Presented as the ancestor of the Souls, Blade of Darkness offers a Switch port – Actu

Blade of Darkness, also known as Severance: Blade of Darkness, is the first and last game developed by the Spaniards of Rebel Act Studios, which had to shut down immediately. It is not for lack of having exceeded 500,000 copies sold, but the game notably underperformed in the United States as well as in its country of origin, Spain, where it was unable to sell the 20,000 copies made available to retailers.

Now offered at a price of 8.99 euros until December 24 (14.99 euros thereafter), this Switch port was also released on Steam and GOG in October 2021. This is a reworked version to work on PCs modern and which displays smooth graphics, but without any retouching concerning the handling or the gameplay of this title at “antique and rough charm“, another way of saying that the heaviness of its maneuverability is enough to make the most tolerant sweat.

Looking a little closer, there seems to be in this surprise release a desire to appropriate the reputation of FromSoftware games to stand out. The game’s official description on Steam assumes that this one would have “defined the Soulsborne genre“. Suffice to say that Hidetaka Miyazaki has his ears ringing when the publisher explains to us that Blade of Darkness is “a classic that, at the time of its release, inspired many games in the action-adventure genre with its approach to combat.

Reading user reviews on Steam/GOG, or even YouTube comments, we can see that some players are going in this direction:

  • A real pre-Dark Souls.
  • How good it feels to find Dad’s Dark Souls!
  • It has all the quirks and charms of the old games, so if you want to take a trip back in time and see what it was like to play proto-Dark Souls action RPGs at the turn of the millennium, then I guess which you can try.
  • It’s not just that the combat has to be scaled carefully, and any ordinary enemy can end your game, the storytelling is 100% Dark Souls too. This game is brimming with atmosphere, things unexplained, or hidden in the background for the player to unravel, and all in a similar dark fantasy setting, with endless cycles of death.

Others, however, believe that this reputation as a precursor to what is now called Souls-like has no reason to exist and that the differences in the system are too deep to establish any relationship:

Let’s get things straight. It is not a “soulsborne” or a “souls-like” or a variation of both. Levels are generally linear, leveling up is a linear sequence of gaining experience and unlocking new attacks. The combat isn’t as nuanced either, and the difficulty isn’t there. The only similarities are the melee-focused third-person combat and the emphasis on dodging and anticipating enemy attacks.

This excerpt from the test carried out by Gamekult in 2001 illustrates for its part the importance of dodges but also of the management of attacks, limited by a stamina gauge that is now commonplace:

It is possible to jump backwards or to the side thanks to key combinations (jump + direction) and even to chain the blows as in a fighting game. Be careful, however, not to chain more than four or five blows in a row or risk seeing his character panting stupidly, exposing himself to blows, simply because his strength bar is empty. The clashes are very strategic since the fighters are forced to take breaks in their attacks, just to catch their breath. Obviously, the weapons are all more or less heavy, the most powerful emptying this famous blast bar all at once! Movement is therefore essential to recover, position yourself well and counter-attack.

One thing is for sure, many gamers consider Blade of Darkness to remain an underrated and too little-known game that functions as a great candidate for a remake. Not easy to tame and with a single difficulty mode, the game takes place in a classic medieval-fantasy setting populated by orcs, trolls, golems, demons, skeletons and other evil creatures, but its brutality and its atmosphere marked certain spirits, just like the physics engine and the visual effects, very solid for the time.

Note that it is not a question of creating a character, but of choosing between four archetypes (barbarian, amazon, dwarf, knight). Depending on his choice, the player starts the adventure at a different place but all the roads eventually come together. The objective is to obtain the Sword of Ianna, slay the evil necromancer Dal Gurak, and descend into the Abyss for a final confrontation with the Child of Chaos. A fight accessible only if the 6 runes have been carried over during the adventure to breathe the blessing of the goddess into Ianna’s sword.

Percussive, tribal and grandiose, the music is largely responsible for the atmosphere of the game, and it turns out that it marked the debut in the video game of a certain ├ôscar Araujo, who will be found later on the trilogy Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. There is Conan the Barbarian of course, but also a little Lord of the Rings, two obvious references of this title designed by a team of twenty people. And it must be said, the sinister chorus present in certain combat themes sounds like a furious premonition of what Shunsuke Kida and Motoi Sakuraba are doing a few years later on Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls.

So, it’s far from certain that the FromSoftware and Japan Studio teams had heard of a game as obscure as Blade of Darkness when they laid the foundations for an entire genre with Demon’s Souls, but after sinking into oblivion For so long, Blade of Darkness would have been wrong not to invent some family ties if these could allow him to come out of obscurity a little.

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