Citadel: Forged With Fire is a multiplayer sandbox game developed by Blue Isle Studios and Virtual Basement. It is available on Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard PlayStation 4 console.

Overview

Citadel is an online sandbox game similar in nature to games such as Ark Survival Evolved, Conan Exiles or Rust. In it, you play a freshly forged wizard or witch. You are free to pursue your path to mastery in whatever fashion you see fit. You can go it alone or create a wizarding house and invite some friends. No sorting hat required!

To succeed you will build bases, gather resources, craft spells, and battle creatures. You can even tame many of them, if that is your will. As you grow in power you will eventually take flight, either on a broomstick or with the use of an elixir. If you play on a PvP server you can fight and raid other wizarding houses while building traps and defenses to protect your own.

Citadel giant eagle
Some creatures can be tamed and ridden.

Citadel: Forged With Fire has been in early access on Steam for a while now and received numerous updates. Its full release is today and it launches on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 alongside it. I had the pleasure of reviewing the PlayStation 4 version of the game ahead of time, however, this means the servers weren’t populated yet, though I did have one person to play with.

Magical Survival

Citadel is very distinct from other survival sandbox games in two dominate ways. The first of which is, there are no true survival mechanics. Food grants benefits, but you do not have a hunger, thirst or stamina bar to worry about. Your only concern is your health and your mana.

I would normally be disappointed by this, however the second defining difference between Citadel and say, Ark, is its theme. Everything in the world practically drips with magical magnetism. Simply walking through the world gives you a distinct feeling of being in some kind of Harry Potter meets Skyrim love child. I mean that in the best way.

Citadel magic
The entire game plays on the theme of magic.

Nearly everything is done by magical means or has some kind of fantastical flair. You attack primarily with spells, you gather primarily with magic and the building is done by conjuring structures. In Citadel, you aren’t just some naked survivor, you are a being with raw magical power. Elements such as hunger or thirst would have taken away from that feeling.

Even simple elements like tailoring tables have a magical touch, as the wheel floats spinning above the table and even torches can be many colors. The game’s theme is exceptionally well done and infects itself within nearly every feature.

You still need to gather resources of course, to fuel your crafting, building and alchemical pursuits. Initially, you will use a tool, but within minutes you can craft the harvest spell, which makes the entire process much more efficient.

Witchcraft and Wizardry

As you gain levels you will increase attributes such as your health, mana and carry weight. You will also spend knowledge points in one of several tech trees. These grant you new schematics and the ability to craft new gear and structures. Anything from crafting tables, armor, brooms, potions, and weapons can be unlocked here to be crafted by you. Assuming you can find and gather the required resources.

Four weapon types are present including Axes, wands, and staves. You can swing them around but doing so is largely a waste. Instead, each weapon has two slots you can craft spells into. Each weapon also has access to different schools of spell.

Every weapon type can be slotted with utility and self spells for example, but an axe can hold blast and area of effect spells, while wands can hold beam and projectile spells instead.

Citadel combat
A frost essence combined with the beam school creates an ice beam!

Spells are not part of the tech tree, you are only limited by what essences you can get your hands on. Better weapons make the spells more powerful, but do not grant access to new spells themselves. You craft a spell by picking a spell essence, and a school. The type of spell you create depends on the combination. For example, combining an arcane essence and the self school will create haste, allowing you to move quickly for a short time.

Combing a nature essence and the self school will create Barkskin instead, which increases your armor when you cast it. There are a lot of spells within the various combinations and your only limitation is your ability to acquire the essences in the first place. You always have arcane, and nature is found easily. The others, light, dark, frost, fire and storm can require some effort to get your greedy wizard mitts on.

Citadel spellcraft
The spellcrafting is deep and unique

This is a bit of a double-edged sword. You have an immense amount of freedom to craft spells and tailor them to your own strategy and play style. You can even further customize the effects of your spells by adding reagents, such as adding a bleed effect, or increasing its range.

However, progression can feel a bit muted. Many items deeper in the tech tree are just simple statistical upgrades to existing items. A new wand just makes your existing spells hit harder, new armor grants you higher defense and a new broom flies faster. This is compounded further in a PvP setting, a higher level player is simply statistically more powerful than a lower one with very little lateral movement across the spectrum.

Your Own Chamber Of Secrets

If I am being honest, I am awful at building in these types of games. Anything I have ever built in Ark or Conan looks like a plain and drab rectangle storage container with all the creativity of a goldfish. This was not the case in Citadel. It has the most extensive and easy to use building system I have ever seen in a survival sandbox.

