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Citadels

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By Fr33Lanc3r.00712-08-2013
Bobfish (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
Citadels

The Defence

Developer:
Games Distillery
Publisher:
bitComposer Games
Genre:
Strategy
Release Date:
26-07-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 3.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GTX 650
AMD Radeon HD 7780
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
8 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

 

Set in the times of Arthurian Legend, Citadels - the latest game from Games Distillery, a Slovakian Indie group who don’t have much else to their name so far - claims to bring a unique spin to the RTS genre. Will it stand the forces of the games market to become a breakout hit for the company, or will their walls fall to the stones thrown by our reviewers?

The Trial

 

As mentioned above, Citadels is set during the time of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Specifically the fall of Arthur’s reign and the loss of his kingdoms to an invading force backed up by the traitor Mordred. It’s a starting point which holds great potential, but is particularly disconcerting to the history buff in me, as Games Distillery has chosen to take the High Middle Ages representations of Arthur as their starting point. Where (as far as historical records can say) Arthur most likely reigned during the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the land of the Britons, in the late 5th and early 6th centuries - shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire. That may sound like I’m nitpicking, but given the way the rest of the game has turned out to be, there’s a lot worse than complaints about the setting’s historical accuracy to come.

Looks nice from way up and if you don’t touch it.

Looks nice from way up and if you don’t touch it.

For instance, the game opens with what should be a simple tutorial mission, wherein you construct a base, learn the particulars of any unique features, build a basic army, and grind the basic enemy force into dust. Instead, what occurred was more than two hours of trying to deal with the variety of glitches, crashes, bugs and dodgy development decisions. Unit selection is a pain, especially since there isn't any easy way to tell the difference between peasants and fighting troops, and everything seems to blend into the background.

Once you actually have your units selected, they react as though your orders are merely suggestions that they'll get to when they're good and ready. At least, they would get to them if they weren't so busy being stuck on random bits of the scenery. Or each other. Forever walking in place in their attempts to carry out their tasks - leading to some really odd moments, such as the time I ran out of stone because every peasant working the quarry got stuck on the boulder they were working at, or the wall that was never built because every builder sent to work on it got caught up in the foundations.

Also, sometimes it decides to not accept input from the mouse. Let me say that again, Citadels is an RTS....THAT REFUSES MOUSE INPUT!! Just think about that for a moment....there is a modern RTS, that isn't even designed well enough to allow for a player to constantly be giving instructions with the input device that every other RTS game has been built around...not to make way for another, better input device, but simply because there is a bug in the code that causes the game to lose connection with THE PRIMARY INPUT DEVICE FOR THE GAME!!

They are actually stuck!

They are actually stuck!

The UI comes complete with a total lack of information. The construction menus only reveal how much a building will cost, and the game doesn't explain what each building does. Some buildings come with options that affect something or another which, again, are never explained, and unlike buildings, weren't intuitive enough to work out by mucking around with them. Said buildings are hard to place, as it's not entirely clear where the boundaries of a building lie, and the game is incredibly fickle about which elements of the environments can and cannot be built upon. Upgrades to buildings need to be done individually, and have a negligible effect compared to the cost of doing so. In the case of anything except the military buildings and walls.

Speaking of the cost of things, most of the buildings are completely overpriced when compared to the rate of resource gathering - especially since, rather than dropping it off at the gathering camp, each bundle of resources needs to be dropped off either at the keep or (once you've climbed the tech tree a bit) at a storehouse - leading to some really unnecessary waiting times while trying to place important buildings. This really comes to a head when you unlock the advanced resource buildings (which turn wood to planks, stone to bricks, etc.), which take the highest priority when it comes to allocating resources, and operate much faster than their basic counterparts (which are still needed in conjunction with many advanced buildings and units anyway), leading to cascading resource failures.

For what it's worth though, it at least is easy on the eyes. I mean, if it was any other game I wouldn't be praising graphics at all, particularly those who don't push the boundaries and have slightly problematic design choices (did I mention that troops are nearly impossible to see against the map?), but given that its looks are all that Citadels has going for it, I think a mention of anything positive is needed.

A sight for sore eyes.

A sight for sore eyes.

Also, the soundtrack isn't too bad, being a good imitation of a period sounding style - with rockier sounding modern bits for more action heavy spaces. It is a bit sparse however, with many moments dedicated to large patches of silence. Something I wouldn't mind in tense moments, but I hardly think making a decision on wall placement counts as a place where a lack of sounds is appropriate.

The Verdict

 

The worst part about Citadels is the potential that can be seen behind the reality of bugs and bad design choices. The goal seemed to be to make a fairly realistic medieval strategy game built around building bigger and bigger fortresses, and either money ran out (which explains the price tag) or the devs realised they were in over their heads and needed to ship their project. Thus quality was sacrificed to make sure the fortress building aspects remained intact. It's just unfortunate that they couldn't live up to that potential. If you’re burning to play an RTS, my suggestion would be to pick up nearly anything else - they'll at least try to make a good impression.

