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Video Game / Skul: The Hero Slayer

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Skul: The Hero Slayer is an action-platformer developed by South Korean independent video game studio SouthPAW Games and published by NEOWIZ that boasts roguelike features such as ever-changing and challenging maps. It initially released on PC through Steam Early Access in February 2020, with the 1.0 version made available in January 2021.

In the continent of Harmonia, humans and demons have coexisted peacefully. One day, however, the Carleon Empire breaks that peace treaty. Adventurers, who have always attacked the Demon King's castle and failed, teams up with the Imperial Army and the 'Hero of Carleon' to lead a full onslaught in hopes of wiping out the demons once and for all. They succeed, and the castle is destroyed, and the Demons taken prisoner, except for one skeleton named Skul. Now it's up to it to rescue the Senators and the Demon King, and fight back against the humans. Along the way, it may learn dark truths about the nature of humans, Carleon, and what it truly means to be a hero...

Skul also appeared as an unlockable costume in Dead Cells, alongside his weapon.

General Tropes

  • Acid Attack: The Hydra quintessence summons hydra heads that can shoot green balls of acid at nearby enemies, potentially applying poison alongside physical damage.
  • Action Bomb: Many, many enemies in the Black Lab blow up upon death.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: As the zones progress, the prices of items at the black market increase, starting at around five hundred gold for common items and peaking at over double that amount. Restocking items at the Collector's shop also increases in price per zone and per time restocking at that specific market, to a limit.
  • Adjective Noun Fred: Several of the bosses follow this naming scheme, specifically Elder Ent Yggdrasil and Distorted Goddess Chimera.
  • After-Action Villain Analysis: Done in regards to the First Hero following the fight against him by the rescued Demon King, who laments how the Hero's actions were focused on the protection of his people rather than blind conviction and reveals he couldn't bring himself to fight being captured after witnessing the First Hero's grief over his son's murder.
  • After Boss Recovery: Every loot chest dropped by a boss contains a large healing orb that restores a significant amount of health, and can be picked up in addition to the selection of items. Adventurers also sometimes drop healing potions which restore a specific percentage of Skul's health dependent on their size.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Facing an adventurer miniboss with the Rock Star skull equipped will cause a rock remix of the normal adventurer boss music to play.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: The third zone ends with a confrontation with the Black Lab Chief, who taunts Skul with how he's brainwashed and experimented on other demons, and threatens to demonstrate the true power of Dark Quartz...right before the Chimera (the real boss) bursts through the wall and crushes him.
  • BFS: The final upgrade of the Warrior skull, Warlord, boasts a sword of which the blade is four times as wide as the hilt, which is already long enough to make the weapon a polearm, resulting in a gigantic shovel-like blade. The achievement for unlocking the skull lampshades this by calling itself "too big to be called a sword."
  • Big Bad: The 'First Hero', a mysterious man who brought with him Dark Quartz. The ending reveals that he is actually one of the last good humans left in Carleon, and was driven to his actions by rage borne from the death of his son.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Emperor is defeated, finally ending his insane, genocidal campaign against the Demon Kingdom, and the First Hero, having miracously survived his own final battle with Skul, makes peade with the Demon Kingdom. However, Skul chooses not to tell the First Hero that he's his reborn son so as not to break his heart further, meaning that the First Hero still believes he failed his son and committed so many crimes to "avenge" him. Not only that, but he's shown to still be sick, meaning he likely doesn't have much longer to live. On the sweet side, peace between Demons and Humans is finally established, and The Stinger shows Skul and the First Hero bonding, suggesting that at the very least, the First Hero will be able to spend his remaining days with his son, even if he doesn't know it.
  • The Chosen One: In the full release, flashbacks depict the Demon King taking interest in a young child who wants to be a hero, sensing that he will one day use his power to bring stability to the land. That child is reborn as Skul after his death.
  • Church Militant: The Leonia Order. Their forces serve as the primary enemies of the Fortress. Their leader, Archbishop St. Joan II, is under the impression that the Chimaera created by the Dark Alchemist is a living avatar of the lioness goddess Leonia, and not a facsimile made of Dark Quartz.
  • The Corruption: The Dark Quartz, said to be derived from the pain and hate of life itself, taints and takes control of everything it touches.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Many of Skul's allies in the Demon King's army are actually quite benevolent, such as a blacksmith's apprentice that doesn't directly fight humans but will give Skul an item when rescued from them.
  • Dem Bones: The main protagonist is a revived skeleton, who can change its skull to utilize different ability sets.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Corrupted Chimera. In Early Access, after beating it, The First Hero comes down to kill you himself. In the full release, while still powerful, it only marks the end of the third zone (out of five).
