A couple of weeks ago some guys from a PR firm that are working on behalf of Skara reached out to me and asked if I would like to try the pre-alpha build of Skara and then write up something about the game. Sounded fine to me, and so I gave it a whirl. There wasn’t a huge amount to see, and so I reached back with some Q&A questions for them in order to give myself some material to write about in this Skara hands-on. Presumably they are far too busy right now to respond because I have yet to hear back (although I did confirm that they received the questions). At the very least I will give them the benefit of the doubt in that regard. In any case, I can’t wait any longer.
[Update: less than an hour after publishing this article, the Skara dev Q&A answers arrived via email, like magic!]
The reason I am telling you this is that I wanted to explain why exactly I have had the game in my hands for about a week and a half but am only now posting a hands-on article, three days before the Skara Kickstarter ends. I also wanted to give you an idea of why this Skara hands-on won’t be as extensive as some of the other hands-on article we have done.
It is simply that there is so little to see with the pre-alpha version (or early alpha as the case may be). There are only two maps available and two classes to play. I can run around with some bots playing either deathmatch or team deathmatch, swing my sword or axe while hoping for the best. Beyond that, not much. Check out the gameplay montage that I whipped up in order to see what I mean.
This puts me in a strange position. It really wouldn’t be fair to rag on the game in its current state. It is, after all, an extremely early alpha version that is meant to be a conceptual precursor to the actual alpha test that begins after the Kickstarter concludes. But, at the same time, there really isn’t enough there in order for me to make any strong recommendations about the game either.
So what can I say about the pre-alpha version of the game that is good? Well, the visuals are quite slick, and if the alpha build I am playing is any indication, the final version of Skara should be very pretty to look at. I imagine that will entail a hefty amount of blood splatter given that the combat is heavily melee weapon based (although one of the classes in the game does have a small crossbow that can be used to little effect). This will be even more true given that there are fatality moves in the game, so the really bloodthirsty among you (don’t raise your hands) will appreciate that.
The remainder is hard to judge. For example, the combat feels very clunky and it actually is quite difficult to land a blow on the bots without them getting a swipe in first. This might be partially input delay and partially by design. The Skara Kickstarter states that combat is meant to be more about timing and positioning rather than simply swing weapons blindly.. Thus, what I am experiencing might simply be the early stages of that. I just wish the bots were bound by those same restrictions. It might have helped if I could have figured out how to block, but maybe that isn’t implemented yet.
One thing that worries me about the game is that I am really afraid the matches will simply devolve into big clumps of players trying to land blows on each other and the lucky last man/woman standing is the winner. I really hope that the maps and matches involve way more than simple deathmatch and team deathmatch, because I don’t see those modes working well for more than four players. If the maps had other objectives, such as control points or things to collect, rather than just pure combat, then the players would be spread out and combat could become more meaningful (the Kickstarter page does make it sound like this will be true).
Again, though, all of this is speculation based on a product that is clearly no where near to being representative of the final game. So, honestly, the question of whether or not you should buy into the Skara Kickstarter really comes down to how much you like the sound of Skara vision and what the devs are promising. The idea of factions battling in arenas to conquer territory in a larger overarching metagame sounds cool, but it didn’t really work out that well for Global Agenda (which I played a lot). But, that doesn’t mean the Skara devs won’t do a better job with it, it just means I can’t see it from the pre-alpha build.
So, yeah, I really don’t know what to say about Skara. I apologize for not being more decisive in this case, but in all honesty I wouldn’t feel right about either recommending or not recommending based on what I have played. I can at least say that the concept has tremendous potential. So, do you believe in the Skara vision? Well, with only 3 days and $3500 left in the Skara Kickstarter (as I write this), the Skara devs certainly hope you do. Give it a look, and if you like what you see considering supporting the game.
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