The Skylia Prophecy is an action-platformer from Totalconsole that manages to rise above the average through its quirks and charm. What it lacks in deep combat and responsive controls, it makes up for with an experience that’s surprising and unexpectedly ambitious – at least more so than the many, many action-platformer games that trundle through our office.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first, as some of it is glaring, and you will have to accept the faults if you’re going to get anything from the game.
The Skylia Prophecy feels like it was once a fully-featured combat game that had most of its moves removed. You get a simple sword attack, but that attack can’t be aimed upward, and you can’t kneel and attack to hit smaller creatures. If you want to hit flying stuff – and Skylia loves its fliers – you’ll need to back away, face their direction and jump and hit, hoping you time it right.
The only other attack is a bizarre magic-shieldwall, for want of a better term. You can create a flaming barrier in front of you that acts as a shield, but also fries any critter that walks into it. This is how you kill those smaller creatures we mentioned, but you have to stand still and wait for them to come to you, which can take a while. If they’re scarpering in the other direction, it’s difficult to get them, and you can’t cast it mid-air, so you’re completely vulnerable whenever you’re jumping. It doesn’t even look like an attack, so you’re left bemused when the tutorial asks you to kill something that’s shin-height.
As the game goes on, you’ll unlock a few special moves, but they’re limited by your mana, so you’re saving them up rather than using them. They all add up to an extremely limited roster of moves, yet you’re confronted by enemies that fly, bounce and attack below sword-height, so you will often feel woefully ill-equipped. It’s like Mario being chucked into Gears of War and being told to have it. We’d play it, but we can’t help wondering why the moves don’t match the challenge in front of us.
There’s no getting round it: the poor move-set nearly kills The Skylia Prophecy. But learn to adapt, making the best of the moves you have, and there’s a quirky and flawed action platformer to be had here.
One of The Skylia Prophecy’s greatest successes is how it lays out its world. You’ll be making your way from town to town, adventuring through swamps, deserts and forests which are dotted with dungeons. These dungeons are mostly optional, though, and you can jump in to grab additional health, mana or even moves. Making whole chunks of your game optional is a bold move, yet the dungeons are often where the fun lies, with door puzzles, mazy portal networks, as well as bosses.
These bosses – often the Achilles Heel of these kinds of games – are well-designed and varied. One of the best of them features a shield that protects a core, while an axe chases you. It felt original because the boss battle was so slow-paced, as we tentatively moved around the shield, looking for the occasional opening to chip away at its health. It was more patient than we’ve come to expect from these games, and it was a breath of fresh air.
The Skylia Prophecy tries out a few other things to mixed results, but we’re mostly just pleased to see some innovation. There’s a quest system that has the frustrating habit of sending you backwards rather than forwards, to dungeons you’ve already cleared. But we found them welcome, as they made The Skylia Prophecy feel a little less linear.
The story’s an odd beast too. Everything is front-loaded into an incredibly dense title scrawl, and you seem to be playing a grumpy warrior who will either save the world from demons or doom it. Skylia then kicks the story to the curb, largely not exploring it until it info-dumps on you with the arrival of your foster-aunt. She pops up and occasionally reminds you that there was a story in the first place.
Pace-wise, The Skylia Prophecy gets a lot right. It’s roughly four hours long, and new enemies, terrain types and dungeons keep coming at a decent cadence. We weren’t bored at any point, and you can’t ask for much more than that for the launch price of £5.79. Achievements avalanche onto you, and you’ll get the full 1000G before you reach the halfway mark.
There will be a couple of different reactions to The Skylia Prophecy on the Xbox. Anyone who expects decent action from their action platformers, with responsive controls and a powerful set of moves, is going to be disappointed and should probably back away. But those who persist past the flaws will find something well-paced, surprisingly non-linear and flecked with good ideas.
You can buy The Skylia Prophecy from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S