Jidaigeki-themed Action RPG developed by Sierra in 2001. Slightly reminiscent of Diablo. The story follows the samurai serving one of four (historical) clans, as they battle the Dark Warlord Zanshin and his army of undead.
As the story goes, the decadent shogun, Tsunayoshi, bartered his soul to a mad priest, for a potion that could allow him to avoid his impeding death. As a result, he became the Dark Warlord, turned his loyal followers into undead, and declared war on the four lords governing the lands around his mountain stronghold.
The player starts the game as the leader of the armies of one of the four lords, tasked to rally the samurai scattered in the castle, drive out the invaders, and bring home the people who were driven away from their home. After this is done, the seven samurai are sent to undertake a series of tasks, as part of their mission to clear the wilderness from Zanshin's forces. These include requesting assistance from the second clan, conquering the third clan who defected to Zanshin's side, rescuing the lord of the fourth clan, recapturing the eight portal gates scattered around the wilderness, and finally, conquering the Dark Warlord's citadel.
The game map is divided into several major regions including the four castles and their respective territories arranged in a ring, with a path in each one leading up to one of the four mountain slopes, that lead to the Meifumado citadel. Whichever clan the player chooses to serve, he must travel through the wilderness clockwise, and clear all eight areas before climbing the mountain. Depending on which clan the player chooses, he may encounter side quests that provide some backstory and development for certain characters.
During the game, the player can command up to four of the seven characters. Injured or fallen samurai can be teleported back into the player's shrine room, and fresh troops can be called instantly to the field, as long as there's at least one character in the active party. If all characters in the active party are defeated, the game ends, even if all other characters are fully rested and waiting deployment in the Shrine room. The active party itself can return to the Shrine room either by foot, or through the portal gates found in the wilderness. Besides the shrine room, there is no town for the player to rest in and buy equipment. Once found, the blacksmith and the priest can always be accessed through their respective menus. The blacksmith will make you new equipment out of low quality items you give him, or use special 'components' you find to improve the capabilities of your equipment. The priest will give you spell points in exchange for high quality items, sell you potions as well as identify items and remove curses. You can NOT sell any items.
The game is very similar to Diablo and it's sequel, but carries several distinctive features, including a complex item creation system, and the commanding of four member teams, alongside the far eastern atmosphere.
Throne of Darkness provides examples of the following tropes:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Item crafting costs a lot of money. Ridiculously so. Made worse by the fact that you cannot sell items for cash (just give them away for materials or spell points) and must rely exclusively on the gold that you find.
- Alternate Universe: The characters are named after historical or mythical Japanese figures, but the story isn't even close to anything that happened in historical Japan.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: At the end of the game, the player characters witness the ascension of the new Zanshin, who proceeds to erase their minds and turn them into mindless servants.
- Beef Gate: Walk in the right direction and soon enough you'll run into enemies powerful enough to one-shot your characters, cluing you on which direction was the right one to take.
- BFS: The Zanbato and Nagamaki, which are polearm class weapons. The patch also includes the Chiljido, as the strongest melee weapon in the game.
- Blade on a Stick: Several polearm class weapons are these, though not all classes can use them. All characters models wielding one will show a spear, though the Brick always has a massive kanabo instead.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The four clans: The Oda are Red, the Tokugawa are Blue, the Toyotomi are Yellow and the Mori are Green.
- Cutscene Power to the Max: The intro shows your characters doing all sorts of cool moves they can't do in the game, such as throwing enemies into each other, and ripping off enemy body parts to use as weapons.
- Downer Ending: The clan leader takes Zanshin's place and turns the player characters into zombies. It's also a big Cruel Twist Ending with a good dose of Diabolus ex Machina, you were led to believe that you're doing things for the good of Yamato and the twist came out of nowhere right after defeating Zanshin.
- Dual Wielding: The Swordsman and the Berserker can equip two swords at once.
- Elemental Powers: The main four elements are fire, 'water' (but actually ice), earth and thunder.
- Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana: Averted. The only sword referred to as a 'katana', is the useless piece of scrap metal every character starts the game with. The other sword weapons you can find have the appearence of one but their names run the whole gamut.
- Evil All Along: Your daimyo. All he wanted is more power by taking the immortality potion and then becoming the next Dark Warlord. He succeeded and then turns you and the rest of your party into his zombies.
- Five-Man Band: Minus one, though the various party members you get do follow a similar scheme:
- The Leader: The Leader, of course. Tends to have balanced stats, has the greatest diplomacy (discount on crafting) and can equip all types of weapons.
- The Lancer: The Swordsman and the Archer both have this potential: their stats are overall balanced safe for their specialties (Melee dual wielding and archery) and can easily serve as a number two party leader.
- The Big Guy: The Brick and the Berserker: the former is a Mighty Glacier capable of taking anything the bad guys can throw at him, the latter is an offensive powerhouse who can dual wield weapons for massive damage. Both do their best with polearms.
