Mace: The Dark Age

STORY:  For centuries an impenetrable darkness has shrouded Europe, Arabia, and Asia, with countless victims succumbing to the ravenous hunger of unchecked pestilence and war. In Asia, Khan's ruthless Golden Horde wages a war of terror from the shores of Japan to Europe. In Arabia, the legendary Assassins' Guild asserts a bid for power, toppling sultans and kings. Europe, once a promising glimpse of humanity's potential, has become a well of despair under the despotic rule of a handful of feudal lords.

Many great kingdoms have been devastated, but a few have grown more powerful. These comprise the Covenant of Seven - lords who have allied with Asmodeus, a practitioner of the dark arts who wields the fabled Mace of Tanis. The Mace is imbued with necropotic energy, offering those who wield it a tantalizing promise of ever-lasting life and unbridled power. With this power comes a terrible price: Asmodeus must feed off despair, disease, and poverty. In limited doses, Asmodeus grants the Seven the power they need and crave. In return, they expand their kingdoms with bloody battles and torment their peasants. But Europe can no longer sustain Asmodeus' ravenous appetite. He now reaches East into the Orient, to find new lords who yearn to sample the dark powers.

But there is rebellion. Each of the Seven, addicted to the corrupting power of the Mace, dispatch their best warriors to kill Asmodeus and steal his power. Leaders from the East sense Asmodeus' plottings and strive to destroy him before it's too late. Heirs to kingdoms long since vanquished seek revenge on Asmodeus and those who wield the dark energy. They are the fiercest fighters on Earth, and they all have one thing in common: they each must possess the Mace.

Most of your medieval archetypes are present.

Mace: The Dark Age is a 3D weapon based fighter featuring 16 medieval-inspired characters (plus a few secret ones) and also some pretty sleek visuals for the time. The fully 3D-rendered stages offer some nice eye-candy, but also effect the gameplay, as fighters can interact with and even become damaged by the environment. Hazards like hot lava, acid pools, swinging razor pendulums, and giant spikes will deal damage to the fighters if they come in contact.
Besides the environmental interaction, Mace is a fairly straight forward and traditional-style 3D fighting game. Each fighter can perform a number of priority moves & key combos, as well as special moves, including projectiles... which weren't usually seen in most 3D fighting games of the era. Mace's character roster is comparable to Soul Edge, featuring skilled weapon-users from across the globe. Whether it's the samurai, the viking, the monk, the knight, or the undead warrior... Mace has pretty much all the bases covered. 

For the time, the large stages and environments were fairly impressive.

The character movesets aren't as deep as one might hope for, but characters do manage to stand out from one another and have a respectable variety of attacks. Some of the unlockable characters may seem like "palette swaps" at first, but fight uniquely for the most part! Each fighter also has their own brutal, and usually gory finishing move (AKA executions) which aren't unlike those found in the Mortal Kombat series. Worth mentioning, most of the finishing moves were executed pretty well in terms of animation. (Pun intended.)
Like most mid 90's 3D fighting games, most of the fighting in Mace is done on a 2D plane. However, a sidestep maneuver can be performed and used to dodge projectiles and the like. Though the game is definitely playable, the controls are also a bit clunky when compared to other fighting games. Jumping in particular could've looked and felt a lot smoother. Characters also feel a bit too "heavy" to move around (I guess it's all that armor).

Mace: The Dark Age brought the "dark & gritty" to the fighting genre.

The animation of Mace: The Dark Age is pretty good at times, though a bit sluggish & choppy in other instances. Some moves had that ouch factor, some didn't... definitely a mixed bag. The cool, original setting and generic-yet-interesting character designs were probably the main draw of the game (besides the blood & gore). The soundtrack and sound effects complimented the game pretty well at the time (though that announcer's voice is pretty laughable by today's standards).


Page Updated: November 28th, 2020
Developer(s): Atari Games   (Arcade Division)
Publisher(s): Midway Games
Platform(s): Arcade, Nintendo 64
Release Date(s): 1996                              Arcade
Oct. 1st, 1997          Nintendo 64
Dec. 1997
  Nintendo 64
Characters Lord Deimos, Mordos Kull, Taria, Al-Rashid, Namira, Ragnar Bloodaxe, The Executioner, Takeshi Tsunami, Koyasha, Xiao Long, Warmech, Grendal, Hell Knight, Sir Dregan, Ichiro, Pojo, Asmodeus, Ned the Janitor

Featured Video:

Related Games: Soul Edge, Last Bronx, Battle Arena Toshinden 2, Battle Arena Toshinden 3, Bloody Roar, Star Gladiator, Bushido Blade, Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi, Samurai Shodown 64, Street Fighter EX, Virtua Fighter 3, Fighting Vipers, Fighters Megamix, Dead or Alive, Rival Schools, Tobal No. 1, Tobal 2, Tekken 3, Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 4, Killer Instinct Gold, Golden Axe: The Duel, Chaos Breaker, Warzard, Weaponlord

Gameplay Engine

 6.0 / 10

Story / Theme

 8.5 / 10

Overall Graphics

 8.0 / 10


 7.5 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 7.0 / 10


 7.5 / 10

Art Direction

 8.0 / 10


 6.0 / 10

Options / Extras

 8.0 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 6.5 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 6.0 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 6.0 / 10


 7.5 / 10


 7.0 / 10

 Review based on Arcade & N64 versions    


Final Words:

Mace was a respectable & bold effort of a 3D fighting game in 1996, and the arcade cabinet was also eye-catching for the time. Considering its tough competition in 1996, Mace held up fairly well and managed to stand on its own as a unique fighting game.

The N64 port was one of the best fighting games, if not the best fighting game on the N64 at the time of it' debut (which isn't saying much, but hey). I have to admit I put some quality hours into the N64 version back in the day, and did get quite a bit enjoyment out of it with some friends. 

Overlooking the slightly clunky gameplay, I thought Mace had some pretty entertaining characters. The variety of secret characters also added some personality to the game, which included a dwarf-controlled mech made out of barrels and a chicken... that could kill you. Mace wasn't exactly revolutionary to the fighting genre, but was a respectable early 3D fighting game that showed some heart.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen  

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