Touted as “the most authentic sword-fighting game in years”, Hellish Quart is a physics based sword fighting game. Aiming to simulate 17th Century swordsmanship, the game strives for realism in that all it takes to end a fight is a single well placed cut. As a result fights can end in seconds or go on for minutes if neither opponent can land a successful hit.
At the moment the game offers you the choice between the powerful swings of the longsword, the fast and choppy saber (available in 3 different fighting styles) or the lunging precision of the rapier. Getting used to the different styles and appreciated the advantages and drawbacks of each match up. The rapier out ranges the other swords but has a tendency to only inflict minor cuts. The saber as you’d expect is a cutting sword with few options to stab instead relying on brutal close cuts. Finally the longsword, historically the oldest style of weapon, sits somewhere between the two. It is the heaviest blade of the lot making turning aside it’s blows difficult.
Everything feels very responsive as moves can be instantaneously cancelled or flow into the next one. What’s more, moves are contextual to where the blade is and the stance of the fighter, meaning some naturally flow together while others require more time in between due to the physical constraints of the human body. For instance one cross cut might flow into another but executing a lunge and extending the body and blade to the extent of their reach might require a step back to recover before another move can be executed with any effectiveness.
The controls are very accessible with the four symbol buttons handling attacks and the bumpers allowing grabs and pushes. Thankfully blocking is handled automatically allowing you to focus on your positioning. Of course the ai that handles blocking is not full proof and so keeping out of range and being mindful of whether an attack will leave you open to reprisal is key. The developers have stated that this is not a fighting game about frame analysis or finding the single best combo but instead understanding the immediate context of the fighters relative to each other.
The game does feature a hidden stamina system and executing a mad flurry of blows can leave your character tired and sluggish. While in my low-skilled experience bullrushing your opponent with a flurry of blows can work, if they have the space to retreat simply back stepping until you tire out will reward them with a fine opening. Additionally non-lethal wounds can sometimes hamper your limbs leaving you unable to quicky reposition or swing with much speed.
The game has a clear passion for historical sword craft and is tilting at realism, combining mocapped animations with authentic 17th century polish fashio. The physics based elements of the animations add a certain goofy charm. Some times blades will clash in a steel ballet that would make Errol Flynn jealous and in others you’ll be reminded of the time you and your brother set about destroying each other’s knuckles with plastic lightsabers. Having said that, the game does feature a practice mode where you literally whack each other with wooden swords.
Having played Hellish quart for a few hours now, I’m happy to say it feels like a fine addition to the roster of party games I keep within my steam collection. There is a story mode in the works and I think I’ll dip back into it from time to time as new characters and weapons are added but for me, I think the real joy of this game will come from demanding satisfaction from my friends.
As a final note, the game does feature Steam Remote Play, allowing friends to jump in and play without having a copy of the game themselves. However my friends have reported a varying amount of lag on their end. I’m not sure if this is my internet connection (20mb down/8mb up) or something inherent in the game. That said this is my only disappointment with the game as it stands.
For more traditional fighting game content you can check out why Gav thinks Guilty Gear Strive is 2021’s most important fighting game or Nevi’s review of Street Fighter comics here. This has nothing to do with Strive at all (though you can expect more from me on that game) but you can also read my review of a Star Wars book.