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The tutorial is this, ending with the First Hero crashing down to try and kill you.
  • Dual Boss: The last boss of the second zone are the Leiana sisters, adjutants of the Goldmane Knights that fight you at the same time, with one receiving a Dark Quartz power-up when the first one dies.
  • Fat Bastard: The Commander of the Goldmane Knights is a large-bellied and imposing figure, but in reality is a sniveling Dirty Coward who badmouths the First Hero behind closed doors and hides behind the Leiana Sisters to fight for him, and when they die he quickly scurries away.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: It's repeatedly stated in dialogue that Skul is just one little skeleton facing off against overwhelming odds. This claim is made even when it is visibly wielding the souls of established heroes, giant monsters, or even The Grim Reaper.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: While fighting through Carleon to rescue the Demon King certainly lends Skul no end of ire from the Carleon Army and their supporters throughout the course of the game, the ending shows that he remains on bad terms with the country when the Demon King ends the war and Harmonia is united. This is because he's been vilified among adventurers as a deadly foe and mistaken for the Demon King in exaggerated tales. The Witch muses that he'll likely need to defend himself against many more zealous heroes as a result.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Everyone in Carleon except for The First Hero is like this. Disregard for ethics, dogma and demagoguery abound, the military is corrupt and self-serving, and the clergy are worshiping a human-created monstrosity as their god.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The Black Lab cements this for the scientists of Carleon, who are running all manner of awful and torturous experiments on various demons and monster creatures without regards to their sapience. Defeating the Chimaera releases what little are left alive back out into the world.
  • In-Series Nickname: Skul is referred to as "Little Bone" due to his small size, by the residents of the Demon King's castle and the skeleton guard captain who lends him his head during the tutorial. It's later revealed that this guard captain first gave him this moniker.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: For Dead Cells. The Prisoner, based on the protagonist of that game, is one of the available Unique skulls. With enough bone fragments, it evolves into The King, a reveal that requires beating the game once and then playing through higher level content to learn in the original game.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Carleon forces, which includes the Mad Scientist running the Black Lab, and religious zealots that willingly sacrifice their kinsmen in order to exterminate the demonic forces.
  • Mad Scientist: The Black Lab Chief, who has experimented on members of the Demon King's army with Dark Quartz, and is disappointed when Skul is incapable of displaying emotion upon hearing the details.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: A case of this is revealed to be the reason why the First Hero harbors fury towards demonkind, and why he restarted the war between humans and demons. He believes the Witch and the Demon King murdered his young son. In truth it was a Dark Quartz empowered Carleon soldier and the supposed guilty parties were attempting to heal the victim when they were spotted.
  • Money Sink: The Black Knight serves as this when the player has exhausted everything else they could spend Dark Quartz on. Paying him an exponentially increasing price allows Skul to refurbish the dilapadated Demon King Castle.
  • No Body Left Behind: Most human enemies beyond the adventurers are reduced to pieces of their gear upon their defeat. In the bosses' case, the Awakened Leiana Sister dissolves into darkness after the final blow, leaving only her helmet behind, while Archbishop St. Joan II explodes into purple mist after attempting to ascend to heaven.
  • Power Copying: Skul's main ability, and main fighting style, is using the skulls of other warriors to gain their abilities, and can use two of them at the same time.
  • The Power of Rock: The Rock Star and Super Rock Star skulls have this power, and can deal ludicrous amounts of magic damage per second by playing a sustained solo for long enough, culminating in a huge performance from the rest of the Star's band.
  • Protagonist Title: Skul is the moniker of the skeletal main protagonist.
  • The Reveal: The little boy from the flashbacks is not only the son of the First Hero, but also would later become Skul the skeleton in death.
  • Seductive Spider: Arachnea, the spider lady who can wrap Skul in a cocoon to awaken the memories of the skull it's currently using, making it stronger.
  • Sequel Hook: While the Demon King is able to broker a new peace between Demons and Humans, adventurers throughout the world begin seeking to prove themselves by facing Skul, who has become a legend after slaying the First Hero. Also, whoever was responsible for the conspiracy that killed Skul in life and drove the First Hero mad is still at large.
  • Shout-Out: Several of the wearable skulls are references to other media, such as the Rider, Jinn, Prisoner, and Warrior skulls.
  • Stock Scream: The Black Lab Chief, when he gets crushed by the Chimera, lets out a Wilhelm Scream.
  • Turns Red: Multiple end-of-zone boss fights have a second form and health bar, fueled by Dark Quartz.
  • When Trees Attack: A common enemy type throughout the first zone are Ents, which are living trees. The last boss of the first zone is the Elder Ent, who's been driven into a rage by Dark Quartz.
  • Wolfpack Boss: As Skul makes its way through Carleon, bigger groups of adventurer minbosses will attempt to stop it, ramping up the challenge as they augment their attacks with one another.