Sitting down to spend the weekend in medieval magic land, I had some pretty high hopes for what looked to be a game that's right up my alley. Citadel: Forged With Fire combines two things I love and will instantly shoo me in the door: MMORPGs, and Skyrim. As they release the billionth version of Elder Scrolls, I must say that my eye is straying elsewhere, looking for something to fill that void that I previously dumped full with maxed-out talent trees, and eating dragon souls for breakfast.

Let me introduce you to Mark. Mark is our main character and chosen adventurer. Taking a light stroll through Mark's trials and tribulations this weekend might give you the insight you need on this early access title. 

"Mark's Diary: Day one--

As the gods put me together, the character creation screen shouted, "THOU MUST REMAIN DEFAULT". I couldn't understand what the voice above was shouting until I wanted to become a woman. I was rewarded with a ceasing of my existence."

Mark and I became instantly bonded as I was struggling to change his hair colour through a standard slider. I thought to myself, 'Hm, Mark kinda looks like a Markena' and clicked the female symbol to carry out their wishes. The game was upset by this and crashed me out, only after a couple false attempts to even confirm that I was happy by Mark. Okay, no problem. Restart.

"To PVP or PVE. That is the question!"

Looking at poor Mark on the screen, I could tell this guy needed a semi-peaceful beginning. Dressed in near rags, and muscles that the talent upgrades would fall over laughing at, I gently placed Mark on someone else's (perhaps they could help!) PVE server, hoping to have a quiet game of blowing stuff up with spells and sniffing the flowers.

Again, Mark was denied. I've been following the updates on Steam, which I must give the devs (Blue Isle Studios) credit for and what I was entering was a lion's den of rolling restarts on the servers and more patches than Edward Scissorhands' inflatable pool raft. Even though I was pushing my way through the constant reboots, crashes and errors, I eventually got in world--ready to rumble with our hero at the helm.

Mark looked around. "Oh! I can pick this thing up, that thing--ALL THE THINGS!" Mark had gone mad grabbing up every piece of driftwood and flower type he could find! In a blur of gathering ecstasy, I reminded Mark that we have a carrying capacity. Something that always made getting back to Whiterun and fun little game when you were halfway across Tamriel.

Finally, we sat down and started rubbing sticks together to make something worthwhile. Mark chose a staff. Crafting it was straightforward enough, pop up menu ala Minecraft style with a simple equation (Two sticks + fancy glow shard = the staff you'll be stuck with for 10+ levels to come). I couldn't  be mad at this, and neither was Mark, whom had already started running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to swipe at things with a spell-less staff.

Mark eventually wisened up, and decided to break out them educatin' books. A staff was cool, but right now it was just a piece of dead in the water driftwood. We began to flip through the books, seeing what we could learn and bind to this potentially dangerous twig. I noticed that as we walked around in the safe zone still, a few minor events triggered, giving out some talent points to spend. Day one, it gave us three to work with.

Ah, the rub of three. Mark sat down trying to figure out how to distribute three points across two talents. Learning the spell for our fancy staff had cost two, so what to spend the other one on? It was decided to be a crafting recipe for a wood plank. After all, probably going to need to build some shelter eventually right?

Next, we set off into the wilderness! The starting zone was neat, and had a little bubble to insinuate it's safe-zoneness, but it was time to venture forth and make a name for the Marks of the realm! There was no trouble moving around whatsoever--everything was extremely straightforward and no curveballs to where your typical WASD setup is rebound, resulting in using a stray elbow to blow a cooldown ten miles across your keyboard. The music was stunningly gorgeous, seducing me to get into Mark's mindset of magic based survival.

Looking around the environment was a mixed bag. Much like a Monet painting, far away it looked stunning. Unreal Engines help with that undoubtedly. Lush flowers, groves, mountains and hills. In approaching, suddenly the grass that looked good enough for my half-witted real life dog to eat was looking a bit off. I wondered a few times if the textures had been made with coloured pencils or not. 

Mark and I had a whale of a time jumping around without the threat of sensitive fall damage (don't you just hate it when you can't walk safely off a cliff?). After a small jaunt out, we came across our first enemy: the big eyed, adorable, slightly electric Sprite.

This thing blinked at Mark, and Mark did what any self respecting Mark would ever do--he blew that thing to kingdom come with the help of a well placed fireball! We didn't let the decision of impending threat lapse long enough to find out if the Sprite was simply there to pick the flowers too. Mark looted the little thing, we collected some experience points and moved along.

At this point, it seemed pretty self explanatory: we kill the things, loot, gain XP, learn new stuff and rinse, repeat to become Mark the Overlord.

Mark kept venturing out further and further from the safety net of the starting zone. I could tell he was getting cocky with two staff spells in tow now. A wolf approached. 

The mechanics of the googly-eyed Sprite and the wolf were almost identical. Both stared back for a moment, seemingly acknowledging our adventurer's presence, then continued on their way aimlessly, before being brought to their knees in a fiery staff death. Something was off though. The wolf didn't fight back. We approached another, and this time gave it time to figure out that Mark was indeed on the hunt for wolf pelts. We poked it, stood in front of it, even tried jumping on it's little wolf back for a ride. No reaction.

As this progressed, Mark started to taunt any wildlife he could. Shouting to the heavens (or general chat), "DOES ANYTHING ATTACK YOU?" After a while of invincible mode, and a couple levels later. Mark got tired and wanted to lay down. I reluctantly closed the client, wondering if the game saved my progress automatically. 

The next day, I came back expecting Mark to be right where I left him. He was nowhere to be found. I sadly made another Mark--this time Mark Jr to avenge the game's killing of his father. After several attempts to get in world (this is assuming they were doing those server restarts), I gave up on joining someone else's game, and decided to make my own. Finally! The master of my own domain! 

Day two went very differently. As I came about to craft my first weapon with Mark Jr, I noticed that the talent tree points were in abundance like an all you can eat buffet of free ice cream. Three is what we started out with Mark Jr's dad. Something like thirty or forty is what was waiting for us this time around. Without questioning anything, I mashed everything I could to give Mark Jr a proper chance in life. We learned about gauntlets, melee, a spot of health and mana, and everything and anything in between until his current level stopped us from buying up anymore. Mark Jr went the melee route this time, crafting a nice little hand axe with some basic magic attached. 

Again, we went out adventuring, and again were met with docile wildlife that was supposed to be smearing us across a rock's face. Blood Orcs, bears, wolves...they all seemed like they just wanted a chin wag instead of a Royal Rumble. General chat insured us that all of those baddies were indeed supposed to attack, but alas we remained, shooting fish in a barrel. Mark Jr walked around for ages, developed a complex from killing defenseless orcs, made it to a suitable level...but eventually got tired. It was time to rest with his father.

Without mincing words, Citadel has an immense amount of potential. It's a title that I'll undoubtedly keep an eye on as it matures. I showed you what a heavy weekend for the developers plays out to be, and even that was not a deal breaker. I want this game to work with all of my gamer heart, but it has a very long way to go before it's a polished product. As it releases formally, I have a feeling it will be a much different experience than the one I had with the Marks. The developers are listening, and remedying every day...and to me, this looks very much like a project of passion. Pop it on the ole' Steam wishlist and get ready for something that could end up stealing countless hours of your life away. This one is worth it.