Everything is on an invisible grid making it exceptionally easy to snap and align your structures. You have several types of building materials available, from wood to marble and all kinds of decorative goodies. Many with that sweet magical flair.

Building is easy to do in Citadel!

On top of this, they just look good. It’s difficult to build something ugly, even if you are like me and archtectual design isn’t your strong suit. This applies when setting up defenses as well. You can design sneaky pit traps or just stick with automated magical towers.

You can go as hard or simple on the building as you want to. Build a fancy garden to grow your plants, or just plop them down. It’s up to you. For fun, you can even build a stadium to be used in a magical sport involving broomsticks. No, I’m not kidding.

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them

You will hunt down and fight all manner of beast from lowly wild boars to fierce dragons. You can even tame and ride many of them by wearing them down and using the pacify spell. However, the beasts are a lot less fantastic than I had hoped.

Don’t be fooled by some of my screen shots due to motion blur, Citadel looks shockingly good even on my standard PlayStation 4 and the framerate was stable, the creatures look nice too. Until they move. Their animations are pretty janky at times. Furthermore, they are brain dead, most simply run at you and attack in the most awkard fashion. There is no strategy to be had when fighting the monsters in the game.

You can take flight with broomsticks and elixirs!

You have an arsenal of spells at your disposal, but the most effective thing to do is use whatever melee spell you have equipped. If you’re a high enough level, you win. If not, you usually die. It honestly feels like a point and click MMO at times. The creatures just aren’t entertaining to engage with and it brings down Citadels value as a PvE title a great deal.

Wizard Wars

I have some worries about balance in PvP since the servers were not populated when I played. Testing those features was difficult. However, I was able to experiment with my partner. Player versus player combat is everything that combat against the creatures is not.

You have a wide arsenal of spells and strategies and spell slinging duels are exciting, you can invoke a variety of strategies or even take the battle to the skies. It’s easy to imagine fantastic sieges, or mages darting through the air on brooms while wielding the power of thunder and flame.

Player versus player spell slinging action is where combat shines.

The game’s layout itself seems to encourage constant competition between players. It wants you to battle over various resources, fast travel towers or the random rifts that appear and spawn rare loot. This is where I think the game will truly shine.

If you get killed, you drop whatever was in your bag. But you keep your equipped items as long as they didn’t break. This means that for a time, you can jump right back into the fray after getting killed. At least until the durability of your gear wears down. This is much more forgiving than other titles where you usually drop everything on death.

You are largely protected from raiding until you reach level 30. After this point, most restrictions are lifted. To actually damage structures, however, you need to craft items to add siege damage to your spells or build and protect siege towers. Neither of which is easy to do. On one hand, this makes raiding a more thoughtful process. On the other hand, it’s another advantage a higher player has over a lower one.

Sadly many things you unlock are linear upgrades.

Yet the prospect of wizard wars is incredibly exciting to me after experiencing the inner workings of the games mechanics and I will be alongside and against many of you today!

Sadly, offline raiding is a thing. But you have more defensive options than in similar titles and raiding takes a lot of effort. I think offline raiding is a terrible mechanic, but it is standard within this genre.

Verdict

Citadel oozes with magical flair, its spell crafting system is deep, unique and fun and its building system is unmatched in the genre. There is a lot to do, discover and get lost inside. Yet the PvE portions of the game leave much to be desired. If you aren’t into PvP, I can’t recommend the game unless you would be satisfied purely with building fantastical castles and palaces.

However, if you have an interest in PvP. I think Citadel will provide you with an experience not found elsewhere. All while giving you a fun and fantastical magical world, great building system and marvelous spell crafting. Just keep in mind the baggage that comes with the genre. You will die, your base will be destroyed at some point. You will win and you will lose.

There are several types of servers, many of which have increased progression with less grind if that tickles your fancy. Others reset after a set period of time. So you have a lot of choice in how you want to play the game.

So bearing all that in mind. I think Citadel is easily worth the money for the right type of audience. It sets itself apart from other titles in the genre and is a lot of fun to play.

A copy of Citadel: Forged With Fire was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Blue Isle Publishing.

Intrestred in multiplayer sandbox games? Check out my review of Ark: Survival Evolved!

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Pros

  • Deep and free form spell crafting
  • Extensive and easy to use building system
  • Magically thematic world
  • Keeping equipped gear on death is less punishing than similar titles and encourages player conflict
  • Player versus player combat has tons of potential with the spell system and flight
  • Several types of servers to choose from

Cons

  • AI creatures are not entertaining to fight
  • Many new items are simple statistical upgrades of existing items
  • There can be some ugly imbalance between high and low-level players
  • Offline raiding is a thing

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