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En Garde! Review: A Rebel Hero (PC)

En Garde! is an experience that gives the player lightning-fast combat with a comical story to back it up. An experience that though fleeting, will have you hoping for more. A great take on classical theater and swashbuckling, it's sure to make a great hit for any action-adventure fans looking for something short and sweet!

En Garde! Review: A Rebel HeroTaking on the role of a vigilante on their way to freeing their town, En Garde! treats its players to a lightning-fast hack-and-slash adventure. Filled with colorful characters and unique combat, it’s bound to give you a fun four to six-hour experience! En Garde! maintains a message of doing what’s right can come from a personal level; emphasizing truth, justice, and integrity. As a swashbuckling protagonist in classical times, Adalina de Volador serves the people! Adalina’s fiery words and wit will make any gamer smile, and her personality is refreshing.

With a cartoon approach to a serious topic, it’s a great way to introduce a younger audience to classical theater-style cinema. It captures dramatic flare and energizing combat, molding them into something unique and wholesome. Bright colors, a simple story, and a comical cast will leave you begging for more. Despite the length, En Garde! provides a gateway into alternative thinking and clear black-and-white ideas. This is a hilarious romp, a decent fighting game, and an elegant case study on greed. The Count-Duke acts as a perfect example of a good villain made simple; he has simple views and acts human. They prove that dictators don’t have to be scary, and villains don’t have to kill. To maintain his image, he abused the government institutions required to run a city. It would be cool to see more of these villains, their stories, and Adalina de Volaodor!

Check out En Garde! on Steam today for $19.99!

This review may contain spoilers.

En Garde! - Reveal Trailer

Story – Thrilling Swashbuckling

It’s clear that En Garde! sticks to its guns in every way, mixing unique Spanish scenery with a dynamic tale of self-truth and justice. A villain’s exaggerated faults give them a sense of identity, so we can see ourselves in them. These masks tell a self-evident truth: Peace must be won by everyone, or corruption will triumph. Between the potency of this message and the flare of our protagonist, Adalia de Volador, En Garde! presents a thrilling adventure for all ages.

You’ll walk through the streets of her hometown, ravaged by the local military’s strict taxes, break out of prison, and swiftly make your way towards freeing the people. All the while you’ll come across several antagonistic forces, including your awe-struck brother who also seeks fame and glory! A warden whose brutality is beyond measurability, and the main antagonist themselves, the count-duke, and his many minions. All the while trying to fend off her desired lover from stealing the treasure for herself!

Notable in every aspect of En Garde! is the intention to entertain, from beginning to end, and though short and to the point, is a thriller. The story is helped along by potent set pieces such as explosives and torches which suggest the malevolent nature of the military. Fighting everyone from recruit guards to well-trained fencers, well-trained to battle your way to the top in 2023’s newest hack-and-slash adventure!

El Vigilante, your brother and one sided rival

El Vigilante, your brother and one-sided rival

Constructive Morals

It goes without saying that En Garde! has morality accents that go from simple ethics down into outright philosophical outlooks. They have the clear stance that vigilantism and doing what’s right on a personal basis is more reliable than trusting outside sources. It is a sentiment that rings out from beginning to end as you see the constantly painted picture of corrupt guards and government. There are signs of how these strong forces rule out of fear, though are humanized through their social interactions. The evil and undertones are greatly watered down by a comical air that makes the story refreshing. En Garde! allows itself to not only say what it needs to say but does so without taking itself too seriously, a point some developers should take notes on.

Meet the Protagonist, Adalia de Volador

Adalia de Volador can be described as many things in the brief amount of time we have to spend with her. She is a swashbuckler of unrivaled caliber, a hopeless romantic, and a vigilante with a heart of gold! Evoking the power of charisma and skill, our hero sees inspiration from characters such as Edmond Dantes, and Donkey Jotee. Using elements from Zoro and the redistribution of wealth like Robin Hood. It’s clear that the designers paid attention when crafting her.

