News August 24, 2017

UFG Goes Hands on With Citadel: Forged with Fire!

Written by: Andre Thomas
Date: 08/24/2017
                
There are times where I’m presented with a title that isn’t in my wheelhouse. One that belongs to a new-ish genre or is so niche that I’m surprised a developer even considered it. Not just conceptually but stylistically as well, possibly providing a unique spin to some recently popular trend. While it makes sense to start with what works before innovating, a proper level of interest from possible consumers seem to be absent; at lot of what comes across my desk are games that I wouldn’t have ever considered playing. As someone who writes about games though, it’s my job to evaluate these titles even if they’re “foreign” to me. These aren’t the easiest assignments to say the least…

…at the same time, when your chief editor says Citadel is a cross between Harry Potter and Skyrim, you freaking jump at the chance to experience it!

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Blue Isle Studios’ Citadel: Forged with Fire is a survival PvP game – a massive online sandbox where players scavenge for supplies, craft gear, and fend off a monster or two. What makes it stand out from other titles of this ilk is its theme. No zombies, dinosaurs, or hulking barbarians birthed from the mind of Robert E. Howard. Instead, players will take on the role of an apprentice/mage who’s looking to make a name for themselves. Another deviation deals with the actual survival mechanics and how they affect early parts of the game. Players won’t have to worry about eating and drinking for instance. This allows them more time to craft magical items (like wands) and learning spells.    

The emphasis is placed on becoming this grand wizard of sorts. Gather materials are used to build up your power and less about keeping you alive. Well…keeping you alive in the sense of living from day to day. You will have to fend off enemies from time to time. Pursuing encounters are encouraged even, as certain elements can only be obtained by fighting. Want to make a magical broom and fly all around Ignus? Make sure to hunt down some fairies and steal their dust. This idea of self-improvement over self-preservation permeates the entire experience. One of the main reasons to build a house or fort is to have a place to put things that will be needed to craft better stuff later. Gathering resources is sped up via a spell that magically pulls them from objects in the world. Animals don’t provide food but raw materials for better clothes, some imbued with power boosting properties. Everything here is made to make you a better wizard.

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All of this is great by the way. I really enjoyed how most of the game’s mechanics help to make you feel powerful. Learning spells in any game is fun. Making your own broom and taming dragons takes this notion to a whole different level. And while some might scoff at the lack of more “realistic” survivor elements, I found their absence a plus. Citadel felt melds action adventure with survival in a way that hasn’t been seen beyond something like The Flame in the Flood or Fortnite (and even then, this game is something else). Of course, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have problems stimming from it being a survival game. Just that it doesn’t follow all of the survival genre’s rules.  

Speaking of problems, at this current moment, Citadel: Forged with Fire feels a bit lacking. Most this is due to what’s happening behind the scenes – as an Early Access title, things aren’t very stable. Don't get me wrong, spending six hours building a fortress with our Editor-in-Chief was really dope. But the getting a text from him that read "The server just disappeared. All of our stuff is gone” hurt in the worse way. Like Will Smith asking James Avery "WHY HE DON'T WANT ME?" on the Fresh Prince show kind of hurt. Not because of some past experience but because of the correlation with time. I felt like time, which is something Will’s character and I can’t get back, was being wasted.

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Melodramatic point aside, I understand how these things work. Early Access means unfinished. But losing every bit of your progress on top of your fortress (it was awesome) in one moment is frustrating beyond belief. This is made worse by a degradation system that removes unwanted homes/forts. The idea is to prevent connectivity issues that occur thanks to all of the player created structures that haven been abandoned. The problem is that in how fast things degrade. A throne, used to claim ownership of a house, will degrade in ten days’ time. This happens whether you are playing on that particular server or not. Once the throne is gone, your materials (like the wood used to make the walls) will disappear in a manner of hours. The only way to stop this is to heal or replace your throne. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the healing spell used to keep your throne from degrading doesn’t work all the time. And going on vacation or just wanting to take a sort break could mean losing all of your stuff not directly on your avatar’s person.   

Even if these things were patched out, it would still be possible for you to lose your place in the world. Remember, PvP is in full effect. I've seen incredibly constructed mansions that seemed to have taken days to create, burned to ashes by some jerk while the owner was at work in real life. To be fair, there are servers where PvP is discouraged. It would have been nice to have some safe places to build on the normal servers though.

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After having my fortress was wiped via an update, I decided to just become a monster hunter and train so I could fly a dragon. In retrospect, it was a terrible idea. I had to start over so many times thanks to the being set on fire by a dragon. I later found out that it is tremendously easier to slay a dragon with friends, but when the loot drops the scene turns into something out of Lord of the Flies. You know the person next to you wants those materials so they can finish that armor set they’ve been working on. The resulting chaos isn’t always entertaining. Still, I have to say that discovering creatures and taming them was easily the highlight of playing Citadel. Without any real objectives besides the one’s I set for myself, being powerful enough to permanently tame rare monsters gave me something to strive for.

It’s fun to be Khaleesi for a day. But riding dragons isn’t enough to warrant the time investment. And while I don’t think my editor lied to me, I assure you that this isn’t Harry Potter meets Skyrim. More like Harry Potter meets a random survival game, which can still be fun at times. It just attention once the bugs and server wipes settled in. I recommend waiting until Citadel starts showing some real progress, which shouldn’t be too long given how great Blue Isle has been with their updates. As for me, I’ll periodically circle back to see how things are going. What’s here is promising after all. Hopefully it’ll be great title to come back to!