By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Citadel: Forged with Fire is a medieval fantasy sandbox with an emphasis on magic. It came bursting into the scene on July 26th, with a somewhat controversial bit of competition. Dark and Light announced they would open to Early Access on Steam just days before Citadel, along with a price drop to try and compete. While it has some survival game elements, Citadel panders more to the sandbox crowd by dropping the thirst, hunger, and temperature systems often found in the genre. It’s set in a world of high magic, filled with mythical creatures and lore. So how does Citadel: Forged with Fire stand up to review? Lets find out.
First, before we start, I want to stress that this is an Early Access game. That means things are going to change, and they’ll change fast. This review may not be relevant even days after it’s released, so please do not take this as gospel and make an effort to check on the current situation with the game. That being said, you are paying money to play this Early Access game, so you have a right to know what things will cause you issues or ruin your fun, and what things will impress you. I’m hoping this particular review is made outdated sooner rather than later, and you’ll see why below.
Lets just say that Citadel: Forged with Fire is bare bones in terms of customization. From your options in character creation, to gear, to spells, to decorating your home… it’s all a bit lackluster at the moment. I’m quite certain that the developers will add more, but it’s a matter of time. For now, however, you’re not going to get a ton of options in any area of the game.
Right now there are four styles of armor to choose from. cloth, leather, iron, and ‘wild’ (which is a mixture is mostly a mixture of animal pelts and bone). I’ll get into the ins-and-outs of these armors in the crafting portion of the review. You also have four types of weapons to choose from, which are staffs, wands, gauntlets, and blades (axes and swords). Unfortunately, with the way the game is designed, the variety is even smaller than you might think. Sure, there’s multiple types of weapons, and each type has multiple different unique weapons that can be crafted or looted, but the gear is level based. So if you have two staff users at level 40, they’re both going to be using the same exact wand. It makes things stale after a while.
Spells aren’t much better. You can have two weapons equipped at a time, being able to switch between them freely during combat. Each weapon can have two spells attached to it. So that means, at most, you’ll have four spells at your disposal. Early on, however, you’ll probably just stick with one weapon for the most part and will end up using the same spell over and over. As a level 25, I’m still using the same primary attack spell as I was at level 2. So, again, it’s a bare-bones system that does not have much in the way of variety.
Citadel is stunning. If you’re a fan of magical worlds, this will be your dream playground. The quality of everything is superb. From the textures, to the effects, to the models, to the animations, I couldn’t think of one area that fell short. Blue Isles really did a fantastic job in crafting a beautiful and atmospheric world.
When I say the game is atmospheric, I mean it. Particles of magic flow through the air, pools of colored water evaporate their magic in tendrils, disgusting Sprites flutter through the forests… It’s great if you’re a fan of worlds with a lot of fantasy elements. It’s not just visual, either. When they’re not bugging out, the ambient sounds really bring the whole thing together in a way that will mesmerize and transport you to another world.
This is the primary feature of the game. Everything else is just a means to an end, and that end is combat. Luckily, combat in Citadel can be quite nice. I say “can” because there are some factors that can make it an unfortunate experience. Of course, there are hefty number of tweaks and content updates that need to be made to really make the combat in Citadel shine.
I’ll start with PVE. The AI is actually nice, when it’s working. The issues arise with the server performance causing AI to sort of die, and the fact that potion spam makes a vast majority of fights trivial. As a level 15, I was going into the far North and killing level 35s or higher without too much issue. I later learned that this was a waste of effort – it took way too many potions and too much time to be really worth it – but the fact that I could jump into a camp of level 30+ Orcs while under level 20 and then proceed to never have my health drop less than 80% because I was able to constantly have a health potion on was kind of disappointing.
The reason it was disappointing is because the PVE in the game is actually pretty nice. Most creatures have unique features that make fighting them interesting, and the AI will often times make fairly good use of these unique features. For example, Deathweavers (who are essentially Dementors from Harry Potter) will suck the health out of you to heal themselves, and that’s just one of the few things they do that is specific to them. Undead, as another example, have a touch ability that makes you move incredibly slow and silences you (so you can’t cast spells or attack), and while you’re in this state they’ll get up close to you and literally take a bite out of you, doing decent damage. There are several types of Orcs and when you attack one of their camps, shield-bearing tanky Orcs will get into your face and try to box you in while quick-footed crossbow Orcs will try to flank around you and shoot you. The list of interesting mechanics and AI goes on and on.
