If you’ll pardon the pun, Citadel: Forged with Fire is a bit of a slow-burner. My first couple of hours with the game were a slog; nothing is really explained, the UI is a bit of a mess and a keybinding issue stopped any progress I needed to make. But then suddenly everything just fell into place with the game and my understanding, and it presented a really cathartic and relaxing MMORPG.
It’s immediately worth pointing out that this is not a traditional MMORPG. Citadel may have that basic framework of being on a server – with a choice of PvE and PvP – alongside other players in a massive world, but those jumping in expecting a World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV experience will be left disappointed. This is a far less structured game, meaning that you aren’t following the same subtle path as other players presented to you.
But let’s start at the beginning; Citadel: Forged with Fire does a pretty terrible job of explaining anything to you. There is a tutorial when you awake – you are a mage who is literally born out of the fire – and here you are taught the basic premise of crafting, how to scavenge for items and how to assign spells. But after this, you are on your own in this big open-world, left to fend for yourself and create your own future.
During this tutorial though comes an issue that I then spent far too long trying to fix. Partway through you are told how to create an axe that you can then use for melee attacks, but then you are also told to assign spells to your two spell slots. Weirdly though, one of these spell slots is also assigned to the melee attack button and rewriting it with a spell causes you to update the key bindings in the menu, completely unassigning any button to a melee attack. One early tutorial mission has you collecting natural essences – used to craft different spells – by using a melee attack, but it took me far too long to realise the game had overwritten my melee attack, and I then had to assign a new button to melee… at the cost of losing something else.
But then when you properly get out into this world, it is a gorgeous place to explore. The colours used are bright, and whilst character and animal models may leave a lot to be desired, this is a visually stunning game to wander round.
After the tutorial, you are left to your own devices in this huge – and more importantly persistent – world. Citadel: Forged with Fire may be an MMORPG, but there is more of an emphasis on building structures than anything, like Minecraft or Dragon Quest Builders. Straight from the off can you see remnants of structures other players have built in the server; some impressive multi-levelled castles carved into the sides of mountains, others a simple shack. And they remain there, even after the player who created them may have moved on to bigger and better things. I had every intention of building my own base of operations, but after only a few short minutes I had found an abandoned mid-level building that I claimed as my own; something that is as simple as placing your throne on a location.
Having this freedom to do whatever I wanted originally took me by surprise, and at first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted. Then I experienced it and began to really appreciate it. There are different areas with a pop-up on screen each time you enter one, displaying the recommended level for that area to offer some rigidity to proceedings. But in general I was happy to explore at my leisure, free from a quest list with hundreds of objectives.
That isn’t to say this works perfectly though, as some issues do remain. There are daily quest givers offering small EXP rewards and loot for killing or crafting X number of things, but these aren’t directly tied to the area they are in. One quest had me kill two direwolves, but I had to walk over 2kms before I found one. And then walk back.
And that brings me on to the fact that there are three starting areas to choose from to complete the tutorial, but if you happen to stumble across one of the others after completing it once, you can complete it a second time with all the same rewards.
Citadel doesn’t completely rewrite the MMORPG book as there are still some staple mechanics in here: tons of loot, a massive world to explore, a day/night cycle and weather (but it spends a lot of time raining!), endgame bosses and raids, and plenty of things to do. That last one though requires a bit more input from you than a traditional MMO.
Citadel: Forged with Fire has a nice, round 50 achievements to unlock, but they are all secret. There is a healthy mix of achievements spread across the early parts of the game and the endgame itself. Every ten levels you progress earns you an achievement, and most of the other achievements are linked to meeting milestones in number of items/enemies crafted, collected, killed and tamed. Most will unlock through natural play should you make it to level 60; there shouldn’t be many that require you to go out of your way.
Citadel: Forged with Fire on the Xbox One doesn’t get off to the best of starts, throwing you in at the deep end with nothing to cling onto. The tutorial does a terrible job of explaining anything, even causing you to re-assign many of the buttons on the controller. But it’s worth sticking with. Figure out what you’re supposed to do and the game becomes a delightful sandbox for you to become the mage you were born to be. The structure building isn’t as essential as it was made to be, but you’ll find yourself doing it because it’s fun, and not too difficult once you get the hang of it. Some things need a tweak like the daily quests and menus, and there are some sound issues. But overall, with the promise of free content incoming and a quest storyline spanning the entire game, if you are a fan of persistent online worlds and crafting monumental structures, you should be pleasantly surprised with Citadel: Forged with Fire.