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
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.
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
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.
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
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.