Severance: Blade of Darkness
|a game by||Rebel Act Studios|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Shuffling from booth to booth at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles with my trusty right-hand man Steve Hill, I noticed that the majority of 3D-accelerated games were starting to look alike: same sort of colour schemes, same sort of anti-aliasing, same sort of lighting effects. Sure, there were great games underneath some of them - and we look forward to playing them - but we were looking for something more. Something better. Something to take us into the next millennium.
Little did we know that there was a treat in store away from the ritual bombardment of dance music and thrash metal being pumped out in the three main exhibition halls. UK-based Gremlin Interactive were showing off their games in a more sedate atmosphere, a relaxing haven that gave us ample opportunity to play Blade, which must have been by far the best-looking game of the entire show.
We've had our eye on Blade for some time now - you'll no doubt have noticed us bleating on from time to time about how excited we are about it. Rebel Act Studios, the Spanish-based developers, have been hard at work on their first ever game, and their fully-interactive 3D action adventure now bristles with more amazing graphical effects than ever seen before, or likely to be seen for some time. It's so luscious, visually, that it makes us wonder what the Iron Storms, and Epics of this world have been up to. The game really does look I that good.
Powerhouse Of An Engine
At the base of it all is Blade, Rebel Act's proprietary 3D engine. Not only does this marvellous piece of software generate the best lighting effects our eyes have ever been treated to, it also makes everything that moves in the game look incredibly true to life. In fact, realism is the key. Everything - from the near-perfect water ripple effect to the way a chair breaks into splinters when you twat it with a sword - looks so realistic. The boffins at Rebel Act have no doubt been burning the midnight oil - and it shows.
Personally, I've yet to see better lighting - the way shadows fall and move had us all gasping; a torch thrown to the floor, casting huge shadows around it, made us weep with joy. Apparently this is due to using 'light volumes' rather than 'shadow maps'. We're not entirely sure what they mean by that, but take it from us it worked - amazingly well.
Unlike most third-person hack-and-slash action games, Blade won't be going overboard on the weapons side of things, but will offer a selection of characters to play out the adventure, each with their own characteristics and skills (see Choose Your Warrior panel). To progress in the story, your character has to fight, swim, climb and jump through some pretty moody scenery. Apparently there will also be people to talk to along the way, although this wasn't evident in the version we were shown.
The action looks very gritty, with amputations and decapitations galore, and appears authentic even down to the way the blood drips on to the walls and floors. A unique targeting system also seems to help - when fighting a group of men, you can cycle through them as individual targets and always face the one you'd selected. But it's not all just fighting, there are some fiendish 'physics-based puzzles' too. The ones we saw looked like something out of The Crystal Maze - pulling ropes, lifting planks and so on, all of which looked well designed.
Orcs, But No Goblins
But Steve Hill, being the cynic that he is, wasn't completely convinced by Blade. "Goblins," he hissed. But Gremlin have promised that there won't be any in Blade. Having said that, upon our return to Blighty (and a little more research), we did uncover the fact that the game will feature ores. Which is just as bad. But we're joking, of course. Blade looks gobsmacking, and could achieve what Die By The Sword and Deathtrap Dungeon failed to - a Classic award.
With a release date set for November, Blade's designers have plenty of time to fine-tune and add all those clever little touches that make us glow on the inside. I've already seen the light: Blade demonstrates that the future of 3D graphics still has much to offer, and that eventually all games will look this way. Rebel Act want to license their engine to other companies. And if it's as easy to use and as flexible as they claim, we could be looking at World Domination. You've been warned.
Choose Your Warrior
First things first: pick which one of the four different characters you want to play as
Square jaw, heavy suit of armour. The rocky road of valour and honour is paved with the blood of a thousand souls, none of which managed to score a hit.
Agile and buxom, the Amazon woman can crush a man with her thighs, and smother him with her bosom (we hope).
The biggest sword in the land, the tightest muscles, the bravest heart... The Barbarian's strength and quick reflexes are his greatest assets.
This little guy proves that it's not height that counts, it's girth. Dwarves are apparently immune to poisonous beverages.