Severance: Blade of Darkness

Severance: Blade of Darkness

The Moon shall be tinged with blood!

RecordNow 10 Music Lab Premier

Game Category: Action – Third Person, Fighting
Developer / Distributor: Rebel Act Studios / Codemasters
Release Date: 19 Feb 2001
Rating: ESRB – Mature, PEGI – 18

Be a Champion of Ianna
Here’s a blast from the past (and a great blast it is too)… If you want to talk about great old games, then this one definitely fits the bill!

Severance: Blade of Darkness was released more than a decade ago to an unsuspecting audience who were swept away by other games such as Clive Barker’s Undying, Tribes 2, Serious Sam: The First Encounter, and Black and White.

Out of nowhere appeared an unknown Spanish developer known as Rebel Act Studios whose debut game was a hack-and-slash game that featured game play reminiscent of that seen in Die By The Sword and Rune.

Although backed by a well-known publisher, I felt that Codemasters could have done more to drum up interest for the game. Anyway, the high system requirements, a ho-hum story involving an arcane weapon needed to stop an encroaching evil, game play that was too challenging for most, and a poor multiplayer mode were all factors that helped to worsen the reputation of Severance: Blade of Darkness. Even the wealth of glowing reviews was not enough to save the game.

Over the years, people have given Severance: Blade of Darkness a chance and through word of mouth, this game has attained a sort of cult status for what it ultimately sought to achieve – to give us an excellent action-based blood-spurting experience that borrowed elements from dark fantasy. Today, the game still holds itself rather well in terms of graphics and game play. Not everything is smooth however for Windows 7 users, as you will need to do a little work to get it to run.

Behold the Blade of Darkness!

Playing in Windows 7
Yes, I had a whole lot of trouble getting Severance: Blade of Darkness (or S:BoD) to run under Windows 7; the game simply failed to proceed once I reached the main menu. I had tried all sorts of options that appeared on the small configuration tool that pops up when you start the game, before resorting to tweaking compatibility modes in Windows 7. Failing that, I finally decided to look to the Internet for an answer to my dilemma.

It turns out that there is a solution after all. You can proceed over to this website that incidentally also contains a review of S:BoD. Once there, download and unzip the contents into the following folder: Codemasters/Severance/Bin/Raster. Make sure you right click on S:BoD’s icon and set the Windows compatibility mode to this – Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5). When you next run the S:BoD configuration tool, select the Video option as rOpenGL and choose the desired resolution you wish to play in. That’s about it!

One of the characters available in the game – Tukaram

Game Play
S:BoD comes with a long single player campaign and fields four player characters for you to choose from. Each character performs quite similarly in terms of movement and other general actions (like picking up objects and throwing them). These characters differ however by the different sets of weapons they wield, and the different attack combinations they can employ.

There is also a multiplayer mode known as Arena in S:BoD. This mode however feels like a half-baked affair. For starters, you only get to play from 5 available maps and each character comes with only 3 skins to choose from. Furthermore, although you could theoretically have up to 10 players joining in on the mayhem through LAN, only two players can duel it out while the others just wind up as observers. However, if it’s just one-on-one, you should reap quite some fun from this mode.

The arena interface

The four characters in S:BoD are quite a varied pack. You have 3 males and 1 female in the mix, while one of them is a non-human character. Let’s see them in more detail:

  • Sargon is a King’s Knight from the Empire of Armina, Captain Sargon is a master combat strategist who has been left to starve in the dungeons of the Krak of Tabriz. If you choose to play Sargon, you will get to help him escape from his prison cell. He is most adept at wielding a combination of a light weapon and a shield.
  • Naglfar the messenger has been sent on a mission to travel to the dwarven city of Khazel Zalam to relay disturbing news – the copper vein in Yötenheim has begun to (for lack of a better word) bleed. Little does our dwarven friend know that something terrible has befallen Khazel Zalam and it will be up to this stalwart axe wielder to defeat the forces of chaos.
Naglfar will decimate his enemies with ease
  • Zoe is a female human adventurer who nets herself a mysterious map leading to the lost city of Marakamda. An expert with polearms and staves, Zoe will need all her skills to survive a city that is far from deserted… can she win herself the lost artefacts that she so desperately seeks, or will she wind up murdered by the denizens hiding in the lost city?
  • The elder of Dabaghiyeh has recently had strange prophetic dreams requiring one of their lot to travel to Kashgar where the sacred stones of the ancestors rest. Tukaram, a strong and courageous male barbarian warrior earns himself the right to this dangerous quest. Prefering two-handed weapons or axes, the Chosen One of the Irkanois will be a force to contend with as he makes his way to destiny.

Personally, I prefer the male characters as the attacking sounds Zoe makes is just a little too distracting for me. We’ll cover more of that in the Audio section below.

Zoe’s an expert with polearms and staves

Combat is the best and most fun-filled feature of S:BoD. You can employ standard attack and blocking features that require you to be pretty dexterous with using the keyboard and mouse. The set of keys you use to move around will be the WSAD or cursor keys; while the battle keys are designed around the set you prefer to use. If, for example, I was using the WSAD keys, then I will have to remember that pressing the Caps Lock key will enable me to draw or sheath my weapons, and to use the Q key to throw objects in my hand.

There are also special attack moves you can refer to by pressing the F1 key to open up your Journal. The screenshot shown below shows the Abilities tab of your Journal. You could experiment with the listed moves to try launching a devastating Cyclone special attack or some other special attack move.

The journal is quite handy

Irregardless of the character you pick, you can play through the tutorial once or to head straight into the unique first level for each of them. All story lines merge from the second level onward, so this gives you an excuse to return and try out a new character.