Every aspect of her character represents the qualities she seeks to instill. She is a swift and brash fighter; taking no time to issue duels to settle a problem over depending on a fractured system. Holding the weight of her sword over the weight of another word, vibrating and the essence of how many young adults feel entering the world. Despite taking place in a classical era, Adalia de Volador holds modern sentiments of equality, self-identity, and self-evidence. 

Use of Environment is fundamental to En Garde!

Use of Environment is fundamental to En Garde!

Meet the Antagonists, Count-Duke, and Co

While on your adventure, you’ll need someone to aim your sword at, and Count-Duke and his minions have you covered. He demands high taxes in exchange for corrupt guards and poor treatment. The sheer size of his army and the skill of his blade are his only motivations. Burning unflattering images of himself instead of shrugging them off. Although he may seem terrifying, he is actually just an insecure military officer trying to make a name for himself. He employs hundreds of soldiers, guards, and fencers. He’s even hired a foreign fencer who is also trying to make a name for himself. The city of Adalia’s people will be kept from their hard-earned riches by these enemies.

Meet the Wildcards

Along her way, Adalia will also be forced to cross swords with both her brother and her crush in an attempt to save the city. Her brother is a fame-obsessed amateur swordsman who in himself grows throughout the story, coming to his sister’s aid at the end. He goes by El Vigilante, and means well, trying to make a name for himself and keep his sister safe. Finally, you will have to fight with her crush who will use Adalias heart against her in an attempt to steal the people’s taxes for her own. She is a pirate and thief and also comes around to help Adalia towards the end of the story. Acting as light-hearted extensions to the story, they will break up the more serious interactions and offer a bit of wholesomeness where needed.

Gameplay – Lightning Paced

En Garde! is primarily a hack-and-slash adventure that focuses on your environment and timing to overcome enemies. Mixing throwable items, kicks, and environmental hazards with timing-based attacks, parries, and dashes creates a unique experience. It’s not hard to get into En Garde! especially given the fact its tutorial goes over everything in a traditional arcade-like experience.

Lackeys, one of the many enemies in En Garde!

Lackeys, one of the many enemies in En Garde!

Technical Merits

While En Garde! presents itself as a simple hack-and-slash game with the story being at the front of its value; the combat system is intense and enjoyable. Offering cinematic swordsmanship and fluent movement that makes you feel like an accomplished fighter. The animation and sound quality are nothing less than stellar leaving it with only one major issue; the game comes out to be very short. With a bit more content and added features this game could have an incredible experience waiting at its price margin. 

Use of the Environment

Using your environment is the key to your survival against multiple combatants in En Garde! Crates, explosives, environmental fire, and more interesting weapons like chandeliers and rope swings will keep you entertained. Kicking a man down some stairs or throwing a crate in their direction is highly cinematic. Even though the objects are interesting, they aren’t the only way to improve. Actions that would ordinarily be absent from fighting games shine brightly here as a testament to the innovation of their craft!

Timing-Based Attacks

This game’s combat relies heavily on timing, parrying, dodging, and knowing when to attack. As combat is a dance that is best suited to the patient, one has to learn their measure before they can excel in this game. Having said that, En Garde! is also a game that prides itself on being daring. Testing the player to try new things and taking the mechanics to new heights. Remember that your game will give you prompts, and reducing the amount of damage taken will assist you in the best of ways!

The targeting system helps you in this harsh combat system

The targeting system helps you in this harsh combat system

There are three main features to the game itself that sets up how the player can enjoy themselves. Firstly is the story mode with a rich cast of characters and challenging levels. Secondly is the Challenge mode which will keep the player on their toes through waves of enemies. Finally, there is the exploration feature of finding hidden collectibles and learning about the rich lore of the game. 

Story Mode – Short but Impactful

En Garde!’s story is by definition, extremely short. The levels were designed to be completed in thirty minutes or less, and only amount to about four chapters. There isn’t much replayability outside of the initial playthrough or finding all the collectibles once. It feels like it needs more, such as a second story or more casting to spread out the events. After several deaths and exploring, I beat the game in about four hours.

