Citadel: Forged with Fire was originally released in July 2017 as Early Access. It was developed by Virtual Basement and Blue Isle Studios. Prior to the official release on 1 November 2019, I have never played this game before and this is the first time I’ve tried it out.
So let me begin by saying that I love RPG Sandbox games, I love MMORPGs, and I love fantasy and magic. My favourite RPG Sandbox game so far has been ARK: Survival Evolved (mostly stemming from my love of Dinosaurs too), my go-to MMORPG has been Elder Scrolls Online, and when it comes to fantasy I tent to shift towards anything Lord of the Rings.
Citadel: Forged with Fire has a little bit of everything I’ve mentioned above. It leans heavily on the Sandbox mode of ARK, in terms of crafting, building and taming, but feels more simplistic in nature. I am happy to say that building structures is by far the easiest to do in Citadel, and excels far above any other game in this category. Floors and walls snap easily into place, and you don’t have the restrictions ARK does when it comes to placement. I marveled at how wonderfully easy it is to build, which allows you to really create the castle of your dreams.
Another aspect I loved is how compact the leveling system is. What I mean is, instead of allocating points to various types of walls (like in ARK), you allocate points to unlock a Wall Pack. Within that pack, you get your various type of walls, such as openings, doorways, window openings, diagonal walls, etc. Each type of material needs to be unlocked based on your level, starting with wood and moving on to stone, marble and ornate.
Weapons and armour have a similar crafting and unlocking system, and feels very much akin to the Diablo 3 system. The items will have magical properties attached to them that buff some of your stats. As you level up, you can choose which stats you want to increase, and then allocate points to your skill tree to unlock new crafting and weapon items.
The types of weapons and armour are limited to what you unlock. There are only 5 types of staves, for instance, each one unlocked as you spend points on them at higher levels. They are more powerful, and each time you craft a new one, it will randomly adjust the stat buffs. As for the types of weapons themselves, there are swords, staves, wands, gloves and scythes.
Sticking to the themes of things I love about the game, you can have up to 4 weapons equipped at a time and simply switch between them with the click of a button. So I generally had one of each type, excluding the gloves. But if you are hoping for the normal variety of weapons in Sandbox RPG games like this, where you can choose between wooden, iron, obsidian or glass weapons, think again. You only craft the type of sword you have unlocked with your points, such as the “Bastion”. You can add ingredients when you craft the weapons that can improve its stats. But that’s about it. And the same applies to the armour.
So the one thing that sets Citadel apart from the other types of Sandbox RPGs, especially ARK, is the magic. I’ve seen gamers refer to Citadel as “Harry Potter meets ARK”. Yeah, I can’t argue with that there. You can even fly on a broomstick and build your own type of Quidditch field. I’m assuming, since there is a ball you can place too, that you can actually play the game with others online too, but I didn’t bother delving into that aspect of the game. The trophies also center around what level sorcerer you have become.
It is therefore clear that magic is the core of the combat system. Yes you can slash your sword and wave your wand, but all weapons can have magic attached to them. There is a nifty spellbook and crafting section where you can utilise one of the essences (light, dark, nature, frost, storm, fire) within one of the magic Schools (beam, projectile, utility, self, area of effect, etc) and attach up to two spells to each weapon. It is a magic system I haven’t really seen in any other type of magic game, but it works quite well.
Having said that, the magic is limited to your weapons. Without weapons, you cannot perform any spells. Also, the spells are very limited. With only 4 schools of magic per weapon per essence, there is only so much you can do, especially since you can only attach two spells to a weapon. For a very powerful sorcerer, I am stunned that once I have become attached to a staff with two flames spells, that is basically all I want to use. In other words, I don’t really get that ‘sense’ of power.
What I would have loved, would have been to move the right analog stick in a certain way with the wand to cast a spell. Kind of like they did with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix game on the PlayStation 2. With a means to allocate certain spells to certain patterns. Or waving your controller on the Switch! This would have been tremendous in terms of combat between players and with the environment. Maybe complicated, but it would have given me a much better sense of power, not being limited to what spells I’ve attached to which weapons.
Taming and harvesting have also been made easier with spells. Attach a Light Utility spell to your weapon and you can pacify animals and beasts to fight alongside you or mount them. Attach a Nature Utility spell, and you can ditch chopping trees and just absorb the wood out of them. This is a far more effective taming method than ARK. HOWEVER, you are limited to 4 tamed beasts at a time that have a loyalty timer attached to it, after which they leave.
Yet, in my own personal opinion, tamed beasts become rather useless as mounts when you unlock the broom. You can simply fly around, and even fight, from your broom. Yes, your tamed creatures can fight with you, which could be fun when it comes to PvP battles, but I lost interest in keeping any myself (except for them Trophies).
