Die By The Sword – Day 4 of Advent 2019

I’ve been told before that this is “the best game you’ve never played”. Let’s put that to the test.

The game opens with the Paramount logo! Wow, that’s posh. Did they…?

Nah. It’s just an ad for Secret of Vulcan Fury, the ill-fated Star Trek adventure game. That’s a story for another time.

Going into Die by the Sword, I expected to be presented with a third-person action game, much like Crusaders from yesterday. And, in a way, that’s what you get. I did the customary checking of controls before jumping in, and boy oh boy, do they look confusing. Arcade mode, indeed.

How to make damn sure you'll get killed by wearing only the bare minimum of armour.

I, too, like my cutscenes animated in papercraft.

Let me try to explain the controls to this game. WASD controls the dude’s movement – or arrow keys, should you prefer – while the numpad is used for attacking and defending. So far, so…good?

And then you come across the first enemy, a tiny blue kobold. Easy peasy, right?

Actually, it’s like Trespasser in third-person. Anyone who’s ever played Trespasser will no doubt be shuddering at the thought.

A combat encounter takes place between our armoured hero and his kobold-shaped adversary.

There are three attack buttons – chop, slice, and…er…slice – and three defend buttons – low, middle and high. Most of the time, blocking an enemy’s attack has zero effect, and your own attacks fly dangerously close without actually making their mark. If I had to describe this combat in one word – and I will – I’d say it’s clumsy.

It’s as if the protagonist is extremely drunk, and his slurring speech only adds to that.

Slight side note here – there is an alternative mode of combat called VSIM, in which you use the mouse to control the character’s arm. This sounds even more like Trespasser, incredibly. I didn’t try VSIM out for this review, though, so I possibly missed out on a much more enriching experience.

Anyway! The proverbial really hits the fan in the next room, where there are multiple enemies to fight off at once! All you can do is flail your sword around and hope for the best, because between the low framerate and erratic movements of the kobolds, it’s almost impossible to have any say over whether you hit something or not.

Right, well, I managed to just about survive that lot. Now how do I get out of here? Can’t go this way, the door’s locked. After exploring a little, I found a secret cave…the end of which was littered with traps which you would not know about unless you’d already gone through and died to every single one of them. Like I did.

Even after getting to the end of this cavern I couldn’t find a way to get through, so let’s give that one up as a bad job.

There’s also a skirmish mode, where you can face off against AIs in an arena. It was here I realised that this game is just a really crap fighting game. Even the controls are reminiscent of Karate Champ’s two-stick layout. I feel like it would be alright if it was just a bit more responsive, but as it is, it takes so long between pressing the key and something actually happening that it’s just painful to keep going.

Four-player matches tend to get a little messy.

Verdict: you can chop peoples’ arms and legs off. Game of the year.

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