As for the tutorial, it’s quite a thorough introduction to playing the game. You will at first learn basic movement, followed by running (this requires a double tap of the up or down keys to initiate), and jumping. Later lessons introduce you to activating triggers, destroying an obstacle (like a crate of walls) by burning them with a torch, picking up objects (such as food, potions, and keys) and using them, and battling with enemies.

Oops! I obviously can’t burn that crate

The monsters you fight in the game are quite an interesting and smart bunch. There are ugly short deformed cretures, creepy spiders, evil orcs and trolls, mindless zombies and skeletons, enraged minotaurs, and much much more. They will employ tactics and converge on you to bruise, hack, or stab at you. Wait till you meet the bosses though, these guys are truly nasty brutes that need you to use the best weapons, attack moves, and judicious use of food or healing potions to recover your lost hit points.

To attack your enemies efficiently, you can return in kind by locking on to them and taking them out one at a time. You run the risk however of getting hit by a flanking enemy, or worse still, by an enemy attacking from behind. The camera view doesn’t help you a single bit when it comes to getting hit by an enemy from behind, and it’s best you learn the command to turn around 180 degrees in a jiffy.

Ding! Earn experience to go up in level
and unlock more moves

This game easily earns an ESRB rating of Mature (or PEGI rating of 18) thanks to the copious amounts of blood that spurt out whenever the hits points of an enemy are reduced to zero. As part of their death-throes animation, you will see limbs get hacked off and fly in random directions, accompanied by a gory spurt of blood that stains the ground. There’s even the occasional decapitation, with the torso standing upright for a precious few seconds before collapsing in a useless heap.Incidentally, the same death sequences can also happen to your character, and it’s something you don’t want to see happening too often.

Later on in the game, you will chance upon obstacles and traps you need to remove. Obstacles usually require burning (like the aforementioned removal of crates), or finding keys that are carried by certain enemies, or just lying around the level. Traps will however require some careful timing on your part to avoid them.

Carefully does it

The graphics in S:DoB is extremely good for it’s time. It is still great looking in this age, what with the real-time shadows, smooth animation of 3D actors, and rippling waves on water surfaces. The game is truly a work of beauty in terms of all the mathematical algorithms that have been implemented to make everything work seamlessly.

However, if I had complaints to make, it would be that some parts of the levels look quite bare, there’s just not enough dungeon dressing; there’s also the occasional minor clipping, plus each of the levels are just too large. For the latter point, at least you can save your game at any time to continue your adventure romp at a later date.

Visit exotic places

The audio is quite strong in this game, with each enemy having their own attack and death cries. Your player characters are generally well acted except for Zoe whose grunts and yells tend to be a bit too shrill for my tastes; your mileage may vary though. Here, listen and see if you don’t mind her style.

The music is very good and contributes well to the overall fantasy atmosphere of the game. The voice acting in the introductory movie was a bit overshadowed by the music, but otherwise everything else turned out to be not too bad.

The bosses are pretty intimidating

If there is one thing that Severance: Blade of Darkness capitalizes on well would be the amazing battles you get to fight in this epic cult game of hack-and-slash.

  • You get to pick from four characters to play in a campaign that will take you quite some hours to complete.
  • The graphics is excellent, even after eleven years. I just love the shadows that are cast on the dungeon wall, they look so realistic.
  • The combat is absolutely satisfying. With the ability to lock on a particular enemy, circle around them, dodge attacks, launch cool attack moves, level up, and more, you sure will never tire of boredom from the game play.
  • The enemies you fight are quite smart; be extra careful when enemies gang up on you.
  • If you like exploring large levels, then you will enjoy this game.
  • As the game ships with an editor, you may like to know that the community has already released quite a number of levels on the Internet for you to download.
Choose the next level you wish to play

The minor problems listed below are more like issues that wind up dissuading you from playing what is evidently a great game. 

  • You can’t adjust the difficulty level in the game. If the game is too difficult for you, the only solution left is to either totally avoid the game or to resort to cheating; none of which I would condone.
  • The violence is absolutely brutal, which can be the deciding factor to keep you away from the game.
  • The camera angles may be a bit cumbersome in enclosed spaces.
  • The levels may be a bit to large for some, and you may find yourself getting lost. And if you can’t find where a key lies to access the next area, you will often wind up wasting time hunting around for a way to move forward.
  • Don’t think that collecting experience points equates to a great RPG… the role-playing element is not strong here. The game is more action oriented than anything else.
  • Multiplayer is poor, with the arena mode feeling like an awesome disappointment.
Quick, pick up the gladius and hack the advancing brute

Severance: Blade of Darkness should be a game of distinction that garners more attention from core gamers. Even after more than a decade, I can say that the game holds up pretty well. You can’t go wrong in a game that has you quickly thinking on your feet, and adopting the best combat tactics in defeating a horde of monsters bent on hacking you to pieces.

There’s also large areas for you to explore in each of the game’s expansive levels, so be prepared for what could be the adventure of your life.

Look at the lovely water… oh so inviting

Some think the game’s story is too convoluted, but I leave you here with these closing notes… a prophetic poem taken from the manual:

The Moon shall be tinged with blood,
The Sun obscured, 
The Earth shall be covered by waters,
And the brilliant stars shall fall from
their sanctuaries in the heavens.
Fire and smoke shall rise up until they reach the very skies.

Will you be the one to stop the approaching evil? Will you find Ianna, the Blade of Darkness in time? Get yourself Severance: Blade of Darkness today, it’s definitely a gem of a game worth playing.

Time to play as Sargon

The Verdict


1 comment

  1. Gavin Clipp April 18, 2013 7:30 am 

    Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!

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