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Early Access: Skara: The Blade Remains

Usually when it comes to reviewing games, the team here at Level-Clear will either get hold of a title on its launch day, or a publisher might be kind enough to send us one a couple of days in advance. In either case, we only ever tend to play releases that are finished, polished and ready for shipping.

So when the team at 8-bit Studio offered to send us some keys for their latest project (still currently in its pre-alpha stage) we jumped at the chance. And have since been enjoying an exciting, early look at ‘Skara: The Blade Remains.’

Skara Blade Remains

First and foremost, what’s impressive about Skara is that its genre is totally unique. At its core it’s a versus fighting game, complete with combos, counters and even MK-style ‘fatalities’. But rather than limiting combat to two players at a time, the team have made the ambitious decision to allow up to sixteen players to duke it out simultaneously on the same map. The result is a whole new genre: an ‘MOV’, or ‘Multiplayer Online Versus.’

The narrative which frames the game’s combat, is one of an inter-race war in the world of Skara. The five groups that inhabit the land’s distinctly different biomes have always been at each other’s throats, but a comet crashing into the nearby sun has disrupted the ecosystem, and now the planet is wracked with earthquakes and other frequent, natural disasters. Now, the various races are fighting for both their survival, and what’s left of an increasingly unstable planet.

Skara Blade Remains

At the moment only two of five planned races are playable in the Steam 0.3.0 build, and consist of the Ork-like ‘Khärn’, and the fantasy/human race, the ‘Durno.’ Each offers their own distinct fighting style however, with the former sporting a vicious, jagged war-club, and the later opting for a more traditional sword/shield combo.

Gameplay takes place in third-person and allows you free control of the camera whilst moving about the map. Move close enough to an enemy however, and your character will automatically face them as combat ensues. As you might imagine, this is one of Skara’s most important elements, and the team has done an excellent job creating a system that feels intuitive, and easy to get to grips with.

Skara Blade Remains

Your three basic attacks consist of left, right and vertical strikes, and various combinations of each of these string together combos. Pressing and holding any one of these will also initiate a special power attack. You can sprint with RT/Shift, and hitting one of your three basic attacks whilst doing so will execute a dash attack (a great way to jump into the fray fast.)

You can even counter with a well-timed button press (if you’ve got your guard up), and if you’ve sufficiently damaged an enemy you‘ll have an opportunity to perform one of several different fatalities. These switch the camera to a more cinematic view as a brutal finishing animation plays out and your opponent is mercilessly cut down.

The Durno also have an additional, ranged attack in the form of a small, golden crossbow. Which at the moment inflicts ludicrous amounts of damage, but we imagine this will have been properly balanced by the time Skara sees its final release.

Skara Blade Remains

The Zem Moorlands and the Lava Coliseum are the two playable maps right now, and are where the game really begins to shine. Skara’s arenas are nothing short of staggeringly beautiful. What the team have achieved with the Unreal 4 engine in just a few months is really, very impressive. The lighting effects in particular are a real highlight, and make for some beautiful landscapes and maps. But whilst it’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been poured into Skara’s visuals, the game is still far from finished and a significant amount of work remains to be done before a final build is released to the public.

So, what can we expect from the finished product? Well, assuming the game reaches it’s Kickstarter goal of $35,000, we can look forward to a generous amount of exciting content. This should include a total of five races, five arenas (plus a coliseum for 1v1 fights and tournaments), customisable move sets and fatalities as well as customisable characters. Even crafting, training, story modes and a scenario editor are all on the cards if the goal is met/exceeded.

Skara Blade Remains

In short, Skara is shaping up to be an impressively ambitious project. With unique gameplay and stunning visuals, it’s a game which absolutely deserves to be funded and seen through to completion. What’s more, on final release it will be completely free to play. Kickstarter backers will receive any money they’ve pledged back in in-game currency, as well as getting their name in the credits for giving anything more than $1. It’s definitely a title to keep an eye on, and if all goes well we can even expect to see a console release on the Xbox One.

The team is hoping for a public Early Access launch this September, but for more information in the meantime you can check out the official Skara website.

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

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