Quick game review | Citadel: Forged With Fire
Minecraft has been around since late 2011 and has managed to become one of the most influential and successful video games of all time. However, some — including myself — simply cannot digest the game's graphics. Thankfully, there are quite a few sandbox games around with much better graphics and Citadel: Forged With Fire is one of them.
The company behind this title, Blue Isle Studios, hails from Toronto, Canada and is known for Slender: The Arrival and Valley. In business for less than a decade, this indie developer — founded by Alex Tintor in 2010 — is now working on Broomstick League, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 as its fourth creation.
Introduced as an Early Access title via Steam back in late 2017, Citadel: Forged With Fire was finally released on November 1 for Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Received with mixed reviews in its Early Access years, this game has been receiving mostly positive reviews in the weeks that have passed since its release. These being said, let's take a closer look at the latest creation of Blue Isle Studios, shall we?
Genre and Style
Described by its creators as "a massive online sandbox RPG with elements of magic, spellcasting and inter-kingdom conflict," Citadel: Forged With Fire throws the player into the world of Ignus — a 6 by 6 kilometers square area filled with plains, forests, mountains, swamps, and even tundra. To make it all even more appealing for those into exploring before anything else, this game's world also includes ancient ruins and caves, as well as lakes and islands.
Judging by 2019's standards, the game looks decent. Some might say that this is an understatement, while others will say that I give it too much credit. To be honest, I expected much more from a game that uses Epic's Unreal Engine 4, which was released in 2014 and has been used as the foundation of titles like Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Ark: Survival Evolved, Borderlands 3, Darksiders III, Dead by Daylight, Gears 5, and many more.
While the environment and various effects sometimes look impressive (walking around Ignus at night provides a better visual experience by far, in my opinion), what disappointed me is the player's character, which looks like it has been taken out of a two-decade-old game. Even more, when customizing the character and using the randomizer, one can end up facing absolutely hilarious results, for example a purple giant with radioactive green eyes, red hair, and tiny hands. Overall, no matter how much time the player spends tweaking the appearance of its character, the result seems — more or less — like the creation of someone without enough polygons and texture space at hand. Fortunately, the game has been receiving constant updates since its public release as an Early Access piece of code and the aforementioned game engine allows for excellent results in this field, it is quite likely that Citadel: Forged With Fire's apprentices and wizards will look much better one day.
The name of the game should have a story behind it, but the only thing that seems connected to it is that the character spawns being forged with fire. After that, it gets down to exploring the environment, studying the arcane arts, fighting/taming/riding various beasts — dragons included, building castles, creating/joining alliances — known as Houses — and fighting others, all while struggling to survive by any means necessary (mostly hunting — and cooking the resulting meat, of course, gathering resources such as wood, crafting various items — including weapons). The cherry on top is the ability to fly (without taming a flying beast first), but it might take a while to get there.
Before moving on, I must add that this game seems to lack a proper story and there should be more guidance for beginners — both visual and in writing. For example, I went looking for the items required by the first tutorial quests in the forest when it should have been stated clearly that everything can be found without leaving the castle's walls. Fortunately, this is where the in-game chat helped me a lot in understanding what's what with Citadel: Forged With Fire.
I will not lie: my first attempts at playing the game ended in frustration without going through the first tutorial quest. Thankfully, I later realized that I had the wrong expectations since Citadel: Forged With Fire takes some time to get used to and reveal itself. If I had to compare it with a record, this game is like one of those albums that do not contain any hits and are not easy to listen right away, but grow on you with time (A Saucerful of Secrets, anyone?). In this case, we are talking about a title that has started small and still has a lot of room for improvement — there is a lot of space underwater to be filled with monsters, flora, and the players will probably need new gear and abilities to conquer this area, for example.
Now, back to my experience with the game itself: on my third attempt — if I recall it well — I opened the chat and asked those playing on that server what they like about it, what I should do first and so on. I was even lucky enough to find out all there was to know about the first quest. After spending a few hours exploring and hunting, the level 13 me still has to discover many of the beasts like the Infernal Dragon, Phoenix, or the Divine Unicorn, not to mention flying on a custom-made broomstick or building a house not to be ashamed of — a castle is a very serious enterprise and I do not dare to dream that big yet.
