For the longest time, Dark and Light has been held as one of the better sandbox RPG's you can find online. Not the best, mind you, but certainly one you can't ignore, and for a long time has kinda been this title in the background when people get tired of other RPG's or even MMORPG's that they can go to and mess around with and have some ideal freedom. But it appears there's a new challenger that is quickly gaining attention in Early Access called Citadel: Forged With Fire published by Blue Isle Studios. We got our hands on a copy as it hit steam, so today we're going to do a small preview and see how it stands up.
First, let's delve into character creation, which keeps things pretty simple to gender, head variation and hair style, along with the ability to choose your skin, hair, eyes and nail color. You start with basic clothing, so you can't really change anything there. It works for what it is, it could be more detailed, but the focus isn't really on what you look like. You are then "forged from fire" and start off in the wilderness to seek out materials and survive. You'll collect items in your inventory and create things like clothing, weapons, and other materials to get around.
The world itself is basically one giant death trap (both in first and third person view). There are animals everywhere and if you make them angry, they will come after you hardcore. There are also people around who can kill you if they wish because there's no governing system against PvP attacks. You can take damage and die jumping from a small outcropping in the landscape. As you collect items you'll level up and new options will appear in your Knowledge Tree, which you can access in the character menu with the book icon. It will teach you how to make various items and, as you obtain these items, you'll be able to make better items along the way.
The key to making better stuff in Citadel: Forged With Fire is leveling up and staying alive. A lot of the useful stuff doesn't unlock until you hit Level 10. As you go through the menu you'll see there are four main areas of creation: Items, Utility, Structures, and Spells. Depending on what kind of character you're looking to make, you'll use various trees to upgrade your character's life and abilities to match. The primary thing you're going to want to become is a full-time spellcaster since they have great range and an array of magical spells at their disposal. I'm not saying not to become a warrior of some kind, I'm just saying in this particular game, you'll want some form of magic at your side.
As you go along you'll also get attribute points, which you can put into areas like your health bar, damage dealt, available mana, and your carrying capacity. If you manage to get into a tight-knit group, you can decide who does what and slowly create a team where one is your fighter, one is your range attacker, one is your tank, one is your healer and so on. You'll need to make those decisions very quickly as again, the world is a giant death trap, and it will not wait for you to decide what you like becoming. After you manage to kill a creature or a person, you'll be able to loot their corpse for items and resources.
One of the benefits of the game is that when you die, you only lose whatever is taken from you. Which means if they don't like your clothes but the do like your weapon, you'll lose the weapon but still have your clothing when you respawn. The downside is that you'll need to make whatever you lost over again, even if that means having to find resources and die a couple times in the process.
There are many elements of the game that we didn't get into while trying it out that we would love to do, such as joining a house so you can build as a group and become more fortified against opponents, or animal taming so that if you truly wanted to, you could ride around everywhere on a direwolf. You can even make your own house and invite players to take part in the mayhem with you, but the game is heavy on censorship so don't expect anything explicit. The game has roaming NPC characters to mess everyone up as you try to take them down, as well as challenges for you to accomplish if you so desire.
Citadel: Forged With Fire is a damn fine sandbox RPG. You can tell it's still rough around the edges and needs some work, but it's nothing that can't be overlooked. The big question is whether or not it actually does stand up to Dark and Light, and I would say yes. I wouldn't say it's going to take over the game or kill it overnight, but it definitely has the potential to replace it over time simply because D&L is old and it's going to get swept under the rug of time eventually. This isn't a bad replacement and there are a lot of things that could be done with it in time. If you're looking for a new game in the genre, you can't really go wrong with this one.