Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Tantrum Entertainment
Format: Windows PC
Released: 1998

 

In the early 2000’s I managed to get my hands on one of the most exceptional game collections to ever grace this earth; 1999’s The Adventure Hall Of Fame. This was a collection of Interplay finer titles and I am forever grateful to it for introducing me to three of my all-time favourite games – Fallout and Broken Sword I & II. The keen eyed, or those of you who clicked the link, may have noticed how Die by the Sword (including the expansion Limb from Limb which I’ve included in this review) didn’t make the list and that’s with good reason.

"We didn't make it...? Sigh"

“We didn’t make it…? Sigh”

Die by the Sword may have been one of the better Interplay titles but it was not the best game. With that being said, it was probably one of the most fun games you could play at the time with ridiculous gameplay thanks to it’s “innovative” controls – more on that later – and it’s simple arena mode that pitted you against the various creatures you will find within the story component of the game in a simple last man standing match-up.

 

What glorious violence

Eat it, you manbearpig!

Eat it, you manbearpig!

Trying to pin down Die by the Sword charm to a single item is a tough task. On one hand you’ve that groundbreaking gameplay. Let me break it down for you:

You swings are controlled by the mouse…

+ You click and swing from left to right, up and down or whatever direction you fancy

+ The game takes into account your force and speed for damage

= Unpredictable combat that’s as frustrating as it is hilarious.

 

You will make what is in your view a fantastic swing towards the torso of an opponent only to see your character flail wildly and completely miss your target rendering either a response of complete outrage or a belly aching laugh that would rival that of Laddergoat.

Trying to 'kill' these eggs was a challenge

Trying to ‘kill’ these eggs was a challenge

Thankfully that’s not the only place where the humour lies (whether intentional or not). If you actually manage to land a solid hit you may will sever a limb, or in some cases several limbs, of your battle-hardened rival. Head, arms and legs are all vulnerable to the merciless hacking, slashing dictated by your ultra smooth mouse control… or something. The loss of limbs is usually pretty funny but losing a leg only to have your character hop onward to battle is the cherry on the pie and if on the first happening you are not dumbfounded with awe and mirth then you sir or madam have no soul and should retire back to your horrendous hovel beneath the streets.

 

Memories, all alone in the moonlight…

A very fond memory I have of this game is actually playing it in turns with our very own Manny, and getting my leg chopped clean off by a swing that sent my character from one side of the arena to the other during which my character lets out an enormous roar of “bollocks” which firstly was a complete and total understatement for the injury sustained and secondly is a term which at the time seemed very specific to Ireland and the UK. It was an absolute gem of a moment which could easily rival a highlights reel from any of the battlefield games.

In case you can't tell from the 90s chunk graphics, the guy on the left has one leg.

In case you can’t tell from the 90s chunk graphics, the guy on the left has one leg.

Everything else on offer in Die by the Sword is relatively pleasant especially for it’s release year of 1998. The graphics may well be that awkward and clunky early 3D but that shouldn’t let you unleash a devastating judgement that dismisses it to the play pile of ‘never in a million years’. The chunks add a bit more character when you take damage and a gigantic wedge disappears from your player model and is replaced with salmon… Well it’s an attempt at a fleshy wound but all I see is salmon.

 

Die by the Sword or live by the… salmon?

The linear gore effects are complimented incredibly well by the thud that follows a direct hit usually accompanied by a groan or two. Each character type has their own sound effects and the sound engineers should get a pat on the back for a job well done. It’s an excellent example of how sound can completely enhance gameplay. Wait a minute, retract that pat on the back right now because where the fuck is the soundtrack!? After a few hours of play anyone in a separate room may think your making some unusual porno as the only noises audible are those of grunts, usually involving a pigman too, and the dulcet tones of a Scottish man usually sounding in distress. Not a good combination by any means.

Die by the sword troll!

Die by the sword troll!

If you happen to venture into the murky world of Die by the Swords story mode (why would you) the story from what I can tell compromises of some kobolds stealing Mrs. Scottish lady which really pisses off the highlander who hacks his way through endless tunnels to try and recover what realistically should be the remains of his lady friend. I can’t tell you much more about it because I only gave it a few minutes before diving headfirst into the glory of the arena and basking in the blood-soaked joy that it brings to this old tin soldiers heart.

If you’ve never played Die by the Sword I would absolutely recommend you give it a go. Will you like it? Probably not, but I feel it’s definitely something everyone who games should experience. It’s important. I just don’t know why.

My retro review score:
6/10