Die by the Sword
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|Die by the Sword|
|Director(s)||Peter T. Akemann|
|Producer(s)||Peter T. Akemann|
Christopher A. Busse
|Programmer(s)||Peter T. Akemann|
|Release||February 28, 1998|
Die by the Sword is a swordfighting action-adventure video game developed by Treyarch and published by Tantrum Entertainment (a sub-brand of Interplay Productions) on February 28, 1998. The game allows players to independently command the movement and swordfighting of their in-game avatars; running, jumping and turning with one hand, while simultaneously slashing, stabbing and parrying with the other.
While the game was well received by critics, the PC releases of Eidos's popular Tomb Raider franchise overshadowed and crippled Treyarch's sales figures. In large part, this was due to what are widely viewed as very difficult controls, challenging gameplay and a steep learning curve for novice players.
The expansion pack Limb from Limb was released on December 31, 1998 and added another main quest for the single-player campaign, enhanced multiplayer through a selection of significantly more creative arenas, and introduced new playable characters such as the Minotaur.
The game allows the player to fully control their sword arm, removing the need for pre-recorded animations and statistically based gameplay. Instead, a physically correct model is used for each avatar and each weapon, and both movement and damage are calculated through forces.
The sword arm can be controlled by using a joystick, the numeric keypad, or a mouse. For example, with the keyboard, to perform a slashing attack with the default key combination, a player would press the '4' and '6' keys on the numeric keypad in succession. This will move the weapon from extreme left to right. The '8'-'2' combination will likewise perform a top-down striking motion. Blocking is accomplished similarly, not through a separate key or state like in all other games of this genre, but instead through the simple physical principle of positioning the weapon so that it intercepts, and blocks, the enemy's weapon. Shields operate like swords in this respect, though it is generally not possible to directly control the off-hand.
Alternatively, a player may opt to directly control his sword arm with mouse movements or a joystick to gain more subtle control. This allows a player to fluidly move his weapon in any direction instead of being limited to the eight points of a keypad. However characters featuring a weapon for either arm can only be properly controlled by keypad or by using predefined moves, due to their unorthodox movements.
A third and simpler method to using the mouse or keypad (as the mouse control can be awkward, and some laptops don't have keypads) is the game's "arcade mode", which uses the Y, U, and I keys to block low, medium, and high, respectively, and H, J, and K keys to chop, slash medium, and slash high, respectively. Turning, jumping, and other acrobatics can be used in tandem with sword control to add velocity to the weapon, increasing its damage potential significantly.
The player can target and eliminate specific body parts. A well-placed swing to the head can in some cases decapitate an opponent. Strong blows to the arms and legs can sever limbs, leaving the opponent with reduced mobility, or in the case of the sword arm, no way to inflict damage. This system encourages multiple hits to a specific region on the body, thereby slowly dismembering the opponent, and reducing his effectiveness. Delicate locations such as the head and neck, while difficult to strike, offer a quick conclusion to those with the appropriate finesse.
In the expansion, Limb from Limb, the player can choose to play the original quest as an Orc, Skeleton, Mantis, among other monsters.
The Arena mode in Die by the Sword consists of as many as four players or AI bots fighting in an enclosed arena. With the Limb From Limb expansion installed, there are a total of nine Arena 'Pits'.
Tournament mode allows the player to choose one of nine different fighters, and work up through different arenas with different combinations of other creatures. It ends with a final boss fight.
Project lead Peter Akemann cited The Bilestoad as a major inspiration for Die by the Sword. Instead of motion capture, the dominant animation technique of the time, Die by the Sword's animations were built with a physics engine that Akemann created over five years of post-graduate and doctoral work.
Die by the Sword was a commercial failure, with sales of 28,603 copies in the United States by April 1999. Interplay's Alan Pavlish attributed the failure to the game's control scheme and "a dark period when it slipped nine months ... [and] lost momentum."
Next Generation reviewed the PC version of the game, rating it five stars out of five, and stated that "DBTS' humorous slant on the all-too-serious fantasy genre is a welcome relief. In most respects, it is everything that games like Deathtrap Dungeon aspire to be. Tantrum has innovated in both story and gameplay at a time when most game companies are churning out derivative sequels and clones."