Great design and story
The year is 2321, Earth’s population has spread out into space. Mega-corporations have built space stations throughout the galaxy.
You have not long arrived on-board a Citadel class space station owned by the Federal Defence Union (FDU). The main function of this Citadel is scientific research and development.
The night you arrived, the stations Artificial Intelligence (AI) was beginning to malfunction. And now, only one week later, the Citadel’s main power has just shut down, and the backup generator has come online.
The doors won’t open, communications don’t work, and you can hear some unusual noises from other parts of the space station.
Can you escape before the backup generator goes offline and you’re trapped on-board forever?
As we approached the milestone of Room Number 200, there was some debate about where and which room we should tackle. After a glowing recommendation from Amy at Brit of an Escape Habit, and finding an excellent deal on trains, we settled on Escape Nation. The Citadel was to be the warm-up at Room Number 199, before tackling the venue’s newest game: Dr Incognito; although, quite honestly, both rooms are worthy choices for milestones or celebrations. Or you know, just because.
We arrived early and made our way past the hot yoga studio and up the stairs to Escape Nation. (I did notice a very sketchy looking lift, that may or may not have been in action. The Citadel itself is completely accessible, so if you require the lift, I highly recommend checking with the venue to see if it does in fact work.) Once inside, the amount of space dedicated to reception is pretty vast, although a bit sparse. I have a feeling Luke and Matt have been focussed on building games rather than decorating reception, but they certainly have the space to create something really great to welcome their customers if they ever get a moment to breathe.
Standing in the reception area, we received the usual health and safety spiel, although it was shortened slightly due to our experience as it wasn’t really necessary to go over how a padlock works or remind us to not lick any wires. Finally, it was time to move on to The Citadel. We stepped through the door, and after a short video to give us a bit more background on the story, we were off!
It’s wrong to paint rooms with similar themes with the same brush, but with the sci-fi nature of a game set on a spaceship, I was expecting a game free of padlocks and heavy with tech, some of which that would just be there for the sake of needing to feel techy to justify the theme. That wasn’t the case for The Citadel at all, and the breadth and spread of both the types of puzzles and the tasks needed to complete them kept me engaged throughout the entire game. It certainly helped that the game was nonlinear, and Gord and I often found ourselves working away from one another, rather than in tandem, meaning that there were never any moments where I was just twiddling my thumbs.
Yes, there are a number of padlocks throughout the game, but padlocks have actually been around for centuries, and as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so it’s completely feasible that they could be on a space station, right? Either way, they didn’t feel out of place, or excessive, particularly with the elements of tech thrown in to give some variety. But it was the strength of the puzzles themselves, that were without fail, logical, and requiring a variety of skills to suit the strengths of everyone on the team, that kept me on my toes throughout the game. I love it when I finally have a true “Ah-ha!” moment in a game, and The Citadel did not disappoint. At first glance, one of the most simple puzzles was actually slightly more complex than it had first appeared, and I was truly delighted when I figured it out; and that wasn’t the only time either.
We’ve done a few space themed games now, and the most brilliant thing about them is how different each is from the next. I loved the design of The Citadel. The ship is clearly lovingly built by hand, but built incredibly well. I could have absolutely believed that I had walked straight into the set of the next Sci-Fi thriller.
What was most impressive to me was the narrative driving the game forward. It was subtle, but tasks hinted at what might have befallen the Citadel, causing the malfunctions and your inevitable need to escape. This could have quite easily been overlooked, and it would still have resulted in a fun game, but including the narrative really pulled me into the world, making The Citadel incredibly enjoyable.
I always seem to comment on lighting, but there is a reason for this. Lighting can add a lot of atmosphere to a room, but there is nothing worse than being unable to see the dials of a padlock clearly because of atmospheric lighting. The dim lighting thanks to the backup generator of the Citadel was actually sufficient for even me, with my poor lowlight vision, to work with, but fortunately, there were plenty of torches available, just in case.
I love an integrated clue system, and by that, I mean a system that fits into the story seamlessly, and The Citadel does not disappoint. Although clues arrive over a screen, thanks to the story, this doesn’t break the immersion. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a little bit of humour thrown in from some audio cues.
Given my personal feeling that asking for a clue breaks any form of immersion and the fact that we would always prefer to receive clues, rather than risk not getting out of a room because we were too stubborn to ask, when given the option we always ask GMs to feel free to chime in if they notice us getting stuck. Luckily, we weren’t often stuck, but there were a few times when Luke chimed in and pointed out when we were overlooking something important, helping us to get back on track.
We almost played The Citadel in October 2019 with our extended team when we were on holiday in the area. I’m glad we played as a two, but with the volume of puzzles and the amount of physical space in the game, this would be an excellent choice for larger teams, experienced or not.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 46:04
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