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Die by the Sword

aka: DBTS
Moby ID: 154

Description official descriptions

Die by the Sword is a third-person action game set in a medieval fantasy world. The player controls Enric, a knight whose sweetheart Maya was kidnapped by kobolds and who swears to bring her back. The game's distinguishing feature is its sword-fighting system, which allows detailed and precise control of the player character's moves, giving it a fighting game flavor. The game features a fairly complex and elaborate control system, with separate keys and button combinations assigned to moves such as running, jumping, slashing, stabbing, parrying, etc., which allows the player to execute these moves simultaneously in a variety of combinations.

A somewhat simpler control system, dubbed "arcade mode", is also available. This system limits the amount of combinations to three kinds of slashes and blocks - low, medium, and high. The game also incorporates a local damage system, in which wounding specific body parts will inflict different conditions on the enemies, including severing their limbs and even decapitation. The game's levels include, beside enemies, many hazardous traps that Enric will have to avoid.

In addition to the story mode, the game also features arena and tournament modes, which allow up to four players to participate in free-for-all battles using the game's sword-fighting system. The player is also given the opportunity to create his own custom moves with a built-in editor.


  • ダイ・バイ・ザ・ソード - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

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Average score: 79% (based on 26 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 38 ratings with 4 reviews)

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.

Windows · by kvn8907 (173) · 2008

A typical fantasy action game with a plot older than gaming itself... and one of the most memorable and fun games I've ever played.

The Good
Die By The Sword (DBTS) features a new interface style, called VSIM (Virtual SIMulation) that lets your mouse control the torso of the main character, including the weapon he holds in his hand. This means one can control direction and character motion on the keyboard, and his fighting moves with the mouse. As the game's very apt MobyGames description says, fighting is totally unlike a normal fighting game, with a 'punch' key, 'kick' key, etc.. VSIM allows you whatever move you want, taking out the click-fest middleman. It adds an amazing level of immersion. I loved just sitting in a quiet area and practicing different moves.

Does this work well against the game's enemies? DEAR LORD YES. Fighting the enemies in DBTS - which are typical, but superbly well-done - is incredibly fun. The virtual reality created by the VSIM system creates a kind of visceral immersion, where button-punching no longer exists, and you're allowed whatever moves fit the terrain, enemy, and your style of play. Fortunately, for those who can't handle the VSIM system, a more typical fighting-style interface is available, bless those clever designers.

Graphics-wise, Die By The Sword is pretty nicely done. Character modeling is great, allowing locational damage - which means you can select what extremities you'd like to remove from your enemy. The terrain engine is decent, and does its job, featuring excellent textures that fit the appropriate area. The traps are surprisingly well done, and even include rope traps that lift you right off the ground and suspend you in mid-air - and still let you fight off the coming ambush. Sounds are also well-done, with great grunts and howls appropriate to each enemy. Music is absolutely great - this guy/girl should be making albums. The music, featuring Star Wars - style classical background music, never got repetative and never got in the way of the action, yet added a lot to gameplay. Very nicely done.

One last thing I should mention - the main character, Elric. Elric is a very angry Scottish swordsman, and is played... well... to the hilt. His comments, synchonized to battle events, are absolutely great. The actor who played him is to be commended, as well as the designers who built his character. Also included is a long monolouge by Elric after the game is done, describing his quest in detail - a wonderful addition.

The Bad
Man and woman are together. Woman is carried off by monsters for evil wizard's nefarious purposes. Man chases woman. Man fights off monsters, pushing levers, getting keys, evading traps. Man confronts evil wizard, says cool one-liner, kills wizard, saves woman.

The plot in DBTS is cliche. It's old. As a stand-alone element, it'd be another lame fantasy story. But this isn't the point, surprisingly. (sorry to warp the topic) DBTS handles this plot amazingly well, breathing new life into an otherwise tired story. No, I didn't like the plot itself. But I loved the way it was handled. If you buy games for plot alone, I doubt you'll like DBTS.

Another problem with DBTS is that it's hard. Really hard. Even playing on the easy level, I had trouble with the early parts of the game, not to mention the hordes of creatures that come later. The enemy AI is a little frustrating, if simply because when two enemies are present, they both charge you, making defending yourself quite difficult. VSIM seems more suited to a dueling system, and multiple enemies, which happens often, kind of takes away from the gameplay.

