Have you ever heard of the game ‘Blade of Darkness’? Don’t worry if you haven’t – it is more of a ‘cult classic'; a game that is now more than a dozen years old but that never gained much popularity due to lousy marketing. The advertisements at the time were made before the game was finished, and it didn’t present a compelling case of why you should buy it; the steep computer requirements made it an even harder sell. I didn’t play Blade of Darkness until 2004, and after a few replays I started having issues getting it installed on my laptops. Fortunately GoG.com now has it on their site, and it works perfectly! Let’s take a look at how it plays!
Type of app: Third-Person Action Game
Here are some of the features:
– Brutal blood and gore! Hack off an enemy’s limb and beat him to death with it!
– Four unique Champions of Ianna that boast unique movesets for maximum slaying efficiency!
– Over 100 deadly weapons, each with individual attacks to be learned!
Recently Steam offered up ‘Rune Classic’, which is a slightly tweaked (for compatibility) version of the late 2000 Unreal-engine third-person action-combat game. A few months after Rune came ‘Blade of Darkness’ in early 2001, a much more brutal game that suffered poor advertising.
In many ways Blade of Darkness is similar to Rune – third person, action-combat oriented, melee focus, good vs. evil leading to battle against ultimate evil. But Blade of Darkness is different in many ways. First, you get to choose between four characters – knight, barbarian, dwarf and amazon – each with their own opening act in a unique setting, their own combat focus and combos and weapon specialization. That adds some instant replayability that Rune lacks. Also, Blade of Darkness features a rudimentary levelling system – one that gives you more health, defense and combat energy, and unlocks combos for specific weapons. Another significant difference is the violence and gore factor – when you can sever a limb or head, then pick up that bloodied head and use it to beat the next enemy to death … you know you are no longer in T-rated-land.
For my most recent run I played as Sargon, the knight, who focuses on single-handed weapons and uses a sword and shield mode. Sargon is my favorite character, but I have friends who prefer the Amazon or Dwarf – it is really a matter of trying out the game and seeing what you prefer. You begin in a prison cell, betrayed by a breakaway faction of knights led by a great warrior knight … who is in turn led by an evil warlord (and if you play the game to the fullest, you will be able to find out who *he* is working for as well). Once you have escaped, you enter the main storyline of the game which is common to all character classes. This story involves rescuing the leader of the good knights, piecing together a legend of how to destroy the evil warlord, attempting to secure fortresses and temples before they are captured, and ultimately facing the source of the evil threat.
Like Rune, you will not be chatting up villagers – the only non-enemies you see are dead knights littering the captured fortresses. However, the enemies you face are more varied and interesting, and the puzzles more satisfying.
Ease of use/Overall performance:
Blade of Darkness is a classic yet modern third-person game, and as such the controls are very much like any current game in the genre such as Red Faction Guerrilla. You have WASD for movement, the mouse for controlling the camera, and a host of keyboard shortcuts for swapping items and weapons. If you have played any sort of shooter you will have no issues with the controls.
I enjoyed the combat system very much – you can only swing your sword so much before you become fatigued, and need to wait a few seconds to ‘catch your breath’. There are built-in combo attacks which can be very useful – such as the back attack (similar to the one from Jedi Knight II) which was particularly helpful keeping yourself alive against one foe who could teleport behind you and hit with a life-draining attack. The weapon-specific attacks, however, require a much more complex series of key combinations, timed correctly, which I found to be more a matter of trial and error than precision execution. There were only two weapon combos that would consistently execute – and that was a good thing, as one of those combos was pretty much required to complete the game.
Would use again/recommend?: Definitely! After completing both games it is clear that they are both very enjoyable, if plot light, games. Personally, I was constantly waiting for Rune to transition from the beginning to the ‘meat’ of the game, yet by the end, I was fully engaged.
Blade of Darkness gave me a deeper feeling of motivation from the very beginning and kept me going throughout. While there was not much there in terms of plot or characters, the intensity of action and the slow unveiling of events keeps things even more exciting than I remembered.
Suggested changes/wish list for updates: Nothing!
Source: Personal copy
Price: Grab the game for $5.99 on GoG.com!
Here is my hands-on review: