En Garde! Review – A cut above the rest

Reviewed August 20, 2023 on PC




August 17, 2023


Fireplace Games


Fireplace Games

Occasionally, a game pops up out of nowhere and completely surprises you with just how fun it is to play. En Garde! is that very game, announced and then released in a mere few months. It follows a swashbuckling action pirate adventure with a focus on combat. If you’re anything of a geek or admirer of the genre, you should follow its call to arms.

En Garde! follows the tales of Adalia de Volador, a legendary adventurer and hero of the people forgotten in history. Admittedly, the story isn’t all that prevalent and is instead just a means of inviting you into thrilling combat scenarios that feel like set pieces and make good use of the environment. However, across the game’s four chapters, you’ll get into shenanigans such as making a daring prison escape, hunting after noblemen and taking down the many, many lowly guards that stand in your way.

Taking a note out of classic swashbuckling tales such as The Princess Bride where the heroes don’t always play fair, En Garde! is all about being unsportsmanlike in your duels. Littering your environment are plenty of barrels, crates and even chandeliers used to help take down your foes. A well-placed kick of these objects into opponents can stagger them, leaving all the more opportunity for Adalia to slice and dice that enemy to shreds. Dodging, parrying and taking down your enemies with this flair leaves the experience feeling very cinematic and like you’re in your own pirate tale.

It’s an excellent example of combat chess as you flail about, fluidly moving between opponents and trying to wrangle being outnumbered in an environment. A greater challenge comes in the tougher, meatier combatants that are harder to stagger. Pretty soon, you’re heavily focusing on watching out for tells in the means of attacks that can be parried and those that can only be dodged. These guys have a stamina that replenishes if you slip up a dodge or parry, making players learn from their mistakes as the start of the chain of events of whittling down an enemy begins once more.

As someone that has recently been cutting their teeth against Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for the first time, it’s incredibly refreshing to play a game of a similar ilk that requires more experimentation and breathing room. I’m not going to pretend it’s nearly as brutal as there are difficulty options here, but fights in En Garde! can get very close quarters and are hard to keep pace with at times.

When you’ve got the right flow state in-game, it feels like you’re soaring. The world is right there with you in that experience. I was often left in awe of how strong the animation was. Comically nudging an enemy into a brazier and setting them alight or kicking a merc down a flight of stairs is animated as cartoonish and delightfully as you’d expect. My favourite instance of this? Engaging in a fight in a great dining hall and throwing about various pots and jars before locating a chicken and having that land upon a foe’s head, having them blinded and flailing about.

“My least favourite part of En Garde! is that there isn’t more of it.”

The only time that this combat’s quality lets up is when you slowly begin to realise that perhaps the boss encounters that occur at the end of every level aren’t as gimmicky as they could be. They all have similar patterns which eventually are something one can master and they all have several health bars to whittle down. There are slight variations here or there but it mostly boils down to players having to dodge twice in quick succession before getting a hit in prior to a parryable attack. However, it doesn’t matter too much when it feels as good as it does to move about as Adalia.

I mentioned prior the similarities En Garde! shares with The Princess Bride, though I’d be remiss if I also noted how comparable the quips and comedy in-game are to the classic novel and film. Barks and passing comments from enemies constantly surprised me with their simple but clever flair. One instance saw Adalia locked up in a prison cell. Outside that cell, the guards are loudly chatting about how they hope she doesn’t find the secret exit in her cell. When you find this exit (a hole behind a painting) and engage these guards, they exclaim about how surprised they are she found said exit. I could go on and on about these simple, charming throwaway moments of dialogue as I noted many that gave me a chortle. These go a long way for flavour text in the game.

En Garde! is bursting with charm and whimsy. It’s luscious and incredibly colourful, feeling very painterly as you witness seaside forests mesh with castle walls. The interior decor of rooms is also detailed and just as vivid, feeling grandiose in design. So much so that I almost felt disrespectful tearing them apart as I engaged in sword fights. Backing all of this is a soundtrack that hits all the right notes of feeling like a swashbuckling adventure, further investing you in the experience. Indulgently delighting me is that, surprisingly, the game is also just that little bit queer. Seeing Adalia make a rival and then develop a crush on said rival is so cute and made me quite the giddy player.

My least favourite part of En Garde! is that there isn’t more of it. The campaign’s four chapters on medium difficulty took me about three and a half hours to complete and I simply wanted more excuses to engage in some good old set-piece combat. Thankfully, the game’s side arena mode that lets you go through changing environments and waves of enemies with modifiers to your fight feeds this want a little. I’m a firm believer in games that always leave the player wanting more than outstaying their welcome. Though I also just wanted more of its world. I’m hoping for a further fix somewhere down the line.

Developer Fireplace Games are quite the junior studio, with this being their first game that also was originally a student project prototype. To have a debut effort be this solid is impressive, and I’m hoping the team are incredibly proud of En Garde! and go on to make even more ambitious and fun to play titles in the future.




  • Fun to learn and creative combat that lets players take advantage of their environment
  • Animation is charmingly cartoonish and over the top
  • Full of quips and surprisingly fun writing akin to The Princess Bride
  • A painterly world backed by a thrilling, adventurous soundtrack
  • It's surprisingly queer!


  • Bosses could have used more unique mechanics
  • There isn't more of it!

Out of nowhere, En Garde! is a surprise hit and a swashbuckling tale well worth playing. Engaging in fights, whether that’s one-on-one or being outnumbered as you navigate an environment, using many obstacles and contraptions is immensely fun. Complimenting all of this is a painterly world, backed with a strong soundtrack, clever dialogue quips and a lot of heart. My biggest gripe with En Garde! is that there isn’t more of it, something I so desperately need. As iron and steel collide in tense frantic battles or as you send your hundredth mook careening down a flight of stairs, one thing becomes apparent: Fireplace Games have made a hell of an unbelievably charming and special game.