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Splinter Cell
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Severance - Blade of Darkness
SeveranceIt's an open secret since the sophisticated Commandos from Pyro Studios that the Spaniards are good at developing computer games. Also Rebel Act succeeded with their first title, the medieval action adventure Severance - Blade of Darkness, in delivering an excellent game. Similar to their Spanish colleagues, Rebel Act prove their love for detail, even though that might not be too evident in face of the full-blown action at first sight. Admittedly, both titles cannot be necessarily compared, but they do have one thing in common: they are pure fun.
Start level BarbarianRight from the beginning, Severance shows its graphical brilliance, e.g. when selecting one of the four characters. Fast camera rides link the four heroes you can choose from. Also the first steps in the world of Severance will make your eyes go open wide. The setting sun casts soft shadows, your surroundings are mirrored on water surfaces and your heroe has been animated smoothly enough. On picking up a torch at the latest you will guide your attention to the shadows. Never before have shadows been computed in real-time with such detail depending on the light source. When approaching a light source, the shadows on the wall grow accordingly, in front of two light sources you can also two shadows. Even smallest details of your heroe's armour are visible.
Short cutscenes right in the 3D engine emphasize important occurences while epic sounds accompany certain situations and create additional atmosphere. Such a sumptuous presentation does have its price - while 500 MHz and above are sufficient to start the game, a heightened need for (temporary) memory will tax your machine to its limit.
The Blade of Darkness:
SunsetThe story doesn't really matter - sinister Ragnar drafts plans to subjugate the world that can only be thwarted with the help of the mysterious Blade of Darkness. Therefore, the next logical step would be to embark on a quest for that sword. But first you have to decide whether the Barbarian, Warrior, Amazon or Dwarf is more to your liking. Each character starts out in different levels and comes along with different skills. The Barbarian, for example, can easily wield two-handed weapons, the Warrior is the allround type of character, the Amazone prefers her bow or spear, and the Dwarf is sturdy but slow-moving. As all of them lack some strength at the beginning, they gain ever more experience by dispatching enemies. On reaching a higher level, they receive a boost to their hit points as well as to their attack and defense values.
Keep moving:
Fighting a trollWhat makes Severance stand out from Rune is its sophisticated fighting mode. There are two ways of moving: While exploring you ran faster and jump higher but cannot strafe; on engaging enemies, you adopt a fighting stance, are then allowed to strafe and let your weapons do the talking. You can make use of various special attack routines (e.g. for one-handed weapons), with some of them only working with a certain weapon and inflicting considerably more damage. Such special attacks also consume more energy, and in case your energy is depleted, you are temporarily paralyzed and prone to enemy assaults. To prevent a quick deatch, you'd then better gulp down one of the rare healing potions or look out for some food. Another rarity are strength potions that should best be kept until you confront a boss enemy, who are way stronger than you are and sometimes possess magical abilities. The bestiarium contains mostly zombies, skeletons, goblins or deth knights, that all have different attack patterns. Slain enemies often leave weapons or shields behind, but your carrying capacity is limited. Early on you stumble upon mighty swords or axes that sometimes require a certain level to be wielded with enough force (or else you'll be slowed down, as is often the case with two-handed weapons).
Rebel Act


Action adv.

very good


very good

very good

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Pros & cons:
Death Knights aheadIt will take you some time before you will see Severance's extro. All 18 levels are pretty vast but still manageable due to their linear structure. Although the dungeons, mines or tombs do not differ that greatly, they are still nicely adorned with medieval-looking textures. The game's foremost lows are its rather mediocre story and not overly challenging puzzles that mainly require you to pull some levers or find some keys. Besides this, handling your characters appears fairly difficult, but after some practice you will come to appreciate it. Fortunately, the designers didn't turn the game into some jump'n'run game.
Severance deliberately focuses on slash-and-slay action, and that's a real boon. The battles are challenging and even professionals will be hard pressed to win every fight unscathed. Weaving some deadly attack routines is highly satisfactory, though. The game draws a lot of its fascination from its unparalleled atmosphere - it's pure fun to explore the mines with the rays of the setting sun casting long shadows or to illuminate dimly-lit passages with your torch. However, Severance is in no way suited for children; when switching off the parental lock, fights becomes quite gory. All in all, fans of the Middle Ages or fantasy scenarios with a penchant for some sword action will see their expectations surpassed - if you liked Rune, you will love Severance.
© 08-25-2001 by CE