling brawler under development by Southend Interactive for PSN and Steam which was revealed at gamescom 2012. During our demonstration we were shown some live gameplay footage of a 3-player brawl-fest in this unusual take on the Sacred formula.

Three characters were showcased in the demonstration, although it remains to be seen if more will be available in the finished product. Those on offer were the Warrior, Shaman and Ranger with each offering a distinct and complementary play style.

As is fitting for a Sacred title, the game has been built from the ground up around one core principle - cooperative play. The title is designed to be as accessible as possible for new players but is also promised to have significant depth to inspire longevity. While the developer's are keen to introduce new areas of quality to the genre they also stressed their desire to pay homage to the 'classics' of the side-scrolling beat-em-up genre.

The three players of the demonstration were chosen from audience volunteers and while this writer was sorely tempted to step up to the plate I reluctantly decided that getting words down and spreading the word was more important than my own personal enjoyment. A shame, as the three players did seem to get substantial enjoyment out of their time with the game.

As is most often the case with these demonstrations, presentation is the first noticeable factor. Sacred Citadel has a very cartoony look with exceptionally brightly coloured characters and backgrounds. Despite the obvious limitations of being side-scrolling the graphics do convey a sense of depth with layers of background scenery becoming even more distant and foreground scenery such as walls and plant life fading into shadow as it approaches the screen boundary.

Environments are not just aesthetic and environmental obstacles come into play through the course of the gameplay. We see a section in which a swinging log trap springs down to catch the players unaware, but remains in place during a large brawl and players can strike it to set it swinging again, knocking down enemies (and potentially friends) who get in it's path. We also witness a crushing block in one battle scene which flattens any enemies that are forced beneath it into red paste.

Combat is fast paced and action packed with a variation of soft and hard strikes mixed in with directional combo's and special power attacks. By the end of the demonstration the players were starting to get the hang of some of the more advanced tactics involving air juggling and knockback attacks.

Each character has two weapons with which to fight with and can switch instantaneously between them, even during attack sequences. So, for example, the Ranger can fire arrows at approaching enemies to whittle their health down and then finish them off by duel-wielding his sword and axe combination as soon as they get within melee range.

Power attacks themselves are meaty and effective at taking down multiple opponents or issuing large amounts of damage to the large 'boss' type enemies. The Ranger can unleash a hail of arrows in seconds while the Warrior can perform a whirlwind spinning attack with his warhammer damaging anyone foolish enough to get too close.

Of course, much of this is fairly staple brawler-style gameplay and Sacred Citadel attempts to distinguish itself somewhat from that pack by introducing an RPG-style levelling system. Unfortunately, given that we witnessed a showcase of one level featuring pre-levelled characters we were not given the chance to explore how the levelling system will affect character development; other than to be told experience earned can be used to upgrade various skills and weapons.

Very little was given away in terms of the underlying narrative that will run behind the game, but we were informed that the setting will be roughly around the same period as the upcoming Sacred 3 game and that there will be a substantial connection with the plot of that game.

No official release date has been given for Sacred Citadel at this time, other than to expect launch sometime in 2013. Our demonstration showed us a fairly standard, if enjoyable looking, side-scrolling brawler and it will be the implementation on the levelling system that will determine if this title stands out from the pack.

Ewok | 18th September, 2012

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