2006 Reviews

Dark Messiah of Might & Magic

  • Review Date: 2011-03
  • Release Date: 2006-10
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Rating: 6.5

It's been a while since i've been able to play a fantasy-based action game, first person in particular. It's a welcome change from all the war and sci-fi shooters of 2005/2006.

Now typically i'll play a game in a few sittings over just as many days. However, 85% of the way through Dark Messiah the power went and everything around me hit the floor. An earthquake hit of epic proportions, causing upwards of 15 billion in damage and, tragically, hundreds of lives lost in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

My computer survived and it was 1.5 weeks before I resumed the game (I had no power for a week), by which time I'd started to forget the first part. Nonetheless it is a fairly lengthy game; none of this 5-7 hours rubbish some of the top developers have been spitting in our laps. Dark Messiah is at least 10 hours long.

The highlight of the game is the level design, as you'd expect with it's setting. Villages, mountains, temples... it's all standard fantasy but it looks fantastic.

Unfortunately the game is let down by it's gameplay. You're forced to use a more strategic approach at times by kicking enemies into spikes, fire or off cliffs. This is clumsy and frustrating, but taking on enemies in a swordfight is just as bad. Often enemies will wipe half your health off in one swoop, while you try to do a silly combo-move and completely miss through no fault of your own. Most fights you need to pull off a combo in order to kill an enemy because simply hitting the attack key repeatedly is took weak and you'll die after a few enemies. Ultimately, having to hold keys and use other keys to pull of these combos is annoying and slows down the action. Most enemies have slightly too much health and should go down quicker. There are a number of enemies in the game that just aren't worth fighting, such as zombies who have huge amounts of health and are very lethal. You're better off running past them and a game should never promote skipping action because it's too hard.

Having said that, the last 1/4 of the game is an exception as you FINALLY get given some decent weaponry. Either that or it took most of the game to master the combat effectively.

The RPG elements are strong, as you'll need to do many upgrades throughout the game and you can go various ways; strength, magic, archery, stealth. I chose the strength route and barely used the spells throughout until the last few levels. The spells were mostly uninspiring projectile attacks and easy to miss the enemy anyway.

For the explorer, there are plenty of secrets and health throughout the levels, but i'm not a big secret area scourer. Nonetheless I saved plenty of health vials which ultimately went unused as the final battle was easier than expected. The game might have been slightly more fun had I used the health vials more freely or if it was automatically added to your health instead or letting you horde it.

Overall Dark Messiah is a great looking game, but the gameplay is for the more experienced players. Some of the enemies could have done with some tweaking to make the game more action-packed instead of a reload rampage. Still, it's great to get an action-oriented fantasy game as there are very few around.