- The Smart Guy: The Wizard and the Ninja are both Glass Cannon troops, can use the least amount of weapons, die as soon as the enemy focus on them but can deal a lot of damage through spells and long-ranged attacks.
- The Chick: In a way, the Blacksmith and the Priest, who aren't part of the playable group but are always accessible and can provide you with service.
- Flaming Sword: The Hwa-Rang Chiljido. Arguably the best (unique) sword in the game.
- Foreshadowing: You fight dark, corrupted versions of the classes as you approach the Dark Warlord. That will be your fate and the whole game's premise: You kill the Dark Warlord and his minions, you and your team become the next Dark Warlord and cronies for your next playthrough.
- Gratuitous Japanese: Dear God, where to start.
- Highly Visible Ninja: The Ninja can't perform any true stealth and is clad in the clan's color, which means he's always wearing blue, red, yellow or green.
- Historical Domain Character: Almost every playable character and lord. But considering the HUGE difference between their roles in the story and their roles in history, they may as well be different people who happen to have the same name.
- Historical In-Joke: If you serve the Tokugawa Clan, your leader is called Date Masamune. If you serve the Mori clan (who must defeat the Tokugawa at one point) your leader is called Takeda Shingen, who did indeed defeat Tokugawa at one point.
- Inexplicable Treasure Chest: Pray that they contains gold and not some more useless items. It's one of the only three ways to get money in the game.
- Item Crafting: Half of the items you find are "components" ranging from gemstones to animal parts. The blacksmith can use them to improve your gear. The best equipment can only be created using this method. It's best to combine this with the occasional unique items the player finds for maximum effect.
- Javelin Thrower: The strongest missile weapon is the Nage-yari, a javelin.
- Kappa: A typical Giant Mook in mid-game, some are standard impish Kappa, others are huge turtle-like monsters.
- Money for Nothing: Averted. The amount of money you acquire throughout the game is just enough to craft decent equipment for every character, for the decisive battle.
- Money Spider: One of the only few ways to get money in the game.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The citadel of the Zanshin is called "Meifumado", which literally translates to "Window to the Underworld" and is meant to symbolize the path leading to damnation.
- Night of the Living Mooks: Most of the enemies that aren't youkai are instead skeletal or zombified samurais.
- Ninja: One of the characters.
- Oni: You can fight the goblin-like Jaki, the feral-looking, horned Forest Oni and the gigantic, club-wielding Great Oni.
- Our Dragons Are Different: You can summon a small elemental Dragon's head to breath fire/ice/lava/lightning at the nearby opponents. One of the enemies you can find is the Dragon Scorpion (slender raptor-like monsters with scorpion tails and dragon-like heads).
- Rewarding Vandalism: Breaking barrels and (while in caves) various formations, or raiding some poor slob's stash is your only hope of finding more gold, if there are no more enemies left in the vicinity.
- Samurai: All of the playable characters.
- Scenery Gorn: The castles are strewn with corpses and the villages are even worse, as in many of them the monsters installed giant millstones to grind people into a fleshy pulp.
- Sinister Scythe: Long-handled kama and kamayari are some of the weapons you can use. Zanshin's weapon of choice is an out-of-place but visually effective giant scythe.
- Static Role, Exchangeable Character: The story and characterization usually boils down to this, as any characters/daimyo will take on different roles depending on your chosen clan.
- First, you choose a daimyo, which will become your faction. Your daimyo will then ask for reinforcements from the next daimyo, which we will refer as 'second daimyo' (If you pick Toyotomi, your next daimyo will be Mori. Pick Mori and your next daimyo is Oda. Pick Oda and your next daimyo is Tokugawa. Pick Tokugawa and your next daimyo is Toyotomi).
- You get to the second daimyo, only to find him murdered and you have to go to the third daimyo (the next daimyo of the second daimyo, as stated above.), who is portrayed as a power hungry asshole that sold his soul to the Dark Warlord, and make him pay.
- You then get to the third daimyo and kill him, to which you then go to the fourth daimyo (the next daimyo of the third daimyo, as stated above), who is dying as well, but manages to give the hint on how to get to the Dark Warlord.
- You then storm the Dark Warlord palace, and then your daimyo reveals himself to be Evil All Along and initiates the Downer Ending.
- The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Where the inspiration came from.
- Too Awesome to Use: Item crafting. With the limited amount of resources in the game, you don't want to waste them on non-unique items, which might never drop.
- Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo: Jorogumo appears as feminine half-spider half-women monsters who attack from afar.
- Unwitting Pawn: The whole party were only furthering their daimyo's hidden selfish desire to gain immense power, becoming a demon, and then the party pays for it.
- Wolf Man: You can fight a clan of wolf shapeshifters who can turn into both wolves and humans to fight.
- Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: One of the best base swords in the game is the Iaito