World of Blackthorne
Phew, what a grueling past couple of weeks I’ve had. I know you all must be thinking that I had fallen off the face of the planet but allow me to put that fear aside with my next article. This time of year is by far the worst for a serious game player like myself. It seems that every week one or two great games are being released in a mad dash to secure that coveted holiday dollar. I, myself have been lulled into the holiday video game frenzy with the likes of Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, Halo: Anniverary, and Uncharted 3. So I hope you, the intrepid reader, will forgive me of these transgressions. One cannot be spat out after the holidays without several hours of your life lost to awesome games.
Moving on to the next Super Nintendo game in my queue, I was pleasantly surprised to see an old classic near and dear to my heart. I remember spending a lazy, warm summer afternoon glued to the old boob tube as dazzling lights danced across the screen. If my memory serves me correctly, this was an underrated title that a lot of my friends had never heard of, let alone played. Sadly, I never owned this title but had to rent it from Sir Blockbuster von Takemymoney. Many-a-hours were spent in that relic of a past era. Today I have the luxury of buying whatever game suits my fancy and trust me, my fancy is never suited. The SNES game I am pining about is non-other than Blackthorne.
Blizzard Entertainment has always been known for quality titles of epic proportions. Games like Starcraft, Warcraft, World of Warcraft, and Diablo are just some of the many titles under their belts. So imagine my shock when I found out that Blackthorne was also developed by this legendary company. Back in the day I never really knew who Blizzard was, to me they were just another game developer in a sea of titles. Now that I am intimately entwined with World of Warcraft and saliva forms at the corners of my mouth by the mere mention of Diablo 3, finding out that Blackthorne was developed by the same company I was more than excited to slap this cartridge in and be amazed. Boy was I not disappointed.
Blackthorne is set on the beautiful and distant planet named Tuul. Tuul has existed for hundreds of years without any knowledge from humans on Earth. Throughout this time, Tuul’s people had been ruled over by a single shaman who was known to be “blessed with all knowledge”. Set years before the game of Blackthorne begins, Thoros, the most current ruler, finds it almost impossible to choose between his two sons as the next ruler. Not being able to come to a peaceful solution as to who should rule after his passing, he leads them into the deserts and kills himself. The shaman’s body breaks into 2 stones, one light and one dark; each child takes a stone and is allowed to rule their kingdom how they see fit. The subjects of the lightstone form the kingdom of Androth, while the subjects of the Darkstone form the kingdom of Ka’dra’suul. The peaceful people of Androth respect and pay homage to their stone, while Ka’dra’suul distain and reject theirs, and are eventually mutated into monsters due to this neglect. During this time, a powerful Ka’dra named Sarlac seizes power in the kingdom and rules it with an iron fist. He forms a vast and powerful army and leads them in a war to destroy Androth and claim it as his own.
Fearing of his people’s doom and ultimately, their destruction, the benevolent ruler of Androth, King Vlaros, with the help of his court magician named Galadril, King Vlaros sends his only son Kyle to Earth to protect his life. King Vlaros also gives Kyle the lightstone to protect. His hope is that one day Kyle can return and use the stone to help his people. 20 years after being sent to Earth, Kyle has become an unparalleled military captain and hired mercenary (that’s pretty damn good for only being 20 years old). Due to some unexplained circumstances Kyle is facing a military court-martial and must escape. He is confronted by the magician Galadril and is told that it is time to return to Tuul and save his people. The game begins with you taking control of Kyle as he sets out to kill Sarlac, reclaim his throne and save his people.
Blackthorne is very similar in play style to the old school Prince of Persia; you’ll just be replacing swords with large caliber weaponry. While controlling Kyle will sometimes be a laborious exercise everything in the game world moves with such artistic realism that before long you won’t notice. The gameplay involves copious amounts of platforming shenanigans in which Kyle can run, climb, jump and traverse the environment in ways that up till now had been largely ignored on the SNES. The game relays heavily on the need to acquire keys and items to progress to the end of each maze like level and you will occasionally receive weapon upgrades from released prisoners. The combat you encounter in Blackthorne is played out in a strategic slow paced gun battle against single and in most cases, multiple enemies. Both Blackthorne and his enemies can press against walls becoming invincible to most incoming fire but this will not always protect you from bombs and explosions. Many fights in the game will require skill, patience, and at times routine memorization. Blackthorne also has the ability to blind fire from cover in an attempt to reduce exposing himself to incoming fire; unfortunately the enemies have learned from this tactic and can pin you down with an almost constant stream hot lead.
The game provides you with seventeen distinct levels spread across four zones – the mines of Androth, the Karrellian forests/swamps, the Wasteland desert, and Shadow keep. Each level you encounter tosses in its own perils that you must overcome as well as some new enemy types. Speaking of enemies, Blackthorne tosses out a wide range of baddies that you must contend with. Each one has different tactics that you must learn and be prepared for. The Grag’ohr, or “Orcs” are the most common enemy that the player will encounter. They use rifles in most cases but some of the later Orcs will toss out swarming wasp bombs that can damage you from cover. The Orcs can also punch you if you stand too close to them, knocking you back and causing massive damage. Whar’orks are large demons who mostly hang around chained up slaves and will fight to the death when encountered. They use a whip as their primary weapon, and are saddled with heavy armor that protects them from all damage except bombs. Golems are enemies that, thankfully, you won’t encounter till late in the game. They will disguise themselves as rocky statues located throughout the stages and can roll into a ball-shaped boulder to avoid damage. They will take varying degrees of punishment before dying and will require you to slam against the wall to avoid being pulverized by their rolling dash. These are just a few of the unique enemies you will encounter in the game.
Blizzard did a wonderful job of sucking you into the game and never letting you go. Something that they perfected over time, hence the reason we have loot fest games like Diablo and World of Warcraft. I was really impressed with the quality of this game and for anyone that is just totally in love with anything and everything Blizzard does, I would highly recommend Blackthorne.
Published By: Interplay Productions Inc.
Developed by: Blizzard Entertainment Inc.
Released: September 23, 1994
Edited by Sarah Lyons Bryson