If nothing else, you’ve got to give the Skautfold franchise credit for being unafraid to mix things up. After Skautfold: Shrouded in Sanity introduced the series as a retro-style survival horror, its sequels went on to span the Metroidvania, shooter, and RPG genres. Skautfold: Usurper, the latest release in the series to come to Switch, was the first Metroidvania and boasts key art that’s very reminiscent of Aria of Sorrow. Unfortunately, the game isn’t very good. There are some redeeming elements here, but this isn’t something that we can enthusiastically recommend.
The plot takes place in an alternate 19th-century London, picking up shortly after an alien structure called the Citadel crashed down into the city and began releasing a nefarious ‘Fog’ that drove people insane and turned them into Lovecraftian monsters. You play as Saragat, a dead knight brought back to life by a necromancer named Waltham, who has taken control of Saragat’s body to destroy the keeper of the Citadel and seize its power for himself. Yet, despite the cool premise, the story feels quite poorly written. Dialogue is overall stiff and oddly paced, and it’s difficult to follow the relationships between characters and the vague histories they each present.
Gameplay follows an action-focused Metroidvania template, with a strong scoop of Soulslike influence. Combat is slow and highly lethal, while deaths will result in you dropping all your currently held experience and being sent back to the last checkpoint. The main gimmick here is that you have a tiny amount of health and can be easily two-shot by most enemies, but you have a much larger, rapidly regenerating stamina meter that extends your longevity. Any damage you take will come out of your stamina meter first, but it’s also drained a bit every time you dodge or swing your weapon. It’s an interesting approach to combat, one that could be great in a better game, but here it’s terribly balanced and needlessly punishing.
A big part of this is due to how your character feels rather stagnant throughout the adventure. You can level up all you want, and behind the scenes this probably even affects your stats, but most encounters will still end in you getting wrecked for making one mistake while you do little damage to your foes. Simply put, your character remains pathetically weak, which feels counter to the central idea of Metroidvanias offering extended power fantasies as you make progress.
As for the exploration side of the gameplay, Userper doesn’t fare much better. Though environments are simple to navigate, they don’t really hide any secrets that feel worth chasing. There are new (not necessarily better) weapons and magic stones you can use to level up, but no other gear or items to help shake up gameplay. Worse yet, the map is utterly horrible at communicating information—you might as well just not use it at all.
Pair all of the above with spritework and sound design that feels amateurish, and Skautfold: Usurper ultimately comes off as more of a mid-effort flash game than a properly polished new eShop release. There are flashes of fun every now and then, but none of the ideas or concepts here cohere into something that’s worth your time. If you’re looking for a solid Metroidvania with Soulslike elements, Blasphemous, Hollow Knight, and Salt and Sanctuary all offer up a substantially more polished and enjoyable experience.