Unfortunately, again, it’s ruined by the pot spam. No matter how smart the Orc AI is, it doesn’t matter because I’ll just spam pots and never have to worry about dying. It doesn’t matter if I have two giants on me, literally hitting me into the air. It’s sad to see such interesting PVE go to waste, essentially being regulated to a time-wasting experience-farming waste of time. Sure, PVP isn’t too fun with the potion spamming, either, but it’s the affect that it has on the wonderful PVE that really makes me hate the way potions currently work.
I don’t think I got any good pictures of PVP. This is because with melee attacks I can two or three shot most players – even those my own level or a bit above – or they run away on their brooms. No fantastic Wizard Duels straight out of Harry Potter, unfortunately.
Speaking of PVP, it’s… alright. I won’t deny it, PVP in Citadel is quite intense at times. However, most encounters are one of a handful of scenarios. For example, if you come across a guy who is the same level as you are and he may just spam pots and fly away after exchanging a few fireballs. Or you’ll come across someone a few levels lower than you (or a lot) and one or two shot them.
As a level 30 using melee weapons, I crit for around five-hundred damage. I’ve seen a lot of people around my level with not much more than that in HP. Sure, there’s armor, but even then they’ll die in a couple of hits. In contrast, I have nearly nine-hundred HP and can survive a lot, but I also have a relatively small carry weight and very low mana because of that. Not that having low mana matters (which is something I think a lot of people wish they had realized a lot earlier on) because spamming mana potions means you’ll never run out of mana. I can carry well over a hundred mana potions on me at a time, which means I can fly from one end of the map to another and fight each Enemy Camp and Cave along the way, all while having a mana potion on for a majority of the time.
So, while combat has the potential to be fun, it’s full of issues that I can’t help but wonder. Would combat be better if there wasn’t so much pot spam? If we had a wider variety of spells available to us? Would it be better to give longer cool-downs to the basic spells so most people can’t just machine-gun fireballs all the time? I know for a fact that I’m going to get tired of the combat – no matter how fun I find it right now – after a couple of weeks. I’ll have seen it all and PVP will essentially become nothing but ambushing players, probably lower level than I am, or higher levels getting the drop on me. Doing the same thing, fighting the same few combinations of weapons and spells, over and over gets boring.
What’s Wrong With the Game?
Every Early Access title is going to have issues, right? Well, Citadel: Forged with Fire is no exception. On top of the plethora of bugs and performance issues, there are a ton of tweaks that need to be done to the game to give it some longevity. Right now, and I’ll explain why over the next ten or so paragraphs, the game isn’t really worth playing on an older server or past level 30. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of when rather than if when it comes to fixing these issues.
Forty people on a server gets stale, plus there are currently too many servers. There’s also an insane amount of instability for a game that only has 40-man servers (official servers, that is. I’ve seen private servers with much higher caps). The fact that less than an hour after being up a server with a forty-person cap with only twenty or so people online can devolve into a lag-fest where everyone is getting 800-1,000+ pings is distressing.
The House system, which is Citadel’s name for guilds, is very sparse at the moment. In contrast, Dark and Light has a robust House system that offers a lot of features. Sure, Dark and Light has a bit of an ‘unfair’ advantage by being built on the back of Ark: Survival Evolved, but it doesn’t change the fact that Houses are currently glorified persistent groups in Citadel. Hopefully they flesh this feature out a lot in the near future.
Combat is too reliant on spamming potions. It’s a mechanic that works at regulating and easing some issues inherent in the games design, but it’s still just a band-aid fix for a much larger issue. It’s somewhat fun having to manage your resources (health and mana), but the method in which I have to do it just gets annoying after a while. I’m not sure how they could fix this issue, but I hope they do. I’m not sure if I’ll bother playing anymore if the potion spam is still a thing in a few months.
Base raiding is a tad too easy (which is an understatement, I’ll get into it further on in this section). And, of course, if you try to express that there needs to be some sort of mechanic to at least reduce completely demolishing someones base while they’re offline, you get jumped by the people who play this game solely so they can grief offline players. I get it, it’s fun to discover a base someone tried to hide, break in and steal their stuff, then find their throne so you can delete their base. Did I mention that once you find someones throne you can destroy it relatively easy and then you are able to one-click delete everything else they once owned? Yeah.
And don’t even get me started on how broken Telekinesis currently is, because I’m about to tell you in a couple of paragraphs. (Edit: Telekinesis is currently under review for fixing by the developers).
Personally, I feel like it should be an ordeal to destroy someones base. Something epic and difficult, that takes a lot of preparation and planning. This would give the opposing players time to get rally some people to at least try and defend, rather than having people get into your base within a matter of minutes. Sure, it gets a bit better once you get out of wood and into stone, but it’s still incredibly easy to do. Part of this issue is that base defenses are sparse and somewhat broken at the moment.