 

Case Review

  • Oooh, Pretty: I don’t often praise the graphics in a strategy game, but since that’s all Citadels has going for it...
  • The Sound of Silence: While what little made it in is fine, there are long stretches with a complete lack of noise.
  • Where’s the Rest of the Information?!?: Between the crappy UI, and the non-existent tutorial, there is a severe lack of information given to players.
  • Economy? What Economy?: The specifics of gathering resources in order to produce towns and armies are severely unbalanced
  • Just Another Bug Hunt: Pathfinding issues, workers getting stuck on resources, incompletable tasks, and a host of other bugs await.
  • Where’s the Rest of the Game?!?: It feels like the developers had an idea, wrote a story campaign, started building an RTS around them, and ran out of money before they finished.

 

1
Score: 1/5
Citadels is an RTS...THAT REFUSES MOUSE INPUT!! Just think about that for a moment.

Appeal

Citadels is not a very pretty game, but the visuals are still somewhat serviceable. The same goes for the sound. Not great, but serviceable. The possibility to build, maintain, upgrade and defend your very own fortifications is an interesting prospect, and even though Citadels doesn't do anything new for the genre, building forts, walls and mouts to defend your village while gathering resources, and converting them into planks, bricks and so on can make for enough fun to be worth a €10 price tag in today's market. Oh, except it's not a €10 game. It's sold as a €40 game. Citadels is a joke. Why? Oh man, where to even begin.

As if the price wasn't bad enough, the game itself is downright broken. For me and many others, the game crashes constantly. During play, after completing a mission, and even when trying to save the game - Losing you 20-30 minutes of progress. It doesn't stop there, either. AI path finding is atrocious. Your peasants keep getting stuck between buildings, and sometimes while mining ore or building walls, they'll randomly stop doing their jobs. Lazy gits! It doesn't help that they tend to blend in with the environment, making it hard to see that half your work force are just standing around all day. The game itself barely even bothers to explain anything either. You can upgrade buildings, but you won't know what that does until after you've actually done it. Selecting a building makes a big UI-box pop up at the bottom of the screen, but none of the space is used to explain what the buildings do, or what their upgrades help with. The town hall's UI-box has a "10%" in it. You're able to adjust this up and down. 10%? One can only assume it's the tax-rate, but the game never tells you, nor does it tell you what the modifier taxes, or what the consequences are of having a higher tax rate. Placing buildings - especially walls - is usually a pain as well, and you'll always end up with a wall that has a large gap between it and a bordering mountain, making it easy for enemies to pass by. Speaking of enemies - they look almost identical to your troops, making combat frustrating too! Oh, did I neglect to tell you that the game has no hotkeys for buildings, and mouse movement and selecting units is incredibly imprecise and sluggish? And that, in an RTS game?!

The list of critical issues torturing Citadels just keeps going on and on and on. But the fact of the matter is that, even if all these issues were fixed, it'd still only be a mediocre and highly repetitive game, sold for €40. That is unacceptable. Stay away from Citadels, at least until it gets a ton of patches, and a serious price-cut. Only then could it possibly be worth some of your time.

1.5
Score: 1.5/5

Appeal

Whether you’re an RTS fan or not, it’s strongly suggested that you should avoid Citadels. The game is lacklustre and has obviously copied many features that other games have implemented better and in ways that actually work. It rather has a poor tutorial mission which barely explains anything about most of the buildings or units and doesn’t even give you enough time to read the instructions. The resource icons at the top are misleading and very hard to distinguish between as even the symbols are confusing. Which leads me to the graphics, which are very sub-par and aren’t stunning at all. In comparison to the marketed screenshots of the game, they appear to show of the game looking better than it actually is, which is very misleading.

There’s nothing as annoying as something not working, take for instance the enemy AI as well as your units that are incompetent at completing certain tasks. Imagine giving the simplest of orders to engage something such as an enemy unit or building. Occasionally they won’t comply with an order like that and sometimes they may downright refuse to even build structures. If I were to continue bashing on about other things, I’d not have time to say that many of the features are just broken and are confusing to use, not to mention the many issues with crashing, freezing and low FPS drops.

The campaign barely has substance; skirmish is a joke as the AI sends their peasants at you rather than military units. An entire list can be compiled about the many issues this game has, but to sum it up - don’t buy this, it is a disgrace. Even if most of the issues were fixed, the game would still be soulless as it does nothing special, nor innovative. And the fact that they are charging £30 is a joke in itself that you can hardly take seriously.

1.5
Score: 1.5/5
Comments (6)
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Posts: 297

For me it wasn't unplayable, but still a disgrace.

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Posts: 2712

@Fr33Lanc3R: You weren't the only one

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Posts: 1226

Fun fact: The game sucks.

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Posts: 179

So fun fact...I was hoping to give this a 0...take from that what you will.

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Posts: 126

Unfortunately, even after the first patch (which is 2GB big) the game is still unplayable... It is such a shame, as it looked so great on the Making Of vids...

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Posts: 2712

O...ouch...