Developer: Insurgent Act Studio/SNEG
Initially launch in 2001, Severance: Blade of Darkness was an progressive hack ‘n’ slash RPG notable for its superior dynamic lighting engine and brutal, difficult fight. It is all the time been one in every of my favorite video games, however after a poor business reception upon launch, the sport has spent a lot of the final 20 years languishing on murky abandonware websites.
Thankfully, the sport has lately been given a second lease of life because of writer SNEG, which has acquired the rights to the sport and re-released it on Steam with a barely shorter title and a few much-needed high quality of life options. Since I used to be too younger to overview it when it first launched, and can seemingly by no means get the prospect to jot down about it once more, I believed I would take this chance to say “Hey you! Play Blade of Darkness, you lemon.”
Blade of Darkness’ ambition is evident from the second you choose which character to play as. There are 4 to select from, Sargon the Knight, Naglfar the Dwarf, Zoe the Amazon and Turkaram the Barbarian. Not solely does every character have their very own moveset and weapon proficiency (Sargon is a sword-and-shield fellow whereas Zoe prefers spears and polearms) in addition they have their very own beginning places. Sargon, for instance, begins the sport with a daring escape from a citadel of evil knights, whereas Turkaram searches the cursed burial grounds of his homeland for a sacred stone circle.
Every character has their very own advantages and disadvantages. Nicely, apart from Naglfar, who’s usually a bit garbage. In any case Sargon’s proficiency with shields make him a very good beginning character, as does Zoe’s agility, letting her keep away from enemy assaults with ease. For me although, Blade of Darkness has all the time been about Turkaram. Not just because his grizzled face occupies each the sport’s cowl and its loading display, but in addition as a result of Blade of Darkness’ main inspiration is Conan the Barbarian.
Blade of Darkness’ world closely channels the brutal, fast-paced and sometimes contextless fantasy tales of Robert E. Howard. The fortresses, temples, mines and tombs that comprise the sport’s 14 ranges (not together with the 4 introductory ranges) are launched with just a few strains of dialogue that summarise that location’s historical past. The remainder is left to the extent design and your creativeness. The sport’s ranges paint an image of a fantasy world slowly decaying into oblivion, the place noble knights fall to the poisoned swords of feral orcs, and the place the useless lie stressed within the graves.
The entire recreation has an eerie, otherworldly ambiance. You not often know the names of the foes you face. You possibly can guess the names of some – it is pretty apparent what a skeleton appears to be like like, in any case. However others may very well be one in every of a number of fantasy creatures, or in contrast to something in conventional fantasy in any respect. The skinless boss you encounter on the island of Karum, for instance, is outwardly a vampire, however I solely know that due to an achievement you now get once you defeat him.
Blade of Darkness’ minimalist storytelling was criticised on the time of its launch, but it surely is smart in a recreation the place a lot of the speaking is completed together with your weapon. Blade of Darkness’ fight holds up remarkably properly. Every character has a spread of fundamental assaults, alongside round a dozen particular assaults that unlock as you degree up, and one distinctive transfer for each weapon your character can wield. You can too block enemy strikes, both with a protect or their sword. Each are fragile, nevertheless, and can break simply. So one of the simplest ways to keep away from getting hit is thru cautious footwork and dodging.
It takes some time to get used to character motion, which feels stiff in comparison with fashionable melee fight video games. However fight animations are slick and movement collectively, and it does not take lengthy to get into the rhythms of battle. Fights are additionally extremely satisfying, not solely as a result of you possibly can lop enemies’ limbs and heads off, with gouts of viscous blood spraying from the stump, but in addition as a result of most of your foes are genuinely harmful. Skeletons and orcs are significantly difficult. It is easy to get snarled up of their movesets and end up hacked to bits. However even lowly goblins can put a critical dent in your well being bar, particularly in the event that they gang up in your or assault from vary with a bow and arrow.
The entire recreation is just a marvellous journey. Levelling is properly paced, and also you’re by no means far-off from choosing up a brand new weapon, whereas every degree is full of nasty surprises that maintain you in your toes. There are a number of issues although. Some weapons and skills are higher than others, with a number of both being too difficult to carry out or taking too lengthy to finish to be correctly helpful. Additionally, whereas the fight has aged properly, the platforming has not. A few of the recreation’s leaping challenges are extraordinarily clunky, and God forbid that you simply get right into a combat on a slim ledge.
Nonetheless, for a twenty-year-old motion recreation, Blade of Darkness feels extremely recent and propulsive. It additionally appears to be like incredible for its age. Some credit score ought to go to SNEG for this making the sport run persistently on fashionable machines, including correct help for widescreens and HD resolutions. However a lot of the credit score nonetheless lies with Insurgent Act. Blade of Darkness’ dynamic lighting and shadows have misplaced little of their energy within the final 20 years. They contribute vastly to the moody and oppressive ambiance, and the sport actually is aware of how you can carry them into play, usually having you navigate pitch black environments with a handheld torch.
For those who missed Blade of Darkness first time round, I totally suggest giving it a crack now for the measly £7.50 that SNEG is charging. Doubly so for those who’re a fan of the Souls video games. Blade of Darkness is not fairly in the identical wheelhouse. It got here out seven years earlier than Demon’s Souls and has no actual causal hyperlink with From Software program’s landmark sequence. However there are sufficient similarities between the 2 to make it seemingly that you’re going to get pleasure from one for those who preferred the opposite.