However, the biggest issue by far has to be the broken Base Raiding mechanics! I know I just talked about bases, but this is something I feel is important to reiterate. Thrones make it easy to obliterate a base with minimal effort once an enemy happens across your throne. I’ll get into how that happens in the next paragraph. Other than that, even with a few buffs to the building HP, it’s still extremely easy for people to break into a base. A handful of people will bust down a stone wall in around five minutes if they’re all level 30 or higher. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but still somewhat bad when you consider that people cannot be online 24/7.
On top of that, a lot of the base defenses – of the few there are – do not work currently. That, or they are not currently working at a capacity that is useful. Either they’re too weak, or it takes too long to unlock them. I’m not sure how developers could fix this issue, as it’s an issue that plagues most survival sandboxes with PVP involved. However, it’s hard to justify putting any time into base building when it can all be destroyed within a single night by a few dedicated players while you and your friends are asleep.
Because of the way Thrones work, the way the bases in Citadel work is incredibly exploitable. First, you place a platform of some sort. Then you build a Throne on it. This allow you to claim the platform. From there you have to expand by connecting to that original platform to claim your base. If the chain is broken at any point, anything not connected to the Throne can be INSTANTLY DELETED WITH THE BUILD MECHANICS by ANYONE. So, that means if someone gets into your Throne Room (usually hidden in rocks or behind many, many, many layers) they can instantly destroy your Throne with Telekinesis (or just use attacks, since Telekinesis is getting nerfed) and then have completely free reign to destroy everything you’ve built in a matter of moments.
Thankfully the terrain is broken. Yeah, you read that right. Thankfully the terrain is broken so players can hide stuff within the terrain. The only way to have any sort of safety for your items in this game is to find a very out-of-the-way location and place a chest somewhere inside the terrain. You don’t build a base around it, you don’t put a throne or a Respawn Stone. You just leave it and only go to it when you absolutely need to. You then build a ‘crafting base’ which consists of a bare-bones platform with crafting stations to make your stuff. Then, you go around and raid the people too ignorant to realize that building a base in this game is something to be avoided. I can only hope that by time this review is published that they’ll have released a fix for this. (Edit: This paragraph was written before the future Telekinesis fix)
So what’s ended up happening is that most people who put 10 or so hours in the game love it. Then you have those of us that have put thirty or higher hours into the game and discovered how broken everything is. This has resulted in the game going from “Mostly Positive” to “Mixed” in just a couple of days. Half of the negative reviews are about the frequent ‘Fatal Errors’, FPS drops, and server stability issues. The other half are about the broken base-building and raiding mechanics. Hopefully they can fix these issues soon before too much damage is done to the Steam score.
Updates Are Frequent
Fortunately, the developers are quick with fixes and updates. There’s been one every day or every other day since launch. Developers have also had a presence in the community-ran Discord. However, perhaps understandably, that presence has lessened a bit (at least from my perspective) in the past few days. Unlike with Snail and Dark and Light, I have no fear that Blue Isle will abandon this project.
To give you an idea of how frequent these updates are, I originally had around four paragraphs in this review under the “What’s Broken” section that went on and on about how Telekinesis ruins the game and makes it unplayable. Just a few hours before I planned to send this review in, I saw the above post by the Community Manager letting the community know that the abusable Telekinesis spell would be nerfed and fixed. I’m somewhat peeved that my rant was nullified, but extremely happy that I will get to enjoy base building again. At this rate, my wish for this review to be outdated even before it’s published may come true.
The game has a TON of potential. It’s one of the most unique styles of this game I’ve ever played. Some of the design choices are confusing, yeah, but the developers are on the right track. People joke that this is “Harry Potter Online” but it seriously is the closest I’ve ever seen to that. And don’t lie, any of you who grew up with the books or the movies would be stoked to play that game. Of course, even if Harry Potter Online hasn’t been your secret MMO fantasy for the past decade, you’ll find a lot of good in Citadel: Forged with Fire.
Probably the best thing about Citadel: Forged with Fire, at least right now, is that the game is in Early Access. That means the developers can – and probably will – tweak or fix a lot of the issues I have with the game. They’ve already shown a commitment to improving the game by giving frequent updates, even an update that introduced new content just days after releasing into EA. The only question is if they can push out enough meaningful updates to keep players hooked. Personally, I think they can do it. But only time will tell.
