Years and years ago we played a game called ‘Die By the Sword’ and it was brutal. You could set the sword to be manually swung using your mouse and occasionally you’d kill things in one hit just because you managed to connect with their neck. Much later Deadliest Warrior tried the same trick, with less precise control but still the chance to finish an opponent with a single well-placed strike. There’s something incredibly satisfying about using your skill to cut short a bout and Skare – The Blade Remains looks set to continue that idea.
Currently the Early Access only allows you to fight in a single arena with a single character. It’s the most basic of alphas content wise, there’s a rough kind of host/join menu in place and it’s just about to enough to get you up and playing. We’ve been toying with it for a couple of hours and managed to find a decent number of opponents.
The map is a circular pit surrounded by volcanos with a steel grate in the middle that occasionally drops into the lava below. You spawn, you fight, you die, you spawn and so on. There’s basic bars for health and stamina and no sense of score or accomplishment, but what is here is an idea. Like the best early access games, the idea shines through clearly. You have a spear and a shield and you can hit enemies through pokes (controlled by a left click) or a swing (controlled by the right). The collision detection is a little wonky at the moment and without a way to lock on to your enemies you end up just attack in one of four directions if you use a keyboard, but it’s enough to set up a little game of cat and mouse. You want to run away for a while and then let them come to you. You can block but it’s sort of pointless now, the collision detection is too wonky to make it useful, instead you need to time strikes and roll out of the way. If you’re clever you can attack an enemy right on the edge of the pit as the grate falls, hoping they will roll right into the lava. Or you can whittle their health down with jabs here and there. It’s very compelling as a competitive little game and a clear proof of concept for what the game could eventually become.
As an added bonus, if you hit the tilde button you can bring up a console and play with all kinds of things. We managed to find ways to turn lighting sources off individually and it’s surprising how effectively that changes the mood of the arena.
For now Skara is in very early days but it’s definitely one to watch for the future if you enjoy competitive fighting games. The devs have expressed a wish to create something that could become an e-sport and if it succeeds we can see it being a lot of fun. For now it’s an interesting toy, and at £11.99 it’s an expensive one. But remember that’s a way of supporting development and you might get a full game out of it in the end. Compared to many early access games we’d say it’s worth it, but then we are fans of pushing people into lava with pointy sticks.