1990 Silicon Dreams Games and Movie Reviews: Severance: Blade of Darkness

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Severance: Blade of Darkness

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 Among the twenty-something games that were extremely popular back in the same little garage/ PC club was one that I at least personally have heard very little of since, but it's still one of my all time favourite fantasy games. Blade of Darkness is a hack and slash third person RPG, based around a dark medieval setting. With one of the best set of graphics for its time and its addicting and atmospheric game play, it's easily one  of my favourite games of all times. 

Starting out you have the option to choose between a barbarian, dwarf, amazon and a fighter and each one has a preference for several of the various weapon types, and different statistics for their strength, agility etc. On top of that each character has their own unique starting area, although later on their path merges as the storyline progresses. The game revolves around fighting enemies mostly in close combat and usually one or two at a time. The fights are long for a hack and slash game, at least compared to other titles of the genre. When engaging an enemy you'll have to make sure to first and foremost dodge and parry attacks with your shield and then worry about chopping up whatever undead/demonic/beastly creature you're up against. As far as protection goes in even intervals throughout the game you'll come across specific armour appropriate for your particular character, and shields are plentiful and varied, but like the weapons, they lose their durability and break. What helps is that you can carry a multitude of weapons and shields and easily switch between them during battle. Potions and elixirs, as well as food provides health restoration, but keep in mind you can only eat outside of combat.

When engaging an enemy you have to lock on to them with the Tab button and after that use WASD to circle around them. Additionally based on the attacks you have available at each level you can perform special moves with combinations of WASD and attack. The special attacks are unlocked each level and are based off of the character type, but they're also specific to the weapon types. A stamina bar that depletes with each attack makes sure you don't go on a combo-spree, but instead you'll have to take turns attacking and defending yourself while you regain your ability to fight back. All weapons in-game can be used by all character, but based on the stats an amazon carrying a long-sword will be extremely slow with it barely able to swing it once before she collapses panting and struggling for breath on the ground with no stamina to either attack again or defend herself. The only exception is the bow which is useful to every character, especially for solving puzzles, but there's only one type of bow in the game with 10-15 types of each other weapon class, and the damage that bow deals is completely useless after the first few levels.

The story of the game revolves around finding a mythical Blade and descending to an Underworld to fight the big bad. And although it sounds formulaic the attention with which the world is drawn out makes up for the lack of any significant scripted events or complex cinematics between the levels. Once you start fighting, you'll feel completely immersed, weather you're dealing with a simple skeleton or with a brute four feet higher than you and as wide as a car, and there's nothing more satisfying than watching it collapse to the ground in a pile (or several) of blood and gore. Enemies in the game don't conveniently disappear after being reduced out of their health. With enough practice and some luck you can cut heads, limbs and beyond that chop up your foes even as they're collapsing to the ground, if you think they've given you enough trouble to warrant that kind of retribution.

On top of the fighting the levels are punctuated by short and generally non-intrusive puzzles in the style of Tomb Raider, where you have to look for a lever, or a key/gem etc. to open the door to the next area. In order to make sure you get the Blade which is your best bet against the final boss, you have to collect several tablets that have been scattered around the different levels. As an added bonus the tablets will give you some trivia about the history of the game world, for those of you who like the cannon.

Sadly Blade of Darkness never became as popular as it could have been for various reasons, but it's still an excellent example of the genre, with good enough graphics to be playable today. The game lacks a difficulty setting, which can be seen both as a good thing and a bad thing depending on which side of the casual/hardcore spectrum you're coming from. Despite that one thing can be used to measure your success. You can save at any point but depending on the number of saves you have per level, the game is going to give you a rating, ranging from generous praise for not abusing the save system, to some outright mockery if you save before every other enemy. 

1 comment:

  1. Never even heard of the game, it sounds interesting.


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