Despite all the issues I listed off under the “combat” section, Citadel offers some of the best combat I’ve ever experienced in the sandbox or survival genres. If you want to compare it to Dark and Light, I would say the combat in Citadel is better by far. Of course, Dark and Light has things going for it that Citadel doesn’t come close to (not yet, anyways). Once Blue Isle licks the performance issues that ‘kills’ the AI sometimes, and (hopefully) comes up with a remedy for the potion spam, it’ll have some of the all-time best PVE I’ve experienced in any game. Even a lot of AAA single-player titles. Like I’ve said, the game has a lot of potential.
Broom flying, while tedious, is still fun! I really wish they would remove the mana cost for it. The reliance on mana resources for mundane tasks – such as using the Extract spell or flying – is quite annoying and, again, I’m not sure why they’re trying to hinder players from having fun with one of the better features in the game. It’s like if ArcheAge decided to make ships something only level 50+ could experience, and it would cost one labor point per second of sailing. Why ruin a mechanic that is a blast by bogging it down with resource-management mechanics?
Base building is actually quite fun. You can do some fantastic things with the system already, so I can’t wait to see what’s possible once its been fleshed out more. If you need any proof, just check the Castle Building Contest held by the developers prior to the Early Access launch. I’ve seen some fantastic Wizard Towers, Castles, complex cave bases, small walled-in towns, and more in the game too. If Telekinesis – last I heard, anyways – wasn’t abusable on PVE servers, I might invest time on one so that I could focus on building some sort of awesome structure.
Crafting is an enjoyable experience. I wish I could queue multiple different items to craft, but the game is still quite convenient in that it allows you to set up batch crafting and forget about it, either from your inventory or using a workbench. For example, you can set up a cauldron to make you one-hundred mana potions and walk away and do other stuff. All the while it’ll craft for you and will even give you the experience ticks for each craft. I’m not sure how far the range on the experience ticks are, but I was able to hunt quite a distance from my base and still get them.
Creature taming is exciting in this game, at least at first. Of course, every new wizard’s dream is to find a nice dragon and turn it into their personal flying mount. Unfortunately, just prior to the launch dragons were nerfed to the ground. They still offer some conveniences – such as being able to fly around at decent speeds without any mana cost – but aren’t that great in combat now. There are also ground tames, such as bears or dire wolves. There’s even your standard horses. You can also tame humanoid creatures, like orcs, demons, undead, or even giants, and have them help you in combat or set them up to sit in your base to attack would-be siegers. It’s a fun system, that perhaps needs a bit of a buff.
Conclusion: Worth It
Citadel: Forged with Fire is just like most Early Access games on Steam: broken, in need of a lot of tweaks, but a whole lot of fun with a TON of potential. The game’s combat, even through all the broken mechanics, shines and the building – when you can’t have all you’ve worked for destroyed in twenty seconds by a single player – is fun. With some major fixes, some minor tweaks, and a handful of content updates, Citadel: Forged with Fire could be the next big survival sandbox. So, is it worth it to buy into the Early Access? It certainly is! Just understand that you’re going to get what you’re paying for: Access to an Early Access game that still needs a lot of work.
- Features: 3/5 – Could use a lot more, but what is there can be quite fun.
- Customization: 2/5 – Almost non-existant at this point.
- Graphics: 5/5 – The game is beautiful.
- Controls: 4/5 – They worked well.
- Community: 3/5 – Sometimes decent, sometimes not.
- Overall: 4/5 – Worth getting because the first forty hours or so are a BLAST! And it has the potential to be a lot better.
A lot of the issues I brought up in this preview/review were fixed not too long after this was posted. The Telekinesis fix I mentioned was implemented. It can no longer be used on structures claimed by players. The broken base defenses were fixed. The developers implemented a system in which any structures or objects not placed on/within a structure claimed by a throne receives loss in durability overtime. This means that the hiding chests/storage in terrain isn’t such a big issue as before, but when you have a House with a handful of people, it still happens that the House will have one or two people set up a cache of items so they aren’t SOL if their base is destroyed. Server stability – so far as I can tell – has been greatly improved. Updates – bug fixes, tweaks, and content updates – are still frequent.
A lot of my gripes are still present: Potion spamming is still a huge thing. PVP is mostly stale unless you’re lucky enough to fight inside someones base so they don’t run away. There’s still a decent number of broken things in the game. Most servers still very low in population and a lot of people are dreading having to regrind to join newer or active servers, and about four people I know are kind of holding off investing too much time into the game in the hopes the developers will implement some sort of character transfer system between official servers.
The developers have also set up a Trello board to help get the community informed on the current status of development, as well as help give the community a voice in telling the developers what they want done with the game. It can be found here: https://trello.com/b/McOUEdRk/citadel-forged-with-fire-early-access-idea-board
Note: A Steam key was given to us for review purposes.
Citadel: Forged With Fire Gameplay Screenshots: