Blue Isle Studios has entered their survival competitor, Citadel: Forged With Fire, into the packed and ruthless Early Access arena. Early Access and survival games are far from anything new. In fact, those titles are nearly synonymous with each other at this point. Because of this fact, it takes a game of note to stand out among the cookie-cutter masses of this genre. Citadel: Forged With Fire hopes to bring enough of its magical character into the overplayed market to breathe new life into it.
Citadel: Forged With Fire is a combination of key components from MMOs, RPGs, and the typical survival title. The game spans 36 kilometers of the fictional world of Ignus, a land rife with arcane beings and mythical monstrosities. This is your playground and players are free to progress through the world however they wish. That is immediately made clear as the player-created character, with his/her very limited physical customization, awakes in the strange environment.
Once the wizard-in-training first ventures out into the world from their select spawn point, there are numerous paths that can be taken. The amount of options was fairly overwhelming initially. Thankfully, there are some knowledge stones in the beginning safe zone that take the place of your standard tutorial. Armed with the basics, the arcane apprentice set out to see what was in store. On my first playthrough for this preview, I played alone so that I could pick up the game mechanics before banding together with other players. There are PVP, PVE, and Role-Playing servers at this time, but I felt I’d use a single player experience to get the general idea of what was on offer.
This led to some issues. First of all, enemies did not attack me. I was able to sit there repeatedly punching wolves and fairies without any consequence. The creatures darted toward me, as if they intended to attack, but they remained mostly still after approaching the character. The forums have relayed this issue and in many cases it has to do with high ping. In fact, sizable areas of the environment would change at a moments notice, with trees disappearing completely as I looked right at them. Coupled with the poor optimization (we’re talking sub-60FPS often times) that was noticeable during launch, it didn’t create the greatest first impression. However, it’s hard to be surprised when this is the case with nearly every Early Access game out there. On a more positive note, Blue Isle Studios has been updating Citadel: Forged With Fire regularly, with 12 updates already applied in under a month.
Upon entering one of the low ping PVE servers, I was able to remedy the non-hostile enemy issue quickly. Rather, the enemies remedied the issue. A level 3 wolf quickly tore apart my over-confident level 1 wizard. I had also failed to craft myself any armor, further exposing myself to the predator’s sharp blows. Spawning back at base mere feet away, I collected the remnants of my shattered ego and went out, this time more cautiously. Citadel has an impressive collection of skills in which to invest points, all falling into different categories such as weapon abilities and crafting. Firing beams of fiery energy straight from gauntlets sounded like a fine starting point. I used this newfound destructive prowess to fend off nature’s low-level baddies while hunting for resources.
This is a survival game, after all. Resource gathering is abundant here. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t injected their own personality into this common mechanic. At level 5, an Extract spell can be learned. This takes the basic resource gathering task and adds some magical flair to it. It’s not a game-changer, but it’s a nice touch. Even though this game has “survival game” written all over it, Citadel wants players to focus on the fun that is derived from the game’s RPG core. That means this is one survival game that won’t have you anxiously watching ever-dropping thirst or hunger gauges. The absence of these systems keeps the experience tightly focused on the more important pillars: combat, crafting, and exploration.
Taking the performance side of things out of the equation for a moment, the game is gorgeous. The environments are lush and densely packed with objects, both player made and pre-existing. There’s a real sense of wonder that sits atop the journey into unexplored environments as new sights reveal themselves. This aspect is only heightened by the fantastic musical score that sets the fantasy setting. The music was somewhat reminiscent to the feeling Skyrim gave upon diving into it for the first time years ago.
As I continued to spend time with Citadel, I became increasingly impressed with its scope. The game seemed to open up more and more with every invested skill point. Before I knew it, I had a small hut of my own and a magical broom which I could ride at my leisure. It’s hard to convey how freeing the experience of broom-based flight is in this game. It’s shocking no one has done this before. I was able to zoom around the world and enjoy its majesty from above. However, I had to land eventually, as there were beasts below that needed taming. This is where the comparisons to ARK typically come in. The creatures that inhabit this land can be made into your loyal servant and eye-catching mount. Who doesn’t want to ride into a battle against a dragon on their trusty bear?
Given that my time was primarily spent on a PVE server, I only saw a handful of people come together for aid in erecting structures or, in one instance, battling a golem. The joy of players slinging various spells at each other was not present in my experience, but I feel that my next outing will be within a PVP server. Blue Isle Studios has built a system that lets players manage rival houses and go to war against each other. I can’t speak on behalf of the quality of these events, but it sounds promising. When a bunch of individuals that have telekinesis or the ability to rain down meteors come together, the end result can only be spectacular.
We’ll be keeping up with Citadel: Forged With Fire as it progresses through Early Access. The game can be purchased on Steam for $24.99.