I played a lot of demos during this year’s Steam Next Fest, but my favourite was the fabulously flamboyant En Garde! The fast-paced, swashbuckling fights are endless fun, and the sun-kissed Mediterranean towns were a treat for the eyes, but it was honestly swoon at first sight when I first saw Adalia de Volador.
What can I say, folks? I’m in love. Let me list everything I adore about Adalia like this is my high school diary. She’s an amazing sword fighter; her acrobatic and graceful nature lets her outwit anyone who crosses her blade. She’s got panache, cheek, and a sharp wit to boot. And speaking of – her boots! Her hat! Her cape! She’s got endless style! And when she punts a soldier off a dock ledge and into the sea, my heart skips a beat.
Developers Fireplace Games have created the perfect protagonist for a game about expert swordplay. Playing as the dashing swordstress herself, fights have an effortlessness to them. Colour-coded circles indicate when to dodge and parry, and looking for that all-important opening to land a perfectly timed riposte is so satisfying. Taking on a group of foes feels overwhelming at first, but keeping light on your feet with a cool head and sharp reactions will make easy work of them. I love the feeling of kicking ass and looking good as I do it.
The environment inspires playful opportunities, too. I’ve chucked a bucket on a guard’s head, slid expertly across a tabletop, and prodded him in the back. I’ve dodged a soldier’s incoming jabs three, four, five times in a row, and then booted him in the chest and watched him stumble down a flight of stairs. I kicked a barrel at a dude, which made him stagger backwards into a weapon rack that comically fell on top of him. In the trailer Adalia literally lobs an entire lute at some poor bloke’s head. It always feels like you’re toying with your opponents, hitting them all with your finesse and wit. It’s all spectacle, shenanigans, and escapades here in En Garde! Improvise to your heart’s content.
It’s all incredibly campy, and Adalia plays massively into that. With her outfit and bravado, she’s like a queer Zorro – her big, feathered hat and tunic reading masculine but her knee-high boots and pink cape distinctly feminine. I love this gender-bending, this breaking of imaginary rules. You don’t see many women in outsized, comedic roles in games, which is why En Garde! feels incredibly refreshing. Adelia laughs in the face of danger and – I imagine – in the face of anyone who suggests she drop the sword and chucks on a corset and bustle.
I’m so excited to play more of this adventure, and looks like I won’t have to wait long as En Garde comes out August 16th. Also, did anyone else clock the female pirate in the trailer and Steam artwork? Um, yes, please.
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