Skyrim? On MY Minecraft server?
A little over two years ago, I wrote Hey Poor Player’s preview post for Citadel: Forged With Fire while it was still in Early Access, and I’m going to be upfront with you — it feels the same.
Perhaps that’s a good thing — the game in Early Access was already pretty close to being done, so it felt like all it needed was some AI tweaks and polishing.
Two years later, I’m left with mixed feelings.
Let’s start at the beginning:
Citadel: Forged With Fire, developed by Blue Isle Studios and Virtual Basement LLC, is best described as a fantasy sandbox MMORPG. After a very basic character customization screen (and I do mean basic — male/female human race, four heads, four hairstyles), you’re literally forged with fire and born into this fantasy realm. There’s a wizard who issues tutorial quests that get you quickly acquainted with the world, and then it’s up to you to do as you wish.
The early game is really all about leveling up and crafting — you’re going to want to build your base near a fast travel zone, and to do this, you’ll need to collect materials. Pick up stone, wood, and other items with your bare hands or collect using an axe or wand. Picking up items yields EXP, so feel free to go crazy and pick up everything within sight, because you’re going to want to be level 25 or so before you actually start questing.
If getting to level 25 before you even start the game sounds daunting, don’t worry too much — you can create your own server and tweak the settings so that you level up quicker. For example, I joined one server that gave me 3 EXP for each item I picked up, but when setting up my own server, I changed it so that I collected 10 EXP for each item. There are a lot more options for players to choose from in server settings, which allows freedom of playstyle. It’s nice.
Speaking of building — it’s honestly hard to not make this the focus of Citadel: Forged With Fire. There are so many building and crafting things to do that you won’t notice literal hours go by while base-building. I would add a platform or two thinking that would be enough room, then go collect more wood, only to come back and expand the square-footage, add a second floor, build traps, etc. It took a LOT of work to build my cozy home, and even then it was just a pitiful excuse of a hut in comparison to some of the architectural triumphs you can create.
While resource-hunting, players won’t be able to ignore just how beautiful the scenery is. I was instantly reminded of Skyrim, if only because of how often I would just look around and notice all the lovely foliage. What also makes the setting interesting is that time actively passes in-game (there’s a clock up top telling players what time it is); additionally, there are weather changes, as rain will occasionally pour from the heavens. Little details like this were definitely welcome changes to break up the monotony of item-collecting.
Another thing I found immensely gratifying was the knowledge system; when you level up, you are granted knowledge points, which you can use to unlock new things to craft, such as crafting stations, building materials, and weapons. It’s easy to get lost when it comes to skill trees with a lot of moving parts, but where Citadel: Forged With Fire deserves credit is that everything is pretty straight-forward and easily understandable. It’s like the devs knew that this was going to focus on base-building…
…which brings me to some of the negatives of Citadel: Forged With Fire, unfortunately — it’s extremely heavy-handed on the base-building even past level 25. In a game that promises a lot (and, to its credit, delivers on those promises), it doesn’t stray far from this core mechanic. Witches and wizards are still able to cast spells, tame beasts, and zoom around on broomsticks, but instead of that being the focus of the game, all of it feels like it serves as a means to an end — zoom around on your broomstick, sure, but go to a place where you’ll find the daily quest giver who will tell you to kill two hares in exchange for iron ingots. Cast spells? Of course — cast a spell on that tree over there to collect wood. Tame beasts? Sure, why not — you’ll need assistance on your quests to get more crafting items.
Again, to the game’s credit, base-building in what boils down to Magical-Skyrim-Minecraft is absolutely fun and the ability to build sprawling castles and fortresses is certainly alluding, but I didn’t feel immersed in a wizarding world. I got a great sandbox base-builder game, but I didn’t get the RPG experience I was looking for.
After I began to see the game for what it was, more of the cracks started to show. In my first server, I didn’t realize I took up base-building close to a spawn spot, meaning boars would attack me nearly every waking moment. This wasn’t a huge issue on the surface, since they’re the lowest-level aggro enemies, but three things became fairly annoying pretty quickly: first, there’s no battle music to announce their arrival. You could be crafting a new axe because yours broke after felling every tree in range when you’re suddenly being attacked — even though you’re still in the crafting menu. Surely crafting or building should pause enemies? But no, it doesn’t, and with the same, pleasant song playing that you heard while peacefully looking at the sunlight through the woods, you’re being attacked. The vibe just wasn’t there.
Second, the AI is too aware of your existence. I’ll be in my house, minding my own business, when a boar or bear will suddenly be in my living room. What’s the point of building a house if it doesn’t provide adequate shelter? It’s not just in the comforts of your own home, either — while foraging, you’ll suddenly be attacked without warning (because no battle music), and trying to run away does nothing, as they keep up with you while you’re fleeing. I know wild boars are notorious assholes, but this is a bit ridiculous.
Finally, the animation. I often give indie dev studios a complete pass when it comes to bigger ticket items like animation, but it was pretty frustrating to have an enemy come up to you and park near your feet with only every other hit yielding movement. The enemy could be completely stationary, but you’re taking damage. It was confusing to say the least.
After a few hours, I started feeling like Citadel: Forged With Fire was like an IKEA game — it can be a solid piece, but you’re going to have to put in some work to make it whole. Until you do, all the elements are there, but it’s not cohesive; nothing’s holding them together. And for some players, that’s a good thing — this playthrough in particular really illustrates just how fun Citadel: Forged With Fire can be and if you’re on the fence, please watch it — but if you’re not prepared to put in the work, I don’t know if I can recommend this game to you.
If I sound overtly negative, I don’t mean to be — Citadel: Forged With Fire has so much potential and is definitely going to resonate with base-builders and magic-lovers, but it is not to be played casually. At the end of the day, it’s a good game with dedicated developers, and in a year’s time I’m sure this review will be moot and updated to reflect the amazing experience it’s meant to be.
Before plunking down the cash on Citadel: Forged With Fire, just know that you’re going to have to put dozens and dozens of hours into this before you get to everything promised in the trailer. If you loved item-collecting and crafting from Skyrim, base-building from No Man’s Sky, and the Sandbox feel of Minecraft, I daresay this game is 100% made with you in mind (and it really is as cool as it sounds); for everyone else, head to YouTube and watch a few playthroughs before making your decision.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: XBox One, PS4, PC (reviewed); Developers: Blue Isle Studios, Virtual Basement; Publisher: Blue Isle Publishers; Players: 1/MMO; Released: November 1st, 2019; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Citadel: Forged With Fire given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher