Skald: Against the Black Priory stirs the emotional memories of retro RPGs

February 12, 2024
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When is the magical turning point in time that something considered old becomes cool again? I ask because I just enabled a CRT filter in Skald: Against the Black Priory and I squealed with joy to see it. Distortedly curved edges: phwoar – who knew? What’s strange is that I can distinctly remember when I binned CRTs off in favour of flat screens, wondering in wide-eyed awe at the visible corners of my screen. I didn’t think then that I’d ever go back. And yet now: squeal! So old it’s cool again.

It’s not the only element of old that Skald: Against the Black Priory plays on. Really, the whole thing is dressed to evoke exactly that feeling, specifically for the C64 crowd. If you played an RPG there, or thereabouts, you’ll know this. You’ll know the turn-based combat, you’ll know the text-driven adventuring, you’ll know the interface with the empty spaces, which yearn for companions to fill them. You’ll also know the look, and as with the CRT filter, the game doesn’t hold back – there’s even the option to enable a faithful C64 colour palette if you wish.

But there’s a cleverness underneath. This isn’t a one-to-one recreation because, if it were, chances are you’d find it quite annoying to play. What’s appealing is the emotional memory; your mind has worn away the aggravating edges of old experiences over time, like a stone tumbling smooth in the sea. That’s what these retro games have to be: smoothed memories.

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