Creative Producer Alex Toplansky has a little bonus for fans of the Sacred universe and side scrolling beat ‘em ups to boot. That treat comes in the form of upcoming XBLA title Sacred Citadel, which borrows heavily from the mythos of the series while also staying true to the 'smack everything in sight' roots of games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage. An odd combination to be sure but one that actually looks like it might certainly be time well spent.
”Side scrolling brawlers is a loaded term,” Toplansky explained, “One that means different things to different people. We know that we are part of a lineage of awesome side scrolling action games and we have some big shoes to fill.” Certainly it’s a bit of a shock to see the developers of an RPG sidestep into such a genre but Toplansky is confident they can pull it off. “We want to do that. We really want to update the genre with the depth and quality people have come to expect.”
The key for the team was creating an over the top set of characters and art styles that not only fit in with the Sacred brand but also provided something that they could have fun with. Emphasising fun combat, exaggerated moves and a sense of humour throughout was key to making a game that lived up to the lineage of past titles according to Toplansky. ”I’d like to believe we’ve really followed through on the promises set up many years ago on delivering a really stylish game.”
So far so good, but how does the game play? Well it has three standard character classes to choose from; with the burly Warrior, bow wielding Ranger and magic wielding Shamen. So far so generic, but players can engage in some three player co-op to tackle the game which is an instant plus point. Each class also seems fairly well balanced and the fact that players can neatly combine skills to good effect means it isn’t just a case of random button bashing. Each of the heroes has a range of abilities and combos, not to mention finishing moves to stun and knockback opponents as well as a few super moves that can be unleashed from time to time.
”The goal is to create a sense that a huge brawl fest is going on, that there is a lot of action going on onscreen at any one time,” Toplansky goes on to say, as they run us through an early build, and it is clear that his statement is pretty much spot on. Enemies leap onto the screen to be dispatched by our rampaging squad, unfortunate locals are dragged to their doom in comedy background asides while brutal boss encounters require the whole team to pour on the damage. Everything seems silky smooth and the level of polish and diversity is at a high level from the get go, with the controls as easy or hard as players want to make them.
Background obstacles can be used to beat up on enemies or even “troll your friends,” Toplansky quips with a chuckle. Heaving foes into the air lets you juggle them for massive points and, as you would expect with a side scrolling melee, you can also leap onto rampaging animals to rend your enemies limb from limb. As you progress you can power up your team and buy new equipment to ensure things are kept interesting, as well as ensuring you have a few extra tricks up your sleeve.
As a side scrolling beat ‘em up Sacred Citadel will certainly have to go some way to being able to top recent downloadable titles like Castle Crashers, but on this showing there is certainly a great deal of promise. Considering the game has been fundamentally designed as a co-op experience, with Toplansky stating that players will be further “rewarded for good co-op play,” than they might have been by plowing a lone furrow. On that point alone Sacred Citadel will certainly be ideal fodder for groups of friends to sit back and enjoy, as well as having a setting and story that ties in with the whole Sacred universe.
Expect to be smashing your foes into itty, bitty pieces when Sacred Citadel lands in your downloadable space, pummels its rivals bloody and demands your cash early next year.