PC Games skald against the black priory game

Published on June 1st, 2024 | by Branden Zavaleta

SKALD: Against the Black Priory Review

SKALD: Against the Black Priory Review Branden Zavaleta

Summary: SKALD is loving, expertly crafted, niche experience. It's Commodore 64 games and H.P. Lovecraft stories, so you'll have the best experience if you love both.


Golden Age Love Letter

The industry-wide disrupter that was (and still is) Baldur’s Gate 3 has brought a lot of attention to the CRPG genre. Smaller studios like Owl Cat and their recent release Rogue Trader have been enjoying riding that wave, and hopefully the new fans also turn their attention to indie CRPGs too, like SKALD: Against the Black Priory

SKALD: Against the Black Priory is the creation of Anders Lauridsen, and has been a long time coming. In 2018, SKALD was conceived of as a pen-and-paper roleplaying system– a Skald was the norse poet who would tell of warrior’s heroic deeds, just as the system was designed to. But Against the Black Priory was born in 2019 with a Kickstarter and some crude pixel art. Miraculously, it was funded within 24 hours, and Lauridsen received double what he was asking for, but it’s been a long road leading to this final release (it was originally planned for 2020).

skald the weathermaiden

The final release is exceptionally well polished, and you can almost believe that it was made in the 80s and released alongside Ultima 5 and The Magic Candle. From its limited, charmingly-garish colour palette, to its crunchy music, to its arcane systems it’s attentively old school. More than anything, SKALD is a love letter to Lauridsen’s childhood playing on the Commodore 64 and reading H.P Lovecraft stories– fans will notice nods to The Colour Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a major inspiration for the first section of the main narrative. 

But because it relies so heavily on lovecraftian horror, which has crystallised in the public consciousness, it lacks terrifying potency. We’ve seen these stories before, and it’s far from a grimdark nightmare by today’s standards– with a few exceptions, like a chilling image of mould-eaten children in a well– and fear junkies will find that disappointing and backwards; If you’ve played Fear and Hunger, you’ll find SKALD to be more of a charming fantasy adventure than a horror. Similarly, the mechanics and systems haven’t adapted to today’s innovations– the cooking system being a pleasant exception to this, but you’ll also deal with annoyances like stopping to switch characters for skills checks. The result is some of that old-school frustration that you feel when wrestling with the random encounters and fiddly systems of golden age RPGs– and whether you like that is a question of masochism.

mother katak skald

But if you want a nostalgic, lovingly-crafted, lovecraftian, golden age RPG, SKALD: Against the Black Priory is perfect. There’s intrigue, branching narratives, charming character interactions, great monster designs, and even some choose-your-own-adventure style sections. If you love the style, you’ll have a lot of fun with it. You can stay up late, turn on the CRT filter, crack open a Mr Pibb, and uncover what foul abomination is corrupting The Outer Isles.


About the Author


Branden Zavaleta is a freelance games writer from Australia. He loves Breath of the Wild, Disco Elysium and Dragon Quest VIII. And aside from games, he loves hiking, playing tennis and a visit to the movie theatre.

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