Build a sprawling neo-medieval city by solving match-3 puzzles in Citadel Arcanes

We’ve all been there. At some point in our young lives, our fathers (who all may or may not be Dukes), task us with designing a kingdom using magical problem-solving skills. Old hat, right? It’s a rite of passage, similar to babysitting a younger sibling once you’re old enough, or cleaning the gutters once you’re tall enough. Citadel Arcanes makes such a mundane ritual like becoming the Grand Architect of a Citadel an engaging quest, so much so that you often forget the fate of an entire kingdom rests squarely on your shoulders.

Citadel Arcanes

Citadel Arcanes is interesting in that it blends two very different genres of games: simulation and match-3 puzzles. But it does so seamlessly. You play as a Duke’s daughter, who must collect resources, like gold and food, to complete objectives, like plant trees or erect buildings like chapels and hospitals. How do you obtain said resources? By dazzling your way through a gauntlet of match-3’s, that’s how.

The game’s divided into two parts. First, there’s the Sim City-like overworld in which you build your kingdom (or “Citadel”). The game uses an easy-to-navigate bottom menu that’s straight from FarmVille and The Sims. Scroll through different catalogues of objects, select the one you want (more become unlocked as you play more puzzles), then plant the object somewhere on the overworld grid. Sometimes the controls are a little finicky, especially when trying to delete smaller objects with the eraser tool. Zooming in could have been a helpful option. Once you’re done completing a given objective, like constructing a certain fixture, it’s time to switch over to puzzle mode.

Citadel Arcanes

In the puzzle mode, you’re given a grid of various icons (gold bars, gold coins, flowers, what-have-you), and you must align three similar ones to clear them from the screen. Do so by swapping one icon with an adjacent one. Like Tetris or Tetris Attack, once you clear icons, new ones fall from the top of the grid. Use your noodle to clear more than three at a time (combos) or trigger chain reactions to clear many trios in quick succession. The more combos and chains you rack up, the more resources you’ll win to pump back into your Citadel. It’s a little cheap, though, because sometimes it feels like you’re pulling off chains easily to no real credit of your own. There are one too many lucky icons falling into the right place at the right time.

The gameplay is very layered, as it’s essentially juggling two different types of game, or at least offering a pretty meaty side objective to the main match-3 component. An online element seems to be missing, as it would’ve been nice to check out other players’ Citadels. Overall, though, Citadel Arcanes is a well-rounded package that offers solid presentations of two genres. With over 50 levels and tons of buildables to unlock, it’s a game that proves fulfilling parental requests is more fun than you’d think. Even if the chore is something as lame as building a magical kingdom.