Citadel: Forged with Fire preview (PC)

Citadel: Forged with Fire is the latest title by Blue Isle Studios, previously responsible for Slender and Valley. A massive online sandbox RPG, it’s their most ambitious and grand title so far – and it arrived on Steam early access not long ago.

What we know
Tackling a far larger scope than ever before, Blue Isle’s Citadel is a fantasy themed and relatively open-ended RPG. Thematically you’re looking at something not too different from The Elder Scrolls, but Citadel takes quite a different approach to the MMO genre. It’s far less scripted and you have the ability to enjoy the game however you like, and base/castle building plays a major role as well.

Set in the world of Ignus, your journey as a novice magician has power and influence as its main drivers – but leaves your road towards them up to you. The skill tree in the game reflects this, as it can be divided up into four distinct sets of skills. Spells and potions are of course no surprise considering your background as a wielder of magic, but you can also elect to pursue skills in the realm of combat through weapon and armor upgrades. The last category, however, is the most interesting one – building. We’ll touch on that some more later, but for now it’s important to point out that upgrades allow you to craft new items that are tied to the category.

For building, this means that there’s a base builder game in here too and it allows you to erect massive strongholds once you’re leveled up to a point where this becomes feasible. Earlier in the game, you’ll be confined to simple wooden structures – but once you unlock the ability to build with stone you’ll quickly see the scale of your constructions grow.

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You can also take a more social approach to domination, as you form alliances with others. Together, you can tackle quests, build even larger structures and wage war against rivaling factions – anything to make sure your house stands tallest in Ignus. And if all else fails, you can ride upon the back of a dragon and lay waste to others that way.

What we saw
We played the early access version of Citadel: Forged with Fire, which has been out since late July. Even though we’re only a few weeks in at this point, the developer is already showing a lot of dedication in terms of regular updates and patches – so we’re hoping they keep that up for the rest of the early access phase (and beyond).

Content-wise, the early access version already has a little bit of everything – with a massive map to play on, a decent selection of skills and enemies to play around with and the ability to build your own home. It’s clear that the game needs more spells, more creatures to fight (and/or tame) and more diverse combat, but it’s good to get a broad idea of everything you’re getting this early on.

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What we thought
We really enjoyed the concept and promise that Citadel delivers, but the game is clearly far from being complete. Combat especially feels very rough around the edges, with severely lacking enemy AI being one of the bigger issues. A lot of the time, you can easily defeat enemies by putting an obstacle in between you and taking them out from a short range – and this obstacle can be something as simple as you standing on an elevated object. This makes combat feel unsatisfying, which is a shame since it’s the most important part of leveling up in the game.

Combat against other players also isn’t very refined yet – it’s basically a game of button mashing and whoever has the highest skill level wins nearly every time. There are no real options for tactical or even defensive combat, so these are areas that obviously need some improvement – and the same can be said for mounted/aerial combat.

Other issues that need fixing are of a more technical nature, like crashes, server performance and buildings that randomly vanish. Nothing that a few good patches won’t fix, I’d assume. What will need a bit more time is adding new content – new creatures, more skills – it’ll all make the game infinitely more interesting, especially when the “political” system kicks in where you manage your own House and its relationship with others.

There is a grand plan behind this game and some of it is already shining through. The developers have a very optimistic “early 2018” launch frame in mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it slipped a little further back. I wouldn’t be disappointed either – with a game of this magnitude, it’s important to get the basics right, and then balance everything out against each other. It’ll be an interesting journey for sure.

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