Die By The Sword Game

OVERVIEW = 10 A hack-and-slash with unique 360-degree sword control. PRESENTATION = 5(Graphics = 4) Not particularly impressive by OVERVIEW = 10 A hack-and-slash with unique 360-degree sword control. PRESENTATION = 5 (Graphics = 4) Not particularly impressive by 1998 standards, but not as blocky as it could be. Resolution and framerate are painfully low unless you use the “Xtended” mod. (Visual aesthetics = 2)The background is entirely muddy brown textures that mix very poorly, making it difficult to look at and often confusing to interpret, even if you upgrade with the “Xtended” texture mod.

Die by the Sword is a third-person action game set a medieval fantasy world. The player controls Enric, a knight whose sweetheart Maya was kidnapped by kobolds and who swears to bring her back.

It’s a case study in why older games age poorly unless they use cel-shading or simple textures. Character models do fare a little better. Good blood effects. (Sound Effects = 8) (Music = 5) (Voice Acting = 7) A few quips here and there. (Physics = 7) Body parts fly off properly but there’s no ragdoll physics. (Plot = 7) Simple but unobtrusive.

CONTROLS/MECHANICS = 10 (Hack-and-Slash = 10 (95% of game)) What makes DbtS unique is the simulation-style control scheme. Move the mouse up or down to move the sword in a vertical circle in front of you (i.e., the “Saggital” plane). Left and right controls its position parallel to the ground (the “Axial” plane). Strikes are accomplished by moving the sword from one position, through the enemy’s character model, to another position, and-incredibly-the game considers the speed of the swing, your jumping/walking movement, the enemy’s movement, and the location on the enemy in calculating damage and knockback. You block by putting your sword in a position to interrupt an enemy swing.

If you get blocked, your sword bounces slightly and you have to reorient to the new mouse position. The left mouse button bends your elbow 90 degrees, sacrificing reach for better blocking paths. It’s pixel-perfect, and the physics involved was a major achievement in 1998. The swinging controls are limited by the fact that you can’t move your mouse past a-slightly slow-speed or the game stops recognizing the input. No game since has managed this degree of spherical precision. “Mount-and-Blade” and “Jedi Knight” games are simplistic by comparison.

Wii-motion-plus games-“Wii Sports Resort:Swordfighting,” “TLoZ: Skyward Sword,” and “Red Steel 2”-have come the closest in the sense that they allow you to position your sword, but even they only recognize 8 possible swing directions and only 2-horizontal or vertical-blocks, and only when the wiimote works at all. Movement on the keyboard includes both strafing and turning-critical distinctions with hit detection this precise-and holding spacebar crouches while double-tapping spacebar jumps, which I really like; who jumps first without crouching their legs? You can wield severed limbs, still holding their weapons, thus extending your attack reach. Apparently it’s possible to throw by swinging and letting go at the right moment, but I never managed to aim properly. You can also play as characters with functioning shields in the left hand. There’s an optional “arcade”-style control scheme, but it invalidates the whole point of the game.

(Platforming = 7 (5% of game)) There’s a bit of jumping and pulling yourself onto ledges-with the sword holstered-to facilitate the fetch-quest puzzles. (Enemy AI = 9) Despite the complexity, it works really well, and enemy species will often fight each other. (Camera = 8) No complaints. DESIGN = 6 (Interface = 6) You have to press F3 to turn on health bars. (Level design = 6) Mostly good, often interesting, but there’s one cave section where I got lost for a long while.

A few sections mix things up, such as being suspended upside-down by a cut-able rope while enemies attack, a floating raft, etc., but more could have been done with the mechanics. (Enemy design = 9) Great variety. (Difficulty Curve = 3) Way too hard, with too few health potions. The game could have really used recharging health. I didn’t beat the singleplayer mode without enabling the godmode cheatoften. (Upgrade System) None, which is fine.

(Modes) = The DbtS and its LfL expansion both have singleplayer campaigns. There is a cool 2 vs 2 version of hockey in LfL where you use the mechanics to knock a smaller enemy into the goal. My favorite is the Arena mode, where you can free-for-all against 3 enemies in a variety of levels with their own traps/swinging blades.

The “Xtended” mod also has a really cool level where you play in an 8 vs 8 skirmish. Text twist 2 free online. 1 vs 1 multiplayer LAN works-and is awesome-but I couldn’t get anything with more players working properly. (Length) = 2 hours to beat each single-player mode (20% Padding), but I spent much more time in the Arena. CONCLUSION Despite its flaws, mainly the graphical mess and excessive difficulty, DbtS earns a 10 because its control scheme offers a unique experience. Its pseudosequel, “Draconus: Cult of the Wyrm” for Dreamcast, squandered all of DbtS’s advances by reverting to arcade controls, so the gameplay mechanics were lost to future generations, which is sad, because a modern version has so much potential.

Die by the Sword
Publisher(s)Tantrum Entertainment
Director(s)Peter T. Akemann
Don Likeness
Producer(s)Peter T. Akemann
Christopher A. Busse
Mark Nau
Programmer(s)Peter T. Akemann
Artist(s)Chris Soares
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
ReleaseFebruary 28, 1998
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Die by the Sword is a swordfightingaction-adventurevideo 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.

Die by the Sword also offered deathmatch and cooperativemultiplayer play in its arena mode, where players could stage fights with up to three other players.

The expansion packLimb 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, and other monsters.

The Arena[edit]

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[edit]

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.[1] 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.[1]


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.'[2]

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.'[3]


  1. ^ ab'NG Alphas: Die by the Sword'. Next Generation. No. 33. Imagine Media. September 1997. pp. 94–95.
  2. ^Saltzman, Marc (June 4, 1999). 'The Top 10 Games That No One Bought'. CNET Gamecenter. Archived from the original on June 16, 2000.
  3. ^'Finals'. Next Generation. No. 42. Imagine Media. June 1998. p. 144.

External links[edit]

  • Die by the Sword at MobyGames
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