Citadel: Forged with Fire is my definition of a Marmite game. I can see the appeal that it’ll no doubt hold to many (the full servers attest to that) but personally I found my time with it to be filled with tedium and frustration.
Starting off, you can either join an online server with up to 50 players or set out on a single player adventure. Wanting to get to grips with things, I chose to play solo for a bit first. I’d recommend not doing so though, especially if you will eventually get to multiplayer. While it does afford you some peace to learn the ropes, you can’t then take your levelled up character online or indeed between servers. While perhaps the norm for other MMO style titles and somewhat understandable giving the idea behind the title, I still found this choice rather frustrating, especially as the opening hour is pretty dull.
After loading in, a short scene plays out as you raise up from the lava – literally forged with fire – before control is handed to you. Initial impressions are pretty good. The visuals are vibrant and colourful, reminding me of those first few steps outside of the dungeon in TES: Oblivion way back when. There is an impressive array of things to collect, from tiny rocks and wood to flowers, iron, mushrooms and much more. Scattered around each of the 3 opening areas are obelisks that provide helpful tool tips, and at the mouth of the forge is a NPC that offers up several tutorial quests to get you started. Unfortunately, these are somewhat basic and even after completing them I didn’t really feel all that ready to go out in to the world. They’ll teach you how to craft basic weaponry, food and clothes but beyond that you’re on your own.
Crafting is the name of the game here and boy, is there a lot to craft! You’ll need to constantly gather resources to build new equipment, items and structures. Luckily, there’s hardly a square foot of the land that doesn’t have anything to pick up or harvest. Early on, you’ll no doubt find yourself inundated with basic supplies for the more rudimentary items, though more extravagant stuff will require a bit more hunting. New things to craft are hidden behind the levelling system, with points accrued allowing you to choose what to unlock next. The level gating is quite high though, with even simple items hidden behind hours of grinding. You’ll also need to craft spells to help you on the adventure. Doing so is fairly straight forward, though more impactful spells can require a bit of planning. Arkane spells are your basic variety and are free to craft. Simply select one of 4 types – Self, AoE, Blast or Utility – then a slot to go into and you’re done. You’ll need to have a weapon equipped to tie them to, with each weapon requiring individual spells. This does mean that when your weapon breaks you’ll lose these spells though. There are also various elemental orbs dotted around the map; these grant alternate bases for spell crafting which in turn allow for different outcomes. Adding in extra ingredients to the crafting process alters the properties of each spell, though you’ll need to experiment a bit to figure out what does what.
It’s not just items and spells you’ll be crafting though. The aim of the game is to establish dominance over the world as the greatest mage; but what good is being the best of you don’t have a whacking great castle to reside in? The building construction is both very detailed and overwhelming at the same time. Even placing a basic floor to start things off is tricky enough. You can place these at pretty much any point in the world you like, so picking a good spot is the first battle. They also require a lot of resources, and this is where I started to get frustrated. As I said at the beginning, if this sort of thing is your bag then the minutia on offer here will no doubt suck up hours of your time. The problem is, a lot of those hours are spent staring directly at a rock or tree and pulling the trigger over, and over, and over. Holding the trigger won’t continue your attack and when you are getting a measly 2 or 3 wood per swing – with roughly 50 to build even a basic floor – the tedium soon sets in.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction though when standing back and looking at your creations. Once you’ve got a base, the potential to build is massive, with multiple floors, rooms and more available. Pillars allow you to expand top floors out, and setting out rooms for each purpose – crafting, mending weapons, alchemy etc. allows a great degree of creativity. Some of the structures I saw on the multiplayer servers were rather excellent. I can only imagine the time that must have been sunk into them…
Outside of resource gathering and crafting, you’ll spend the rest of your time traversing the large overworld freely getting into combat with NPC enemies, which is sadly on the dull side too. Early on, even the local wildlife will cause you headaches, with boars and wolves dishing out massive damage at an almost ludicrous rate. It’s hard to avoid these combat situations as you barely need to be within the foes sight lines before they begin charging you. Should you die – and you will – you’ll need to re-spawn at one of the forges before venturing out having lost all of your gear. It can be retrieved, but I found often it was hardly worth the effort of travelling so far to get it back, opting instead to simply start again in a different direction. There’s no real story to speak of, so actual dished out quests take the form of daily challenges from quest givers hidden within fortifications around the map. These mainly take the form of kill/collect X amount of Y and do offer some helpful rewards, though again the act of completing them is often tedious to the point of not really being worthwhile.
All of this is underwhelming in solo play then, but how does it compare when you play on a full server of 50 players? Well, to be honest, things don’t improve a great deal. As mentioned, the structures that others have built can be inspiring, but knowing what it’ll take to match them soon deflates any enthusiasm. I tried to communicate with some players fresh out the gate, but outside of a round of hopping on the spot there’s didn’t seem to be much engagement or co-operation. Players can set up Houses, a kind of faction that they lead which others can join. I joined one, but soon it was clear that yet more time is required to be promoted within the group. Initially you are effectively an intern, with any group interaction extremely limited – you can’t even open the doors of the compounds! As you progress you get more and more privileges, but again, you’re gonna need to sink some serious time in. Of course, playing online and meeting new people is one of the core appeals of a title such as this, and seeing groups of players roaming around together was pretty cool – if rare. It’s early days though and I’m sure the communities will spring up in time.
My biggest bugbear with Citadel though is the frankly maddening UI and control scheme. Actions are assigned to individual button slots, naturally. As you equip new items and spells, these fill up the slots. But there are too many actions for the default control scheme to handle. RT/LT are your attack buttons, but if you want to use spells, then these over ride this – you’ll actually lose the ability to melee. It’s possible to rebind the button mapping, but regardless of you’re choice something must get cut off. I chose to remove the push to talk option on Y and replace it with a spell which worked fine for me, but it’s a sacrifice that others may not want to make, especially if playing online which I would imagine will be the majority of players. Bafflingly, the basic option to sprint is locked away in the settings menu. It’s either on, so you’ll be running everywhere, or off, which reduces you to a crawl and makes escape from chasing foes impossible.
But it’s the menu interface which really grated. Upon opening it up, you’re greeted with your inventory. Along the top are the six tabs for crafting, levelling up and so on. But the whole thing is cluttered and unintuitive, clearly designed for PC users and poorly adapted for controllers. Pressing A on an item will offer a few options up, but be sure you want to select something – pressing B to back out will close the entire menu. Annoying at the best of times, when crafting items or spells it soon becomes incredibly frustrating; if you pick an item that can’t be added to a spell you can’t just move to the next item, instead the whole menu needs to be closed and re-opened, necessitating starting the crafting process over again. There’s also no way to log spell recipes, so not only will you need to select every individual item each time, but you best make a mental note of ones you find to be of use. Selecting an item to craft will give you a drop down of ingredients, but the overlay from the item obscures these until you move the cursor. Moving about the menu is awkward, and items functions are ambiguous, requiring a lot of trial and error. Considering the amount of time you’ll spend in here, I find it odd that these rather big flaws are present here.
There’s clearly a lot of time and effort that has been put in to Citadel: Forged with Fire. An impressive amount of detail has gone into the systems and world and for those who get into the swing of things, this will likely hold their attention for quite some time. Unfortunately, the gathering and combat is tedious, the UI and control scheme is maddeningly unhelpful and to achieve anything noteworthy takes far, far too long.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.