Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Remember the multiplayer mode in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast? It inspired a well-known piece of games writing, about the etiquette that its tight, frantic lightsaber duels inspired. Blade Symphony is a whole game built upon that multiplayer mode, with a more nuanced combat system than its obvious inspiration, and a better version of the same spirited community.
After selecting your character and sword type – all real swords, with their own weight and combat style, with many more to unlock alongside the usual comedy hats – you’re dropped into an arena. In dueling mode, that’ll mean queuing in winner-stays-on one-on-one fights. I prefer to play in free-for-all, where people shift across period appropriate dojos, slicing through scenery, getting in messy scraps, and still occasionally breaking off for one-on-one fights in separate rooms.
The fighting system is based around combos and shifting through combat stances. Each move is performed with the keyboard and mouse and it’s graceful to perform and behold: you might start an attack with two quick, light blows, then shift to a heavier stance for a slower, more powerful third strike. Each successive chained attack is more powerful than the last, and the combo persists across shifts in stance. That means you’ll have to learn to mask your intent, hiding stance changes in roll or flip animations. Fights are about out-maneuvering, out-thinking, as well as over-powering.
But really it’s the etiquette that makes me love it. I’m no good at the game, but before each fight, everyone still bows to me as a mark of respect. Afterwards, as I lay crumpled at the feet of my better, my enemy might play an in-game taunt or bow again, but it’s always in good fun. It’s $15/£11 on Steam.