Die by the Sword (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Gameplay
Setting
81
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.5
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  kvn8907 (180)
Written on  :  Dec 15, 2008
Rating  :  2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars

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Summary

Would be an excellent game for the Wii

The Good

With so many combat games a simple matter of moving your character or a unit someplace and having them attack the same way every time, this was a refreshing experience. You really got the feel of melee combat in this game. Not only that, but the game in general seems to be based more on creating a game code and having it do what comes natural rather than pre-scripting everything. There's one part with gears, and if you get crushed in them you die. Same goes for a grinder part and a ceiling-drop part. It's not like the people had to make some separate script for each one, but in general, crushing kills you. There's also a general sense of force. Things get damaged more the harder and faster you hit them. It's a little iffy how something like a Kobold could take the force of an Ogre just by blocking with the shield or weapon, and it'd be better if even with blocking creatures might still get thrown around, but that's a minor thing.

The armor system is good. In addition to shields taking no damage, if something hits a body part that's armored it takes reduced or no damage.

Auto saving is excellent. The game doesn't have a manual save setting, but it doesn't really need one. It automatically saves the game at the places where you'd save if you were saving manually, so even if on the off chance it writes over something you didn't want it to (which is the trouble with any auto save), on the whole the auto save is a great timesaving feature.

The missions have continuity, to a degree. It doesn't necessarily make logical sense why, for example, a temple has a shaft that goes down to a Dwarven mine, but at least it shows that one level leads to another, and you don't just go to a teleport gate or something. Also, each level has a score at the end, you keep whatever few enhancements you might have found on your journey, and whatever health you have at the end of the level is the health you start the next one with, so it behooves you to heal up before the end of a level or risk finding the beginning of the next level nearly impossible.

Moving is excellent. You go forward and back with the W and S keys, turn with the A and D keys, and strafe with the Q and E keys. In that way, though this game is 3rd person, movement feels effortless, as opposed to some console-to-PC conversions that have really awkward movement. The camera, like the save, is also very intuitive. Normally it's over the shoulder, but it switches to a side view for combat, and you can go to a free-look view if you want. It gets a little weird if you're fighting more than one enemy, but on the whole, it's another feature that you don't have to worry about and makes the game more streamlined.

The AI is passable. They're not very smart, and are generally more challenging in their endurance than intelligence, and if you moved outside a set area, the AI would make a beeline for their starting position, even if you were right in front of them. But, they did their job, and though there was some slight path finding trouble, they always got over it eventually. Also, a fun thing to watch was different AIs going at each other while you watched on for the weaker party to survive, or tentacles attacking an enemy that got too close.

The Tournament feature was fun; trying out playing any of the enemies you fought in the game. The weaker ones were interesting, but what was really fun was playing something big like an Ogre and smacking creatures around with a huge club.

It's a bit humorous. Enric says funny things like "I just want to get to know you, inside out!" and at one point says "You couldn't sleep either?" to a skeleton.

Finally, strangely, in addition to being an action game with a bit of platforming mixed in, it also has a few puzzles. This is kind of strange, considering that one would think that the people that enjoy puzzle games are different than the ones that enjoy gritty action games. But, they're in this, and generally they're fun and relatively simple, and there was only one point where I needed a walkthrough.

The Bad

The graphics have not aged well at all. The game really looks bad even on the highest setting, and it would have done wonders if they had made the graphics just a little better when they made the game. That alone is what probably would turn almost anyone off to this game now. Whereas another 1998 game, Half-Life, has graphics that aged well and on high setting is even passable today, this game just looks crappy. Granted, you can get used to it while playing; but still, just a little better would have been nice.

Also, its VSIM feature, where you use the mouse to control the sword, is awkward and unwieldy. It's pretty much impossible to get good at, so after trying the first level with it, I switched to "Arcade Mode", which rather than the mouse control you can press Y,U, and I to block low, medium, or high, respectively, and H, J, K to chop, strike level, or strike high, respectively. Yet even with that, there's enough variety with those for any attack, because in addition to those six commands, you can crouch, jump, turn, move, and hop. When I first tried out a Wii, this was exactly what I was hoping for: a game where the sword would go exactly where you wanted it to, like a real sword fight. Instead, I found games like Twilight Princess, where shaking the controller triggers a preprogrammed attack.

The plot's a bit weak. Two people are just lounging, minding their own business, Enric and a woman (I think her name is Mia) and the girl gets kidnapped. The Enric goes up and down all around (but all underground), and eventually meets a powerful wizard. But it's never revealed why the girl was captured, or what the evil wizard's plan was. Or, for that matter, why the mountain you're going through has so much diversity.

Clipping is a problem. When you walk with a drawn sword near a wall, the sword just goes through the wall. Similarly, if you hit something with a weapon, it passes through them and does damage, something very unrealistic about the otherwise very realistic combat system.

Water is a deadly element in the game. If you go into water more than waist deep, within a few seconds, you'll drown. And it's not like he's wearing a full suit of armor; all he has is a sword, helmet, shoulder pads, and some chain mail. There's really no reason for him to drown so fast. And even if the creators didn't want to put in a swimming feature, they could at least let him stay on the surface longer.

For being such a violent game, it's not really "bloody". Limbs can get lopped and such, but really the only "blood" is when damaged parts of bodies to get reddish. There are sounds of blood, like the sound effect when you shop off the limbs of some creatures which sound like a sword going through a water balloon, and Enric mentions "bleed"ing, but for the most part it's strangely bloodless. No one loses blood from wounds, no blood falls on the ground, and from the beginning to the end he and his sword stay miraculously clean.

The game’s difficult, but there’s a simple solution to that: don’t be a hero. The game’s plenty hard on its lowest difficulty setting, Squire, and after trying the first level on a higher difficulty setting, I realized I had no chance of getting through the rest of the game if I was finding the first level that difficult. So really, choose Squire, and if you really want to play a higher difficulty setting, go through it first on Squire, then once you’ve done that, try a higher difficulty setting.

Though creatures have familiar names like Kobolds, Orcs, and Dwarves, they certainly don't look like the standard J. R. R. Tolkien fare. Strangely, the "Orcs" are actually men with pig heads (which initially confused me when the game mentions Orcs), Kobolds are like little bipedal wolves with spears and shields, and Dwarves are burley men about four feet tall who wield sickles. Not that variety is necessarily a bad thing, but it's a little weird.

Finally, though the healing system makes more sense later in the game when you find things like healing potions and healing springs, in the beginning it doesn't really make sense at all. In the first levels, you break open crates and loot corpses to find, get this, breadsticks and pieces of meat. And they slightly increase your health and heal your wounds. I know a lot of games have the whole food=health thing going on, but no amount of using it will make it make any more sense. If breadsticks really gave people more health, ambulances would rush people to the Olive Garden rather than the Hospital.

The Bottom Line

It's a genuinely good game, which did some neat things, though it hasn't really age well and the graphics are bad. It's innovative in that there's not a lot of strict scripting going on, and most of the game was the designers and programmers making the game physics work and then letting it go from there. In general, I'd say that if you're in to sword fighting this game is a must. But what it really needs is an update, either a remake, or for some other game to have a mod based on it. Or better yet, it should be ported to a Wii, where the ability to swing a sword however you want could REALLY come in handy.