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Blade of Darkness Review

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The action fantasy/sword and sorcery genre on the Xbox is not noticeably underpopulated, which speaks to the enduring popularity of stepping into a character’s shoes and swinging a sword about, or firing off spells. 

Well, strap yourselves in as Rebel Act Studios, Fire Falcom and SNEG have delivered another of these games, just this time it comes with a bit of a twist – it isn’t a new game at all. No, Blade of Darkness is a remaster of Severance: Blade of Darkness from 2001, now coming complete with all the “quirks” of the original. Described by some as a Soulsbourne game before the concept was even invented, its difficulty was famous for being hardcore back in the day. So it begs the question – in a world where Elden Ring and Bloobourne exist, is the world ready for a remake to try and muscle in?

blade of darkness review 1
Blade of Darkness likes the brown

I’m going to start by examining the story of Blade of Darkness, as it is always a good point to begin, right? Well, what we have here is a typical kind of high fantasy narrative that was common in the games of this era. Think Conan books crossed with Lord of the Rings (both of which were cited as inspiration by the developers of the original game) and you won’t be too far off. It starts with a Supreme Being who creates Light and Dark, and then the rest is a history of conflict. Needless to say, the gods need a hero to reclaim a holy sword so that they can stop a horde of evil monsters spreading across the world. That hero is us. Will you accept the mission, or turn the game off and play something else? 

Now, while I’m not a graphics snob, Blade of Darkness is very much of its time. The visuals are exactly how ‘cutting edge’ was back in 2001, and while they are adequate, they are awful to actually look at. The world is a mass of green and brown, whilst the draw distances are kept short by smart level design. In this way, I imagine back in the day that pop-in was kept to a minimum, and so it is here. 

The characters we play as are quite well designed, if somewhat polygonal; the enemies, likewise, a bit angular but otherwise perfectly fine. The camera is worth a mention though, mostly as it is a bit strange – you know how when you play a game of this sort, from a third person perspective, panning the camera to navigate around the game? Well, there is a weird disconnect between the movement of your character and that of the camera here. If you move the camera with the right stick, the character stops moving briefly, and this feels awkward, especially in combat. 

blade of darkness review 2
Swing. Hit. Hope.

Further, sound is okay, with the usual swords and combat screams you’d expect, some grunts from monsters and so on. But there is nothing here that will give Sekiro any sleepless nights. It’s all very 2001, however, it is optimised for Series X|S. 

Upon firing up Blade of Darkness there is a choice you have to make – what character are you going to be? There are a total of four to choose from, with not an inkling of your fancy character generators here. We can choose to be Tukaram, a barbarian; Naglfar, a dwarf; Sargon, a knight; and Zoe, an amazon. Of course, each character has different stats and can wield different weapons more effectively than others. As an example, I chose Zoe as my first character, and she is quite at home with a staff or a spear in hand, but cannot use a honking great battle axe. Having these choices at the beginning is quite nice, but I haven’t noticed any massive difference between the various characters. 

But most importantly, how does Blade of Darkness play. Well, the news here is pretty ropey to be honest, as the main part of the game, the combat, is clunky and stiff. Even the controls are quite counter intuitive if you’ve played as many games of this type as I have – for instance, to lock on to an enemy, you have to hold the right trigger down, and then attack with the A Button. This feels weird, I’m not going to lie, and while you do adapt, it never stops feeling awkward. 

Combat is a no from me, then. Although there is one thing that made me smile – when you are fighting enemies and using edged weapons, there is a mechanic that allows you to sever the limbs of your foe. You can then pick them up and hit them with their own arm. It’s quite funny. 

blade of darkness review 3
Limb severing!

Exploration is pretty difficult as well, mainly due to the muddy looking textures making it hard to see where traps are. In the first level for instance, there is a section where the path is covered by two traps shooting arrows. The thing is, these arrows are almost completely invisible. You can hear a faint “pfft” noise as an arrow is fired, but where they are coming from and the path they take, no clue. Oh, and to put the cherry on the cake, these traps are a one hit kill, so any progress you have made through the level is gone. I know Blade of Darkness is meant to be a hardcore game, but there’s a difference between hardcore and unfair… 

All in all, Blade of Darkness will make you appreciate the games we have these days. It looks pretty poor, plays badly and is generally lacking in any fun. If you are a card carrying masochist, you may get some pleasure, but I’d suspect the majority will be better off playing something from the FromSoftware back catalogue. I know it is an old game reworked, and many do have a hankering for the retro, but it’s hard to make a case for Blade of Darkness being the game to advance the case of the old getting remastered.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Story is okay, if a bit overblown
  • Faithful recreation of the original
Cons:
  • Combat controls are odd
  • One hit kill traps that aren’t visible seem unfair
  • Looks poor - not mincing my words!
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, SNEG
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 15 March 2023 | £12.49

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Renee
Renee
19 days ago

First played this game on PC over 20 years ago. Now playing on Xbox and still a favorite of mine. Fun with a controller.

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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Story is okay, if a bit overblown</li> <li>Faithful recreation of the original</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Combat controls are odd</li> <li>One hit kill traps that aren’t visible seem unfair</li> <li>Looks poor - not mincing my words!</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, SNEG</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 15 March 2023 | £12.49</li> </ul>Blade of Darkness Review
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