En Garde! Review – A Diet Swashbuckling Adventure

    Title: En Garde!
    Developer: Fireplace Games
    Release Date: August 16, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Fireplace Games
    Genre: Action

One of my favorite mechanics in action games is parrying. As highly specific as it is, its presence significantly reinforces my desire to learn the ins and outs of enemy patterns and telegraphs because there’s a direct reward in store. So, seeing an entire game built around that notion in the form of the Fireplace Games-developed En Garde! already made the title intrinsically compelling. And now, after having played it, I was impressed, though I was left wanting more.

En Garde! follows protagonist Adalia de Volador, a swashbuckler who fights against the tyranny of the Count-Duke for the sake of bettering the lives of the less unfortunate. The handful of playable episodes each feature a new conflict involving the Count-Duke in some way, with Adalia needing to cease his operations. Still, despite the seemingly grave premise, the title is largely comedic. I usually dislike saying this about most pieces of media, but En Garde! rarely takes itself super seriously. Comedy is at the forefront of this experience, with tons of cheesy dialogue and character bits that are pretty blatant in their approach. There are meaningful messages spread throughout, though.

When describing a game as not taking itself seriously, I tend to find that pretty dismissive of any semblances of tension and moving emotion that the narrative and executed cast are embracing, but in the case of En Garde!, it’s immediately apparent it’s going for humor above all else. The jokes here are mainly at the expense of the incompetence of the Count-Duke, his minions, and the brother of Adalia. She has several one-liners of her own while casually progressing, too. But sometimes they hit, and sometimes they don’t. I never found myself laughing at any point, as I didn’t find any comedic bits genuinely humorous. Still, there’s a lot of heart in the writing, and it gives Adalia and some of the supporting cast endearing characterizations.

En Garde 4

As for the gameplay, that’s expectedly where En Garde! truly shines. Adalia utilizes a single blade in combat, letting her perform a basic combo, but the crux of the systems here lies in the parrying. Whenever an enemy flashes blue, that’s the signal for when to parry, and doing so successfully will leave them open to a slew of hits. It’s not always that simple, though, since different foes have varying levels of defensive gauges that must be depleted before they’re entirely open to attack.

Plus, if an attack flashes red before connecting, you can only dodge it as it’s incapable of being parried. In the most intricate of cases, some enemies have a lighting symbol near their health gauge, communicating that you must properly parry and dodge all of their telegraphs as needed in order to fatigue them. If you inadequately react to even one tell, that lightning symbol gauge restores, so you’re especially required to know how these foes operate.

En Garde 3

Another element worth mentioning is group fights. They play out as you would expect, yet the terrain also plays an integral role. Depending on one’s location, you can interact with throwable objects or traps that can either damage or distract enemies long enough for you to focus your efforts on a singular one. Since Adalia’s combat stance is only crafted for one-on-one duels, using the environment to your advantage is paramount. Personally, one of the most satisfying sets of utilities are cannons and explosive barrels that can really decimate a vast group.

Speaking of groups, a couple of boss battles call for reinforcements. Admittedly, this concerned me initially because a boss calling for backup can easily be a thinly veiled attempt at arbitrarily inflating difficulty to provide a hollow challenge. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with En Garde!. The environments of these bouts always have countless tools or hazards you can use to turn the tides in your favor, meaning no encounter is ever unfair.

En Garde 2

Summatively, En Garde! is not difficult, but it’s entirely reliant on the rhythm of battle. While the enemy telegraphs are all immensely transparent, messing up a reaction against just one can cause a chain reaction of panic where you fall under fire from subsequent strikes. This gives the title some appreciated tension and stakes, primarily during boss battles.

One last collective gameplay feature is platforming and exploration, which is admittedly minor here. En Garde! only has a few playable episodes, and while there are collectibles and supplemental tasks, they are entirely there for completionists. However, the pathways leading up to battle scenarios are usually pretty enjoyable to traverse with neat movement and light environmental perusal.

En Garde 1

En Garde! is a delightful action title boasting strong enemy and combat design, a likable cast, and a stellar soundtrack. Still, the adventure felt a little too brief, resulting in the gameplay mechanics not feeling like they had reached their greatest potential. While you do unlock an Arena mode that offers additional opportunities to experience the combat system thanks to modifiers, it’s not as substantial as I would have hoped. Regardless, casual and diehard action lovers will undoubtedly have a memorable time with En Garde!, as I believe it elegantly manages to be worthwhile for both general audiences.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.

Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.