It's not the size of your blade that matters, it's how you use it.
Melee combat isn't something we often see done well in video games. There's Drakan, which is a great game until you run into the mania-inducing bugs. And we can't forget GR's sword-swinging favorite Rune, the game that introduced the world to the dreaded Sal Magicpants - who, to this day, commands the utmost respect and fear in all Rune servers.
So what game could possibly tear the GR warriors from Rune and their ever-growing number of headless victims? Developer Rebel Act predicts that their new hack n' slash title Blade of Darkness is up to that very challenge. We predict otherwise.
Blade of Darkness sports numerous fairly intelligent enemies, four different storylines and utilizes a nice-looking proprietary graphics engine. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to ignore the system crashes, terrible character animation, frustrating control, lame multiplayer support and general lack of fun. Cleo and Kenny Kingston have nothing to fear from the precognitive might of Rebel Act.
Blade of Darkness is your typical action/adventure romp. A great darkness is returning to the land complete with fiendish creatures and towering monsters and it's up to you to stop it. How imaginative.
One of the really interesting bits is that each of the game's four selectable characters has a different adventure and path to take in order to stop the darkness. Choose from the aged knight, the skilled lance-wielding amazon treasure seeker, the brawny barbarian or the ornery dwarf. So in essence, you get four smaller games in one.
Each choice leads to a pretty ubiquitous and linear gameplay experience. Kill anything that moves, find the key and move on. You know the drill.
In the beginning, your mobility really sucks. But characters will increase their number of attack combos and stats (hit point, stamina etc) by beating the crap out whatever saunters across their path. So I encourage all players to actively seek out enemies and quickly dispatch them, because all it takes is three sword swings and you're doubled over panting trying to catch your breath until your stamina increases. This adds realism as well as frustration.
Scratch that - there's nothing real about this at all. Sheesh, even I can swing a Roman sword around more than three times without doubling over in a fit of exhaustion. What kind of flabby Barney Gumble warriors are these guys? Anyway, increase your stats as soon as possible. The character animations are a little better once you do.
Speaking of which, Rebel Acts's proprietary engine is humorously awkward. The backgrounds are impressive with intricately detailed textures that often succeed in creating an immersive and believable atmosphere (check out out those water reflections and ripples). But the brutally comical character animation makes the given hero/heroine really stand out from the backgrounds. It's a weird, surreal kind of oddity that has to be seen to be fully not appreciated. It plays tricks with your mind, like watching Bugs Bunny dance around cross-dressing as Carmen Miranda. Funny, yet just not right.
Further adding to the BoD list of annoyances is the lack of a strafe button. This is insane. Sure, I can lock onto an enemy and then strafe around him, but what about when that enemy has brought four of his close friends along to help with the hero bashing? All I can do are these passing combos and sword swipes that take me past an opponent and require me to slowly turn around and repeat the process. It looks like some deranged medieval bullfighting re-enactment. Humorous to watch, a bitch to play.
And don't expect any kind of Rune-worthy multiplayer support. You can have four players maximum across a TCP/IP, LAN or IPX. Oh, let the good times roll.
But believe it or not, the game isn't all bad. The sound is strong and convincing, and at some points the atmosphere is great. While the fighting is nowhere near as smooth as Rune, there are times when it can be fun and exciting, provided you're up against an interesting creature (of which there are many).
Increasing your stats is cool and learning new combos is kind of fun. And unlike Rune, these warriors are decently prepared for unarmed combat. Some characters have kicks and some have uppercuts. At least they're not completely defenseless without their weapons.
The areas are huge and interesting. At the end of each, I found myself compelled to see what other elaborate structures or areas Rebel Act had to throw at me. The ancient Aztec environment for the Amazon is a true marvel, easily putting any similar Tomb Raider areas to shame.
Blade of Darkness is a definite amalgam of good versus evil, both figuratively and literally. Good backgrounds meet evil character animation. Evil control versus cool upgradeable character stats. It's just crazy. But for 30 bucks, it's not fatally flawed. I just wish it wasn't so mediocre.