Skara: The Blade Remains is a game given the go ahead by the community on Steam Greenlight. One of many worthy candidates for support, Skara attmepts to step in where many mainstream companies leave off. Arena deathmatch games typically come with guns and grenades, but this title threatens to drop you into an ancient desert or a volcanic nightmare and wishes you well against the hordes of your foes. The game looks great and the developer’s site gives a lot more regarding the story and world.
Among alpha-previews that I have played, this title has to be the most difficult to discuss in my fashion. Primarily, I would ask readers to keep in mind that this game is not even up for sale yet. It is not even close to finished. The developers are working hard daily to ensure this game gets to a complete phase as soon as possible. Having recently played the pre-alpha build, I am certainly excited, but not overly impressed. If this game were to pre-release today, I would laugh loudly and call shenanigans. But it is not, so I look forward to the game that the developers are working on, as detailed on their Greenlight page.
First, let me generally name some of the areas that the developers have to improve. In a game with sword fighting gameplay, you want the character to attack well. A third-person perspective is granted to the player, and this gives you a much better perception of the presence of your character than other games of a similar genre with their first-person views. Now, being in pre-alpha, Skara’s animations are a little slow right now and this definitely comes out in the gameplay, making it difficult to maneuver, but it was funny as hell to watch my character swinging a longsword like it was made of white-dwarf matter. I had to actually start my attacks at a distance in order to “spool up” the animation like it was some kind of minigun with one fucking shot. Another problem with the animations is the ragdoll effect, but in this it should be called the invertebrate effect. Upon death all the bones in a corpse seem to magically disappear. Instant man-jelly style. Now, one thing that I did notice about the animations while playing was fatalities. Let’s fucking face it, a game like this is boring without a little extra in the awesome category. I was able to perform two fatalities that really got me amped up. I favored the civilized look of the Durno fighters. They just felt better than the insane, cultist look of the Kharn savages. I was able to get a few guys to a state of “finish him” dazed-ness. Once there I ran one guy through and flipped him over my shoulder. The second one I put a guy on his knees like a priest at a pulpit then proceeded to hack wildly at his muscular neck. I imagine the head will fly off at the end once the game releases, but the chopping action just finishes the animation with the victim sliding to the ground.
Arena fighters always need someoneto duke it out or there is nothing to play. This game currently features the Durno (above left) and the Kharn (above right). Looking at the models and textures for the races I can see why there are only two at the moment. And why they turn into man-jelly on death. The models and textures are detailed as fuck. Light reflects from their clothes and skin differently and their armor and weapons gleam. It is really exciting to see.
Another element that is important to arena fighters like this is easy navigation, especially as far as the menus are concerned. There shouldn’t be a learning curve for the usage of the basic elements of a game. When there is a menu to interact with, Skara makes sure it is easy to use. The only two menus I saw, however, were the escape menu and the match menu. When loading the level right now, there is nothing. The screen is just a dead view on the map your anticipated match will be held. Once the game starts, though you have access to the match menu. The match menu is what displays when you hit the tab button in-game. This is pretty simple and shows you how many kills you (in a deathmatch) or your team (in team deathmatch) have scored. The scoring system is the Kills – Deaths equation, which I can get behind. I played enough Unreal Tournament and grew accustomed to the simple systems of games past.
Now, everything that is wrong with the game can be attributed to the fact that the game is not ready for release, so it is missing a variety of important features, such as a tutorial area. Tutorials on the operation of the battle combos would definitely be very helpful. Looking at the explanation of the combos in the PDF that came with the game is a little on the confusing side. Not because of the manual, that is simple. Click this button, or press this series of keys. Whatever, no sweats, man! Then you get in-game and the ham-handed speed of the animations makes timing combos impossible for anyone. Unless you are Miss Cleo or a Jedi.. then you can clairvoyantly intuit precisely when you need to hit the next key. Otherwise it is a frenzy full of confused manipulation, like watching my childhood dog hump a pillow.
Of all things this game does and does fucking well are the sights. Now, yes, I am very critical of graphics-heavy games with no other matter, but this is a game that is still in fucking development! Cut me a goddamn break! At one point the AI had a freakout session as I swung at it, and I think opted for self-preservation. Either that or the guy was like, “fuck this! If I die now, I want it to be a badass fight sequence!” So he turns and runs up this tower, and I immediately give chase. Bones of fallen warriors crunching beneath my iron-clad feet, I charge after my foe. Bloodlust is coursing through my mind and bringing that coppery flavor thick into my mouth. Each step takes me upward and he intermittently flags in stamina, coming into view only to catch a string wind and charge further. I arrive at the top, only to lose my bearings. Around me the winds howl and the glare of orange light as the sun reflects off the clay-shot fields of the moors. Behind me my ambuscade foe howls and comes a hair’s breadth from burying the sharp end of his axe into my skull. I dodge narrowly and heft my sword up, bringing my slice through his torso. Dazed and reeling, the Kharn warrior blinks against the dazzling flash of my steel. Only a blink passes and he opens his eyes to see the sharp tip of my sword pierce his chest. Back my sword plunges until the hilt nearly touches his bulging muscles. Kharnish men are brutal, and the warrior sneers and tries to grab my sword with his last breath, but I ram my shoulder into his sternum and twist my blade, flipping him into the air. He lands with a sickening crunch on the stone behind me.
This is what is looked like in game, and the graphics supported every second of it. You see a far-flung waste, venomous water gnawing at its shores and warriors struggling against death borne by other men. I can only image that this game will get better, especially since it has been successfully Greenlit. My biggest issue here is that the game isn’t fucking done, yet. I played an unfinished game and honestly cannot wait until it is done, because a fantasy arena fighter would be so much fun to me. The graphics and textures are gorgeous and the ambient sound is nice. Perhaps the grunts and groans of the characters sound like they came out of a can, but the wind tearing at the dirt and slobbering waves on the shore sound magnificent. Add in the ambient wildlife and you have a very graphically enticing world that utilizes the Unreal engine to stunning effect. Now let’s get the rest of the game done, guys. This one is set up to be really good.