The first quest simply requires the gathering of some wood and stone. The obvious choice would be to go in the forest, chop up some trees, and gather wood, right? Cute, but wrong! There are stones and pieces of wood lying around straight where you were "forged in fire" and, if you go in the woods to gather some without leveling up first in the castle where you start, you are very likely to end up killed by a boar or some other beast — I must confess that I died at least a few times this way (having a Haste spell at hand can be quite... handy in the early stages of this game).
Once you begin to level up — my advice would be to choose a server with very fast progression to get things started without wasting entire hours doing the same hunterer-gatherer routine on and on — you can craft gear, spells, potions, and more. There is an extremely wide range of possibilities, and some spells can make your in-game life a whole lot easier. For example, instead of just clicking on and on to use your axe on trees and stones to gather resources, using a Life Essence for a Utility type spell on a weapon allows you to grab raw materials in a jiffy. On the other hand, hunting can get quite frustrating when you need to hit a beast multiple times. I think that this could be addressed in the future, but for now there is no way to click once to continuously attack a target until it dies.
Building stuff is supposed to be easy and, in most cases, it is. Sadly, I had to look it up online because I wasn't able to just set up a campfire as required by a quest. Overall, the interface of the game does not look bad, but it can be improved for sure. One of the first things that should be added would be a map overlay for making it easier to find locations suitable for building your hut/castle. While building, I bumped into a bug that allowed me to place my throne in a floating state — or maybe the floating throne is a feature?!?
The character can survive forever without eating or drinking — unless some beast kills it, of course — but the tamed creatures need to be fed to keep them loyal. On the other hand, there is no mana or health potion available from the start. To get those, the player needs to research them first, get the required ingredients, and craft them. Thankfully, one can survive — and recover health in some dangerous areas after a fight — on raw plants and meat as well.
According to the game's Steam page, Citadel: Forged With Fire runs on Windows 7 or later and requires at least a 2 GHz processor (3 GHz recommended), 8 GB of memory (16 GB recommended), a GeForce GTX 950 or equivalent (GTX 970 recommended), and 20 GB of available space. Strange enough, it only occupies 6.5 GB on my hard drive.
In case you were wondering, the game can run great on lower specs if the resolution and settings are adjusted properly. Since I have a rather old monitor with a low resolution of just 1,280 X 1,024 pixels, I was able to max out all video settings and enjoy a smooth experience on my Intel Core i3-2120/8 GB RAM/GeForce GTX 750 Ti desktop PC. However, I should also mention that the game takes a while to load — around a minute — and I cannot tell if the guilty part is my processor, hard drive, or limited amount of memory.
Before the final chapter of this review, I must add that 5.1/7.1 positional audio would be an amazing addition to the game. Sadly, there is no such setting present yet, but this is another thing that I hope to see added some day in the future.
No matter how awesome Minecraft might be, it will never-ever be my thing. I am that kind of guy who, although he played ArchLord for quite a while, never felt the need to open World of Warcraft again after the first hour or two spent playing it as a trial. These being said, I must say that I will not uninstall Citadel: Forged With Fire anytime soon. On the contrary, I will try to spend some time improving my character with only one goal: to tame a dragon! Is this too ambitious? Well, since others have done it, I should be able to do that myself one day as well. After all, I am not going for ridiculous Steam achievements like Expert Potion Maker (craft 1,000 mana potions) or Divine Crusade (kill 666 demons, which I am sure are not as easy to kill as elks).
Citadel: Forged With Fire can be a game to play at the end of your day from time to time, a piece of code to try and forget about in a few days, or a dream world to escape to for countless hours at a time. In my opinion, there is still work to be done and — as mentioned by some Steam reviews — bugs to fix, but this is — without any shade of doubt — a game worth checking out that can only get better in time. The price tag of US$39.99 might be a no-go for some potential players, unfortunately.
P.S. I should not forget thanking Reverb's Danitra Alomia for giving us the chance to take this game for a spin, so here it is: Thank you very much!