En Garde! Review

Check out our review of En Garde! to find out what we thought about dueling guards and trading quips as a swashbuckling heroine.

The quickest way I can sell you on En Garde! is to say that it’s like Monkey Island’s insult sword fighting – but with actual sword fighting. The comedy is there, the theme is there – except this time you get to slide across a table, toss a mandolin at a guard, and kick his surprised buddy down the stairs.

En Garde! Review

In En Garde!, you play as a spirited 17th-century swashbuckler named Adalia de Volador, who defies the tyranny of the Count-Duke in an unnamed Spanish city. Across four humor-laced episodes, she stabs, parries, and kicks her way into foiling the Count-Duke’s plans of oppression.

En Garde! overflows with charm, and its small cast of characters inspires many a laugh. You have Adalia’s bumbling brother Alejandro, her pirate crush Zaida, and the ever-furious, ever-scheming Count-Duke; all of whom have been voiced with a theatrical flourish befitting the game’s theme.

This is not to diminish the work done on developing the common enemies, with each type having its own fighting technique and personality.

En Garde! Review

In the chaos of the game’s sprawling combat, Adalia frequently trades quips with her foes, which organically develop into a dynamic conversation. Enemies react to Adalia’s moves, and she trades back sleek repartées – pulling me into the game’s vision of capturing the swashbuckling combat from classic adventure movies.

In keeping with this cinematic influence, the combat gameplay functions very differently from how you would expect your typical action game to work.

Beating enemies isn’t much of a challenge in itself – you simply have to time your parries well to break your enemies’ poise and then stab them a few times to knock off their health points. The real challenge in En Garde! isn’t the individual enemies, however – it’s that your enemies are unafraid to cover each other.

En Garde! Review

While most games have your mobbing enemies politely take turns to attack you, En Garde! takes a very different approach. Here, your enemies cover each other, so that you’re prevented from focusing on one enemy without another enemy countering you.

The solution to this menace is to fight as movie swashbucklers do – with a lot of movement, distraction, and environmental tactics. Toss a bag of chili powder, lob a bucket on someone’s head, kick the table your enemy is standing on – these are just some of the maneuvers expected of you as you dash across the arena, swinging from ropes and bringing down chandeliers.

En Garde! Review

These moves stun your enemies, but the key to mastering En Garde’s combat is learning that you must not go after the stunned enemies. Rather, you must use the distraction to your advantage and focus on the lone enemy who’s not stunned and is no longer being covered by their buddies.

It took a good long while for this to seep in for me. The promise of a sprawling, quick-on-your-feet fight is enticing, but I found that in practice, I tried too hard to duel ‘fairly’ and take enemies head-on. The result was that I died. A lot.

En Garde! Review

En Garde! is, make no mistake, a brutally difficult game. The combat timings are very brief, so if you decide to parry when you should dodge, or vice versa, you don’t get an opportunity to correct that mistake. 

Adalia also has to make do with a paltry six health points through the entire game, each point corresponding to one hit. This is a game that not only demands finesse, but is outright impossible to beat without it.

En Garde! Review

Thankfully, for those of us who can’t quite keep up, the game offers an invincibility mode in its accessibility options. I wonder if I’d have been able to complete some of the game’s more challenging boss fights without it. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for using it, so I recommend using it just to make sure you don’t quit on a game that’s loaded with charm.

En Garde! is also helped by how gorgeous it looks. A particularly delightful touch is how distant vistas in the game dissolve into daubs of paint. It’s a beautiful game to look at, and it also controls deftly on a gamepad. No matter how many times I died, I kept on diving back in, hoping to do things differently this time.

En Garde! Review

Brimming with perfectly tuned jokes and shining spick-and-span with polish, En Garde! is a confident, but punishingly hard, action game. Thankfully, the game’s invincibility mode makes this an easy recommendation for anyone interested in a rollicking, charming, and outright funny adventure.

Developer: Fireplace Games
Country of Origin: France
Publisher: Fireplace Games
Release Date: August 16, 2023 (PC)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review of En Garde! is based on a copy of the game provided by the developer. The PC version of En Garde! was played for this review.

Thank you for reading our review of En Garde! Already playing the game? Be sure to check out our walkthrough, which covers all the points of interest and secrets in the game!

For other interesting articles about indie games, be sure to check out the links below.

This Article was written by: Rahul Shirke