A third-person action-adventure game by Spanish developers Rebel Act Studios, published by Codemasters, and known in the US as Blade of Darkness. Famously took five years to develop, and it shows. Choosing from one of four characters (a Barbarian, Amazon, Dwarf, of Knight), the player must negotiate a series of fantasy-themed levels (including castles, temples, forts, snowy wastes and the underworld). Despite some thematic similarities, this is no Diablo - it's action all the way, like Golden Axe.

Although there are a fair amount of platform puzzles and key-hunting, the main emphasis is on meleƩ combat. There are well over a hundred weapons in the game, ranging from swords and halberds to maces, bows, spades, chairs, rocks and even severed limbs. (Hmm, this writeup is turning into a bunch of lists.)

Coupled to a very accurate physics model (easily the best in any game ever), the combat is very tense and realistic. Precision timing is needed to land some of your more fancy moves (it's slightly reminiscent of Samurai Shodown in that respect), with the physical characteristics of your weapon playing a part in the proceedings (a high-level sword doesn't just have higher arbitrary stats - it actually 'feels' sharper and heavier to use). Limbs and heads can be hacked off, and frequently are.

The game has very impressive dynamic lighting as well, which allows for all kinds of impressive spot effects. The reflective water effect is also quite nice - all these effects combined (on a level such as The Temple of Ianna) create an aesthetically pleasing and well-realised world.

The game does have some flaws. The basic gameplay (combat aside) is very old-fashioned, most similar to Hexen II or Die By The Sword. It's also rather repetitive and the controls, although bearable with practice, do it no favours. A final warning would be the loading times, which can be torturous on a lesser PC. All in all, a technically sound but rather incomplete game.

Id just like to add my thoughts on this great game as, believe it or not, I still actually play this game from time to time... it is permanently installed on my computer :)

The previous writer covered well the basics of the game and Id like to add a bit more detail to some of the aspects I felt were great about the game. First, just a little spiel on how I encountered the game... I was looking at buying Rune as I like fantasy games in the first person/third person view where you have full control of the character (not like Diablo where it is pretty much point and click classic rpg style). Now, Rune was built from the Unreal engine (I'm a huge fan of Unreal, still am) and I knew it would be graphically very good, however after reading reviews and playing the Rune demo, it seemed the game was a bit well... limited in terms of weapons and variety of stages. So, I wasn't committed to buying Rune there and then! As I was browsing around still deciding whether or not to get Rune, I noticed Severance:Blade of Darkness sitting there. Ive never heard of it and didn't see advertisement in magazines/internet, (keeping in mind I don't read much computer mags or check latest release gaming sites) and with it around 30 dollars cheaper than Rune, I thought why not, lets give it a go! And the rest, as they say, is history. Blade of Darkness (BoD) turned out, for me, to be one of the most enjoyable and great looking fantasy action games Ive ever played! (and still is!) BoD is like one of those unhyped games that turn out to be very very good once you discover it and play it.

Ok, now onto the details. Yes it was mainly an action game, however, there were quite a few little puzzles thrown in for the player to figure out to progress, and though not mentally challenging, was engaging enough to give a bit of an rpg problem solving feel, keeping it from being a no thinking hack and slash affair...

Yes emphasis was definitely on Melee combat, however, the Melee system IMO is a lot greater and deeper than Rune's (and similar games like Hexen 2 and Heretic 2 etc. where it is pretty much just strafe/move around like a first person shooter and keep on slashing with your weapon. In fact I would liken BoD's Melee system as halfway to an actual fighting game's system! (although with a mouse and keyboard, instead of a joystick and 4-6 button config.) You could lock onto your player's opponent so that you always face them, however I found this to be unnecessary and would probably only help novices or people who dont have great coordination with mouse and keyboard... its even to your disadvantage when you're fighting multiple enemies at once! Yes the moves and combos may be a little easier to do when you are locked to always face your opponent, but if you were good enough you can always face you opponent with a flick of the mouse :)

Now, each character, and each of their weapons, had specific basic moves they could do and as you increase in Level you could do a few more (too many to describe here) AND also each weapon had a specific "special move" that was more powerful and leaves a trailing red streak when the move is executed (looks pretty cool). The special move involved some directional movement with the keyboard followed by a mouse button (or two) depending on how you set your controls. Now, normally the special move involves a slight pause from the character before he/she executes and so sometimes you can be hit by the opponent beforehand and the special move is cancelled, so it takes skill and timing to be successful. HOWEVER, I found out that you can cancel this pause by doing a normal basic attack, pressing space bar (or wahtever you use for jump) then quickly doing the commands for the special move! In fact you can do normal moves as well, so you can quickly string two or three normal moves together for a "combo" if you use this cancel technique, instead of doing the move and waiting for the animation to finish and doing the next move. Now I don't know if this was a glitch in the game or the developers purposely put it in, BUT, it is very very similar to the "buffering" system (or two-in-ones) used in Street Fighter 2 and just about every 2D fighting game now (yes I'm a long time street fighter player) I think it is an excellent "technique" intended or not and made figthing the bosses quite fun :) not too mention a lot more fair for the player! However some of my friends and people on forums, when I posted what I'd found, kept on saying I was cheating and its not right...( guess they were not any good at 2D fighters either :) however, I say that its in the game and it just links the moves together and minimises the delay time between attacks aka COMBOS! so Ive got an advantage :)

Weapons wise, yes there were a lot of weapons that all characters can pick up and use, however, only certain types/groups of weapons were suited to the four characters! If you picked the wrong weapon type for your character he/she would use it quite slowly and be limited to I think about 4 basic moves with it. For example the Amazon couldn't effectively use swords or axes or hammers, the barbarian couldn't use spears or hammers... So in reality (well game reality) each character I think had around 10 weapons to use + or - a few depending on the character, and also 2-3 special weapons. Also, many of the weapons had the same/similar basic moves, with only the special move and the range of the weapon and damage being different. Still, quite good variety in weapons and effect.

The physics engine and the graphics engine were very impressive then (and even now I still think it holds up quite well). Lighting in particular was amazing, it was the only 3D action game at the time to use dynamic lighting and as Im sure you all know, it makes a huge difference to the atmosphere and feel of the game when it has some form a dynamic lighting! and the thing was you didn't need the highest spec (for that time) computer to play it at a good frame rate (30fps or better)! For its time BoD was quite advanced IMO. I mean you drop a lighted torch and you cast a huge shadow behind you, you start to walk away and the shadow shrinks... you throw the lighted torch and the light and shadows move realistically with the thrown torch! I know Rune didn't look anywhere as good after playing BoD!

I have to disagree with the previous poster about BoD's control being just bearable... then again I do come from a fighting game background so the controls were quite easy and fun for me. I can see how they would be tricky and annoying for a typical PC first person gamer though! Gotta learn to do complex button/directional movements sometime hey!

The game does get a little repetitive at times but I think no more so than Rune, plus with some of the levels being very large (compared to other games at the time) and also many of them, I think it is quite bearable... adds to the feeling of an epic fantasy IMO...

There you go, please go out and play this game if you havent already and also if you like the action fantasy gaming genre.

Oh, and the opening video intro to the game is great too! I think its up there with the Diablo 2 intro in terms of cinematic effect and voice acting! Worth checking out on its own!

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