En Garde!

Review: En Garde!

If you’re reading this, you likely know how many big, triple-A video game releases have hit our consoles and PCs this year. It’s been hard to keep up as a gamer, and as a developer, it’s easy to get lost in the mix.

In a sea of large-scale, self-serious, and RPG-heavy titles, every once in a while, I find it refreshing to take a breather or experience a little light-hearted fun. Thankfully, En Garde! is now available and for me, it was just what the gaming doctor ordered.

The third-person action game is a bright, friendly take on duelling and close combat fighters. It borrows ideas from other titles like the Batman Arkham series and turns them into a funny, charming, beautiful, and challenging time. Fireplace Games may be small, but this title is mighty and hopefully is not lost in the massive sea of 2023 games.

Here To Save The Day!

You play as the sword-wielding hero Adalia de Volador, a female protagonist who feels like she’s part Robin Hood, part Prince of Persia. A fun and deadly combo! Adalia is trying to give back to the poor and uncover a conspiracy within the palace walls surrounding her city in 17th-century Spain.

The setup is pretty straightforward, but how it’s executed is where the real unfolds. Humour is front and centre in En Garde! From your hero’s quips when fighting, when you defeat a henchman, they’ll say things like “Oh, I’m just resting,” or when you are defeated, Adalia comments, “That’s not the real story.” There’s wit and charm at every turn. Character designs, locations, and dialogue are excellent and harkens back to a simpler time in games when the XBOX 360 and PS3 dominated the landscape. Shorter, self-contained, and unique games were being told more often.


I Challenge You To a Duel! En Garde!

En Garde! draws inspiration, uses some familiar mechanics, and slices its path with new and creative ideas. It may look like a clone of the Arkham series with parry or dodge indicators on enemies, followed up with attacks. And while that is part of the game, En Garde! prefers a playground of fun and playfulness titles like that don’t always provide.

As Adalia, you’ll mostly be walking into mini arena-like locations with several henchmen, captains, and duelists ready to take you down. As one of the best sword fighters around, she’s ready for anything; that’s where the creativity comes in. It’s time to unlock your creativity, grace, and gusto!

The baddies have a range of characteristics: Simple swordsmen take a couple of swipes to take down, and the next level up, they have some more armour and a stagger meter, but further into the game, it’s all about timing and precision as captains can only be dazed and damaged by parrying multiple times in a row. While there may not be 50 different enemies to take down, there’s enough to chew on throughout the game, especially when you run into the handful of boss fights.


A Rewarding and Creative Approach

En Garde! isn’t just one-on-one or small-scale action either; the game throws quite a bit at you in later stages. Each blocked-off area has boxes to climb, ropes to swing on, chandeliers to crash to the floor, and several objects you can throw. These range from pots to lanterns and even buckets that will get stuck on an enemy’s head while you slice and dice. To survive, you must use anything you can, as the gameplay can be pretty challenging. You’re also equipped with a fun kick move that can stagger and provide momentary relief and a chance to regroup.

I found it incredibly fun (while also being chaotic) to hop over tables, cut down a chandelier, light a cannon, swing across the arena, and slice down soldiers as I went. I felt and looked like Zorro, and it kicked a ton of 17th-century butt! Adalia also has three “special” moves: a sweeping strike, a lunging stab, and a strong kick move. These are all unlocked after defeating a few enemies and can help turn the tide in battle.

The latter stages (especially the showdown) are pretty tricky as well. I had to reload and retry some areas 5-10 times before I perfected my approach. I was able to adapt as I progressed through En Garde! and that was the beauty of the simple but also complex systems at work. You can’t approach fights with a straightforward, aggressive attack; using a varied and methodical approach is always more effective and fun.


Each stage is also chock-full of world-building and context through small text snippets. Adalia will find a note or check out a board of “plans” by the ruling Duke or even items on a bookshelf or chair referencing classic games and movies, including an excellent Puss in Boots discovery. Secret areas can also be discovered, giving you another chance to chuckle at the hilarious writing and voice acting.

None of these give you any boosts or stat upgrades, but they’re there to provide a better sense of what this fun and charming world is all about. En Garde! is a pretty short game, but it’s still doing enough to make me want to learn more about these witty characters.

An Arena mode is also available from the main menu. This is where you can fight through a series of arenas where buffs and nerfs are added to you and the enemies. These are compounded each time you progress, putting your skills to the test. I jumped into the first one early on and was not ready. Once I completed the 4-5 hours campaign, my skills were honed, and my charm was on full display as I parried and sliced my way through some of the more challenging encounters.


En Garde! feels like a charming look back at games many of us fell in love with 15-20 years ago while bringing its charm and flavour into the mix. It may be short, but it packs a great punch.

The mechanics are more profound than they first appear, with variety being the spice of life throughout the game. Creativity and fun is the key to unlocking what En Garde! has to offer, and I found it to be an excellent-looking and feeling title that can provide a brief break from the overwhelming triple-A release schedule of 2023.


[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PC

En Garde!
En Garde! is a joy to play, bringing charming and creative combat. It allows you to unlock your inner Zorro and quip and slice your way through henchman with grace.
Tight and creative gameplay
Charming and witty banter
Battle "arenas" are varied and encourage creativity
Didn't Like
A little too short