'Sacred Citadel' beats up cartoons, not genre conventions

Sacred Citadel may carry over the burly protagonists and fantasy trappings of the Sacred franchise, but its beat-em-up gameplay is a far cry from the hacking-and-slashing of the core series.

Sacred Citadel may carry over the burly protagonists and fantasy trappings of the Sacred franchise, but its beat-em-up gameplay is a far cry from the hacking-and-slashing of the core series.

The brief, hands-off Gamescom 2012 demo touched on all the components you would expect from the genre. Players move around a multi-layered, two-dimensional path, wailing on enemies with combos of basic and special attacks. Juggling foes with upward strikes and aerial attacks builds those combos even further, pushing your personal score even higher. Players can dodge roll out of the way of danger, or dash around the stage, elongating their jumps and adding a bit more oomph to their directional attacks.

Utilizing the environment is a big part of eradicating Sacred Citadel's foes. During the demo, the players corralled a large group of enemies in front of a hanging log, then launched a bevy of attacks on it, sending it careening into the crowd. Later, a player used his knockback attack to push a giant brute under a falling rock, which made short work of it. Mounts are also mountable at certain points of the level, putting you in charge of a charging beast capable of tearing through enemies like tissue paper.

Additional strategy comes from the fulfillment of class roles, three of which were demonstrated: The Warrior, who specialized in moving enemies around the battlefield, The Ranger, who fired volleys of ranged attacks at foes, and the Shaman, who supported the other two while dealing a bit of damage on the side. Though it wasn't shown off, these classes will unlock and upgrade new abilities and purchase new weapons with the loot and experience they earn for their toils.

Apart from the game's uniquely cartoonish aesthetic, that class-based gameplay is really the only aspect which stood out as the feature which Sacred Citadel brings to the table that other modern beat-em-ups lacked. It's too soon to tell if its walloping gameplay will possess the satisfying retro charms of Scott Pilgrim or Castle Crashers, but adding traditional RPG classes would add a layer of strategy that could really add something special to the genre.

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