Despite the short nature of the game, En Garde! Hosts some of the most enjoyable swashbuckling action of the modern console age. Using timing and a simple pallet of attacks and counters to create an intensive hack and slash without a high skill curve. A massive amount of the game is timing and environmental objects such as crates, explosive barrels, and throwable items. Players have multiple options to complete the goal, which would fit well with a story with more open-ended responses. Based on achievements, each of the four major parts of the story could be completed in thirty minutes. 

Exploration – A Neat Attempt

While En Garde! has the ability to explore for collectibles, but it doesn’t really do much for you. Typical of it, it gives us brief glimpses into a world we don’t get to see much of, so most of it is utterly pointless. While the lore notes are appreciated, they also paint a picture of what came before the world got where it is now. History gathering is hard in games like En Garde! so I’m giving it a pass, but it’s something I can’t get behind enough to finish.

Parrying system

Parrying system

Challenge Mode – Arcade Nostalgia

For a more traditional arcade experience that shows off the mechanics of En Garde! try the challenge mode. In this mode, you go through waves of survival in an arena, each stronger than the last. You can choose from three difficulties, which add another two hours to the game, though I took three because of deaths. At the end of the challenge mode, you get to fight one of the three major bosses with your favorite characters. Watcher, Ziria, and Count-Duke can all be fought, and they’re making much more pointed attempts to beat you.

Pricing – Steam

My personal opinion is that games should charge based on the amount of experience they provide. A full-priced game should have a run time that merits the playtime. Purchasing a seventy-dollar game should give the player a forty-hour experience at the very least. En Garde! charges itself at 19.99 USD. For a game that gives you about four hours of gameplay, this is a steep price. If they add more content, at least another five hours, the price is still reasonable.

It’s clear a lot of technical work went into the product, and the creators are proud of their work, as they should be. However, it feels under-done, with a story that’s left lacking, making the player want more from the title. With the inclusion of potential updates, or free DLC, the twenty-dollar price point would be more than agreeable. Unfortunately with so little to offer the title runs the grim risk of becoming a collection sitter, finished, and never revisited. 

Kicking is an essential function of En Garde! Helping mix up opponents with items and knock back

Kicking is an essential function of En Garde! Helping mix up opponents with items and knock back

Graphics – Bright and Refreshing

En Garde! has taken clear inspiration from historic Renaissance plays. The wardrobe, set, and props tell the story of a person in their position rather than a simple NPC. Their combat is limited, and their exploration holds a straight path, En Garde! fills it with color, artwork, and subliminal messaging. Renaissance designers use every ounce of creative talent when designing characters, weapons, and scenery. Using cartoony designs to keep the entire game grounded in a sense of arcade gesture rather than political discourse. 

Sound – Musically and Thematically Inspired

In terms of music, En Garde! boasts a soundtrack that both fits the theme of the game itself and adds an element of rhythm to the timing system. It is easy to tell that the Fireplace Games took notes from games like Dark Souls, incorporating music in such a way that it keeps the player entrenched at the moment. Swordsmanship as a whole requires these rhythms and throughout history, it’s been a substantial training tool. One game developer has been reimplementing into modern games and En Garde! accomplishes it perfectly!

The gameplay’s general sound and audio quality are impressive, smooth, and free of lag or issues. Both the sound and gameplay of the title maintain an air of professional polish; being smooth as butter all the way through. The voice actors do their job well, capturing the culture of the game perfectly through witty comebacks and proper period accents. They maintain the fluidity of the gameplay, and present themselves in the comical play-like fashion that En Garde! has mastered.

En Garde! was played on PC with a key provided by icopartners.com.

Despite wishing there was more to do in En Garde!, I understand how a short title can be frustrating. Hopefully, with time, more will be added to this title to make it worth the twenty-dollar price tag. Thanks to En Garde!, I was able to play this wonderful story, no matter how short it was! It has a story worth telling. Maybe we’ll see more of our new favorite swash-buckling protagonist, maybe not; but I for one hope so!
  • Smooth combat
  • Compelling protagonist
  • Interesting story and setting
  • Exciting level structure
  • Extremely short
  • Not much replayability factor

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