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Dark Messiah of Might and Magic Review
developer: Arkane Studios
genre: Action Adventure
PIV 2200, 512MB RAM, 6GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 24, 06 (released)
|» All About Dark Messiah of Might and Magic on ActionTrip|
We were keeping a close eye on this one for some time. We also saw great potential in the project given its setting and the acknowledged engine that powers it (e.g. Valve's Source engine). To cut a long story short, the game clearly had all the essentials of a promising fantasy-themed FPS. Ubisoft and Arkane Studios appeared to have come up with a cool mish-mash of first-person action and good old-fashioned RPG goodness... or so we thought.
How's it hanging, guys?
Get ready to walk the plank, ya scallywag!
You begin your journey as Sareth, an ambitious young adventurer, studying under a renowned and skillful magician named Phenrig. After mastering the arts of magic and war, Sareth receives his very first quest. Facing a great challenge, he has to travel to the Free City of Stonehelm in order to aid a loyal friend of Phenrig - a mage called Menelag. Astonishingly enough, Menelag manages to mislay the Skull of Shadows, a powerful ancient artifact, and is now depending on your abilities to retrieve it. In fact, if you don't get the artifact back, all Hell will break loose and... I'm sure you can figure out the rest. (All Hell breaks loose? - Ed)
As any reasonably intelligent person can tell, apart from a flimsy and rather uninteresting storyline, the game appears to feature weak characterization and very few unexpected plot twists. Practically every event that occurs in the game is predictable. The dialogue is somewhat unimaginative and deprived of any half way decent humor, so I guess you can say that the writers of DMoMM didn't put a lot of effort into embellishing the plot with something lasting that could lure you deeper into the game's well known universe. Shame, I suppose it goes without saying that once again players are accompanied by a loquacious big-breasted female sidekick to help speed up the proceedings (Not that there is anything wrong with that, per say -Ed). Regrettably, this component didn't help improve my overall opinion of the game's fragile storyline.
On the other hand, if you look past this initial setback, you will be treated to a challenging combat system, a huge number of different opponents to tackle with, and several chapters to complete in the single-player campaign... on top of a solid multiplayer mode.
The in-game combat brings a few neat ideas to the table. Contrary to FPS RPGs such as Bethesda's recent smash-hit Oblivion, DMoMM gives you additional freedom in terms of battling your opponents one-on-one. Each precise swing of the sword can be used to gain more power, eventually allowing you to perform deadly Power Strikes. It all depends on achieving as many Critical Hits as possible. For your information, enemies aren't going to sit idly by and allow you to kick their ass, so you're going to have to show you're a skilled and agile fighter if you mean to cause any serious damage. Speaking of opponent intelligence, the AI managed to put up a decent fight all the way through the game. So, thankfully, there weren't any disappointments in that department.
Being an RPG enthusiast, I found Dark Messiah to be a bit scarce when it comes to things like more in-depth character development. The skill-point award system is sort of thin and leaves the player with very little choice in terms of improving the main character. In other words, this game centers on pure action and fighting, as opposed to presenting more complex RPG elements. Which is fine in a way. The combat system is fun enough I guess, but the excitement soon wears off when the player realizes that the gameplay doesn't go anywhere beyond the conventional hack'n'slash routine.
Utilizing the famed Source engine paid off to some extent. In-game models look excellent and you can observe first-rate lighting effects, superb animation and top-notch physics (a noteworthy trademark of Valve's technology).
I would also like to stress that you're going to need a pretty solid rig to play this game without experiencing the problems we did. Initially, we tried the game out on a modest rig - Athlon 64 3000+, Radeon 9800 XT and 1 GB of RAM. The ever-present stuttering bug, which sadly still remains one of the noted flaws in the engine's code, significantly degrades the overall quality of the game.
After undergoing a series of crashes and exceedingly long load times, we were forced to test the game on a more powerful rig. Enter 2lions' mighty stead: AMD 4000+ with a GeForce 7800 GTX card and 2GB's of RAM. The situation improved radically and we were able to enjoy the game without any hitches such as crashes, frame rate drops, etc.
That crooked pillar is my fault. So, sorry. Won't happen again.
Come to me, birdie! Land on my hand!
Playing DMoMM in multiplayer allows you to choose either Undead or Human races. Players are also able to select from a variety of available classes like Mage, Assassin, Warrior, Priest and Archer. The multiplayer is cool, but it all depends on what you're after. Fighting against other players means you must utilize the skills and abilities of your class the best you can, if you want to survive that is. So, it's not all about killing as many opponents as possible. Eventually, I ended up having more fun with the multiplayer and was spared the predictable and frequently tedious gameplay present in the single-player campaign.
People who are familiar with Arkane's earlier projects, like the FPS RPG Arx Fatalis, might enjoy this game. However, we weren't all too thrilled with what the development team has done given the franchise's potential (the rich and thrilling Might & Magic universe). Also, things like character progression and other RPG traits have greatly been reduced and that downgrades the game even further in my book.
It's painfully obvious that the Half-Life 2 engine caused many problems, which weren't ironed out in time by the programming team. Consequently, players with modest rigs won't be able to experience the game in its true visual potential. A patch is forthcoming. Supposedly, it's meant to fix numerous crash issues and other technical mishaps that have been plaguing the game.
6.8 Above Average
Cool fighting moves, several nice visual moments, pleasing multiplayer mode;
Technical issues noted on mid-range rigs, superficial storyline, one-dimensional gameplay in the single-player campaign.
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