The Bottom Line
Die By The Sword, for me, is a classic. Not because of the plot (which most of my personal classics are based on) but because of the gameplay. DBTS almost seems like a proof-of-concept game at times, and the concept works great. It has gotten me to replay it several times, often all the way through in one night. I'd be trying to calm down my heart, listening to Elric's endgame rant, turn my head, and see morning peeking through my window. I sincerely hope VSIM isn't lost to the sands of time and big business. Applied to another game, with better plot, the addition of RPG elements, the next incarnation of VSIM could be the next step towards a virtual reality gaming system.

And it'll be a screaming Scottsman leading the charge.

Windows · by George Shannon (113) · 2000

A decidedly different third person fighting game.

The Good
Die By The Sword offers a different style of fighting game compared to more traditional titles – it’s more like a medieval sword fighting simulation.

The unique (to my knowledge) VSIM control system is excellent fun. The numpad or mouse are used to direct your character’s weapon arm in any direction, and allows other movements such as blocking, extending and sheathing. Being able to manoeuvre your sword arm in any direction allows for an almost unlimited number of moves. With a bit of practice you’ll be decapitating those Orcs in one swing! There’s really nothing quite like taking on three or four monsters at once, swinging, blocking and dodging across a room… the sense of fighting is very real, as opposed to simply pressing buttons to activate various attacks. Great fun is to be had by amputating the sword arms of all your enemies, then watching them try to attack you with a severed stump (then try picking up the disembodied limb and beating them to death with their own appendage). For beginners, there’s a more traditional “arcade” control method.

The music and sound effects are excellent, especially the main character Enric’s various taunts and exclamations (“Ahhh… the other white meat…” “Ooh! Ow! Hot!”). They really add to the enjoyment and greatly increase the atmosphere of the game. As well as a “Quest” mode that sees the hero Enric proceed through level after level of caves and caverns filled with ever increasing numbers of monsters, DBTS offers an “Arena” mode. The arena allows up to four players to slug it out in a choice of four arenas and as a variety of warriors, from human fighters and diminutive Kobolds to the scary looking skeletons and the insanely powerful Ogre. The only thing missing is a choice of weapons…

The Bad
The plot of the Quest mode is pretty terrible. Enric’s girlfriend gets kidnapped by some rather ugly looking monsters and dragged off into some cave. Of course you have to chase after them and rescue your lass from some evil wizard type intent on taking a peek at her entrails. Thankfully this lack of compelling story doesn’t detract from the gameplay.

The AI at times acts with all the cleverness of a short-circuited toaster (which isn’t much). Jumping into pits of flaming lava, decapitating their friends with wildly swinging axes, less than ideal choices of combat moves (particularly the Orc’s “Turn-around-and-jump-backwards-onto-my-sword manoeuvre”) and occasional pathfinding issues detract from the realism, but not the entertainment.

Some players (like me) may find the single player quest a little too difficult towards the end (taking on three Ogres at once is a tad hard), but it does make it all the more satisfying when (if) you get past the tricky sections.

Oh, and i can't figure out the special move editor.

The Bottom Line
DBTS is a real classic. For me, the arena mode gives the game its longevity long after I finished the quest. Playing the arena mode, I can come back all the time for an hour or so of hack-n-slash hilarity. There’s always more you can try, with an infinite number of potential moves and several varied characters to choose from. And once you start playing over a network with three other players, you’ll never look back. I just wish they would make a sequel with better graphics, a good physics model and a choice of weapons... we can only hope.

Windows · by Evan Kerr (9) · 2004

[ View all 4 player reviews ]



A "cuss-pack" patch, which adds more mature comments, powerful insults and witty lines to the main character's vocabulary, is available from the Interplay site (support section). Most of the added speech files are not suitable for younger people.


Enric's taunts include "The other white meat!" after slaughtering an orc (a decidedly pig-like enemy), and "There can be only one!" after decapitating a foe (quoting Highlander where immortals could only be slain by cutting off their heads).

Information also contributed by re_fold.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tom Louie.

Additional contributors: Xantheous, Jeanne, Jason Musgrave, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, michel mohr.

Game added June 4th, 1999. Last modified November 11th, 2023.