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Severance: The Blade of Darkness Review

publisher: Codemasters
developer: Rebel Act Studios
genre: Action Adventure

PII-400, 64MB RAM, 750MB HDD, 8MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 25, 00
» All About Severance: The Blade of Darkness on ActionTrip

I wish I could start this review any other way. I hate to break it down to you like this, because then the rest of the stuff I write about this game will probably never get read. And I had such high hopes for Blade of Darkness. It had such a cool premise -- an action title featuring furious melee combat, a lot of dismemberments, and some RPG elements thrown in for good measure, all wrapped up in an engulfing storyline.

What I got instead is a poorly designed Tomb Raider wannabe with an awkward combat system, and some feeble RPG elements... Hey, and that's not the worst part. What if I told you that the main characters in Blade are some of the most poorly animated characters I've seen since... since, I dunno... Indy 3D? Compared to Blade's break dancing lead heroes, Lara from the original Tomb Raider looks like the best-animated character ever. God awful main character animation, and in a combat game? That can't be, right? Well, wrong... That's Blade for ya...

I could go on now about the basic features in this one - how you can control more than one character, each with their own skills and quest to follow: The Knight, The Barbarian, The Amazon, The Dwarf... How each of them has unique abilities and combat styles; character progression, up to 100 different weapons... (read our preview, dammit). I could even talk about the storyline (and I obliged to), but what is there to tell? In actuality, I couldn't understand what the hell was going on for the most part, and there's really no cinematic quality or any type of directing whatsoever in this game that could make you get more interested in what's going on around you besides numerous orcs, skeletons, and puking zombies wanting to play football with your head... Bottom line. Buy Rune, you'll be much better off... Sure, it had some problems, but it's a much more immersing game than Blade. And it falls in the similar category of games.

But back to my Blade pains... So, I chose the Barbarian character. The dude is 225cm tall... that's about 7ft. 3" if I'm not much mistaken, and he weighs in at around 290lbs. He's a big guy. His main trump are two-handed weapons... swords, axes, whatever... Known throughout the world for their valor, vigor, and fearlessness in combat, the nomadic peoples of the great steppes are feared warriors. Originally, the Irkanios were separated into large tribes. The most civilized nomads, old allies of the Ancient Kingdom, made settlements within their frontiers on the high steppes of Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut (I just love these fancy, unpronounceable names).

It seems that someone has once again shifted the fragile balance between the forces of Light and Darkness on Earth that were once imposed by a hero who wielded the Sacred Sword, and fought the Evil in its own lair. Now, something strange is happening. The signals are clear. Foul creatures are awakening from their dormancy, and spreading terror and destruction... The Darkness has returned, and the end is near. A new hero is needed, a chosen one who will wield the Sword, and destroy the Enemy forever...

Enter our strapping young buck in all his 7ft 3" glory - a dead ringer for Conan: The Barbarian to once again restore the balance and bring piece and prosperity to the planet. Our friendly neighborhood Barbarian will do so by severing, mutilating, and grinding to the ground hundreds of abominations who have risen from god knows where to make life on Earth a living hell (like we need them to do that; we can make our own living hell, thank you very much).

Well, that's about it as far as the story goes, and this is more than you'll ever find out by playing the game. The rest of the "joy" and pleasure in Severance comes from going through the numerous levels and basically severing any piece of your opponents' bodies that you feel fit...

Aside from the woeful animation of the main character, the main thing in this game (i.e. the combat system) is just as awkward and... hmm... illogical? The controls in blade are comprised of your basic mouse semi-free look / WASD setup, but you cannot use sidestepping or any other fancy footwork unless you hit the "0 numpad" to lock on your opponent. Why? Was it so hard to institute a "normal" setup where you wouldn't have to switch into any kind of special modes to fight properly (you can still fight even if you don't lock on, but then you'll miss a whole lot more)? And what are the advantages of having two control modes? Beats the living hell out of me... Further more, I don't know if it's because of the character animation or the engine physics, but the fights definitely seemed too sluggish -- painfully sluggish in fact. The jumping looks bad, the sidestepping is gawky, and it all just feels and plays rather irritatingly. Yeah, I know it's not easy to wield a 2-ton sword and run at the same time, but the guy looks like he could benchpress a Yugo. And he's the mighty hero... And anyways, it's a game... we want dynamics first, (extreme to any kind of) realism second...

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4.9   Tolerable

Fun and gory limb chopping (that sounds nasty). Certain elements of the physics model. Decent AI, excellent lighting, textures, and real-time shadows work.

Certainly no cinematic / storytelling value. Low "immersion factor". Two-bit, two-frame main character animation. Sluggish and awkward combat mode. Completely unoriginal puzzles. RPG elements are nothing more than a decoration - something to put on a box.


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