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Have You Played... Severance: Blade Of Darkness?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Back in 2001, a long-defunct Spanish developer named Rebel Act Studios accidentally made Dark Souls ten years early.

It is quite bizarre how much of Severance: Blade of Darkness parallels From Software's groundbreaking design. A deep, punishing combat system with smart, unpredictable enemies and powerful bosses. A cryptic, lyrical story that minimises exposition in favour of snippets of legend and lore. Geometrically complex environments that are layered vertically as well as horizontally while providing minimal navigational cues. Dark Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls.

The difference is that everything in Dark Souls is deliberately knotted together into one giant mystery to unpick thread by thread. In Severance the intentions are rather more mundane or even completely incidental. The story, for example, isn't enigmatic by design, but because the developers hadn't quite finished it when the game launched. The combat is unforgiving because the Rebel Act were making something that hadn't really been tried before, and the environment design follows on from the classic Tomb Raider methodology colloquially known as Where The Fuck Am I Supposed To Go Now?

Still, as melee combat games go, Severance is an impressive technical relic, featuring lithe motion-captured animations, one of the most advanced lighting systems of its time, and nuanced combat designed specifically around mouse and keyboard. What's more, now that many of us have graduated from the Miyazaki School of Hard Knocks, it makes Severance's half-throwing, half-fumbling down of the gauntlet that much easier to enjoy.

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