Which is the perfect segue into the different modes of play. You can play the game in three different ways, namely Single Player (Yay!!!!), PvE and PvP. I am so glad they had a single player mode, since I hate playing against assholes online. There is a certain joy and calm to just playing and crafting without worrying about some inept idiot ruining the game for you. For the review I’ve mostly played in Single Player mode to test the game’s features, where I could adjust the settings to such an extent that I leveled up to Level 60 very quickly and I could build my castle without using any resources.
Sadly, that was how I learnt that there wasn’t much more that this game that interested me, but I will get to that in a moment. The next mode is Player vs Environment, PvE. Here you can connect to a server with other players and either create or join a House, like a Guild. Feel free to build and hunt as you wish, as no other players can attack you. As one idiot player learnt as he continuously mashed me with spells that did nothing to me.And still continued to do so for the next two minutes like a retard.
Finally, there is the Player vs Player mode, PvP. You can also join other Houses and fight against their enemies together, live in a massive castle together and thrive online. Enemies can also destroy your massive castle if it isn’t defended well enough, putting all those days of work to waste. Needless to say, I avoided this mode altogether (yes, I’m a wuss. I don’t like bullies. I just want to build my castle and live in magical peace forever.)
So now that I’ve gone on and on about the game at length, give me a moment to rant. For a game that has been in Early Access so long, there were a few things that really disappointed me. First and foremost, some really bad glitches. There are some times where pressing the attack button yields no effect. For instance, I have gone so close to an enemy and attempted to tame it, and nothing happened, even though it was powered up. Another glitch saw me sink into the floor I had just built with no way to get out. I could not place a new throne there to claim the floor, so I could not delete it (thanks to the silly ‘throne-claiming system in place). I was at wits end, with not even Google being able to assist me. Hours of gameplay down the drain. Thankfully, when I paused to exit the game, I saw there was a ‘Respawn’ option which took me out of the situation. Still.. very frustrating.
But I can live with glitches. Hell, I survived the glitches of Fallout 76 (well, up to the point where I just gave up on Fallout altogether when it became impossible to play). But the quests…shit man. The tutorial quests are so short and basically teach you nothing. They consist of “Craft an axe”, without actually telling you how to. “Place a firepit.” Awesome. How do I do that? Where is the build menu? Where is the firepit? Google!!!!
And once you are done with the tutorial quests, they send you on your merry way. To ask yourself, what now? So you start opening the map, which is pleasantly vast, and realise there are caves and enemy camps to explore. Which are chiefly for combat, resources and experience. Then you find some quest markers. Yay!!! Except, they consist of menial slave labour, such as collect this, tame that, kill these. There is no real depth to the quests, leaving Citadel to remain mainly a Sandbox, crafting game. Much like its counterparts (ARK, Minecraft, 7 Days to Die, etc). I suppose I was hoping too much for proper questlines, like Elder Scrolls Online.
The only reason I bring up the quests is because I don’t seeing me playing Citadel for as long as I hoped. Sure, the Trophies will keep me busy, but that’s about it. Once you’ve built your castle, there isn’t much to offer unless you’re really really into the PvP arena and want to smite other wizards and witches.
I thought the graphics were quite good to start with. I love the colours and the magical effects, as well as the number of creatures to be found. Even the crafting stations look quite awesome. But sometimes the poor graphical quality (or developer laziness) really shows. The polygon rate of some of the creatures really suck. Like the eagles. They have less feathers and more… pasted fur. The distance draw quality is great though, especially the huge mountains and beautiful vistas. But the creatures, man, they needed to put some more work into that.
To end off, as much as I want to applaud Citadel for what it is, I rather want to dream about what it could be. All the potential and so much more that they can do with it. I love the mythology, the magic and the awesome creatures (trolls, unicorns, sprites, dragons, etc) found within the game. But there needs to be more content: more spells, more varied forms of weapon material, more construction options, and more of a reason for me to stay. At the time of this review, I have no knowledge if there will be any special events held, but I have seen no evidence of such.
I went from being utterly amazed and completely loving the game, to being disappointed and really wishing it had more, within a few hours. I am so glad I had the experience multiplier on high and no resources needed to craft so that I didn’t spend weeks simply harvesting and building, just to find that there isn’t much more to the game.
In essence though, it is a Sandbox RPG. Once you really get into the PvP (which I guess is what the game was built for), and you have your alliances trying to demolish the other Houses, it can become even more enjoyable. But if you’re hoping the game itself with keep you playing for weeks on end, I think you will find you will be just as disappointed as me.
The game probably deserves a score as low as 6 or lower, but because I believe the game has so much potential to be more, I’m going to give it a 7/10. If I see improvements in the game with any future updates, I may give it a new review. If you’re a Harry Potter magic fan and would love to build your own Hogwarts with fellow wizards, then this game is definitely for you.