I remember way back in 2001 I bought, on a whim, a game called Severance: Blades of Darkness by developers I had never heard of: Codemasters. I have to admit: I wasn’t ready for a game like Severance: Blades of Darkness, but I persisted, and fostered an early love for difficult third person action games that still exists today. I was thrilled to see that Severance: Blade of Darkness was finally getting the love it deserved through a rerelease—and while I wish I could whole heartedly recommend this game to a modern audience, there’s too many things about it that I think I’m only tolerating because of nostalgia.
Blade of Darkness is a third person action role-playing game. In it, you can play as one of four characters—each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s a rerelease of Severance: Blade of Darkness, a game from 2001 that went through some distribution rights issue. Now released on steam with the Severance part dropped, Blade of Darkness has had some modest upgrades to make it run on modern systems—and that’s about it. As far as I can tell (and remember) Blade of Darkness plays almost identically to how it did twenty years ago—for good and (mostly) for bad.
First of all, Blade of Darkness is a cult classic, and a hidden gem. If you grew up in the era is was released, or even played it back then, I think you’ll get the most out of Blade of Darkness. If you’re a modern gamer with patience and curiosity, it’s definitely doable—but there are just too many things about Blade of Darkness that make it a little frustrating to play.
Movement is clunky in Blade of Darkness, and it affects every aspect of the game. Since all movement is clunky, combat is clunky—and clunky combat is unfortunate in a game with a sort of stamina meter and enemies that do massive amounts of damage. Any single enemy encounter is potentially deadly in Blade of Darkness—but sometimes for the wrong reasons. You can block and parry attacks, and while there isn’t really a dedicated dodge button, the jump acts as a quick dodge for those who prefer a more nimble style of combat—you don’t get i-frames here, however.
Blade of Darkness doesn’t just utilize a system of heavy and light attacks in its combat, as more modern third person action role-playing games do. Instead, it’s more like a combo system. Depending on which direction you push your movement and your swing, you will do different attacks. This is incredibly important for enemies that are low to the ground, or those wielding shields. This is actually one of my favorite parts of Blade of Darkness, and I love how strategic it makes combat feel.
Swinging weapons in Blade of Darkness isn’t that great. Hitting an enemy can result in dismemberment, which is an amusing touch (if you’re into that sort of thing) but making contact and swinging the weapon feel weightless. Hit boxes are also pretty terrible, which is a little annoying for a game that has precision style attacks.
Most of the levels in Blade of Darkness tend to be rather bland looking—but interesting to explore. Blade of Darkness has an old school dungeon crawl feel to it, which is one of its greatest strengths, and its levels lend heavily to it. Sometimes you’ll encounter clusters of enemies, or even traps like rolling boulders or ceilings with spikes coming down.
Weapons in Blade of Darkness are abundant, and while they’re breakable, only do so if you parry often. Shields, on the other hand, break with regular use—so it’s good to keep a few on hand if you plan on using them. You can also toss weapons in Blade of Darkness—something I always appreciate.
My biggest complain about Blade of Darkness is that there just hasn’t been enough done modernize it. Everything from saving the game to lack of controller support is frustrating about this rerelease. I would have loved to see a quick save button added, and the complete lack of controller support makes Blade of Darkness feel like a real missed opportunity.
While Blade of Darkness has been a great nostalgia hit, it’s hard to recommend to people who aren’t already familiar with this rather obscure role-playing game from the early 2000s. It’s too bad, too, because it’s a game that may have been a little ahead of its time, and it deserves more love. But it’s great that it’s available to purchase, and even runs on modern machines at all—which is probably good enough for those who are seeking it out.
Blade of Darkness is available now for PC on Steam.
A Steam code was provided to us for this review.