Archive for the 'dark messiah of might and magic' Category

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

August 11, 2006

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a first-person action RPG. Its defining features are the physics-heavy combat, slick swordplay system, impressive graphics and a skill tree which enables specialisation in either swordplay, archery, magic or stealth.

The demo is extremely brief, consisting of two short levels, a tutorial and the first half of a level from later in the game. The tutorial does a good job of introducing the interactions and combat, but aside from the final fight there’s nothing you’ll want to replay. The level is more interesting, you are granted more abilities at the start and have the option to play it as a mage, fight through as a warrior, or upgrade your stealth skills and sneak past. You’ll want to try all three, and probably more than once each since the chaotic battles play out differently every time. Sneaking is pretty disappointing; you have a light meter à la the Thief series, but the short and linear map means you can just lean on your sprint key to run past your enemies with no actual stealth required. They do a fairly good job of chasing you, following you outside their spawn areas and down some stairs, but the level ends before they have any chance to corner you. Combat is a lot more entertaining, the elaborate swordplay system (swipes, blocks, kicks, power strikes, backstabs, special moves and an adrenaline bar) alone is a step up over the standard mêlée system in a first-person game, but what really makes the game is all the environmental hazards to kick your opponents into – off cliffs, down stairs or into fires or spikes – and the other potential traps like ropes to cut which will bring deadly weights swinging down. In fact, this is a little too powerful, as there’s nothing to stop you blocking the first few hits until your enemy is lined up, then a swift kick or two will bring on instant death. Going for similarly powerful moves with the sword leaves you open for a second and is a much more dangerous tactic. The bow likewise looks weak next to the boot in combat, but it is very useful for taking out enemies by triggering traps from a safe distance.

Magic also offers plenty of opportunities for mayhem. The basic fireball spell is not much more useful than the arrows, although it can be guided after firing for better accuracy. The other two spells in the demo (aside from the night vision spell) are very powerful; “fire trap” allows you to plant an invisible and deadly mine which will destroy any enemy that wanders past, whilst “freeze” allows you to freeze an enemy solid allowing you to shatter them, or, if pointed at the floor, will produce an ice patch that can send enemies skidding to their death. Unfortunately, all of this comes to an end very quickly, the demo cuts out after a couple of duels and a final brawl, leaving you with a teaser of the level boss and a real lack of closure.

Aside from the 1.4GB download (2.4GB installed size), Dark Messiah is pretty hard on your PC. The load times are enough to make me reach for my DS and put in a lap of Mario Kart, and even on minimum detail the framerate regularly loses smoothness – although not to the point of unplayability, as the game isn’t that fast paced. What’s worst is an occasional hitch that freezes the game for a minute or so that occurs on roughly every other playthrough. This might not be indicative of your experience, as the review was done on an (offically unsupported) Windows 2000 machine, but you should certainly take the minimum requirements listed below pretty seriously. In fact, I’d say that if you have a lower-end GeForce FX you want to give this one a miss.

A great experience while it lasts, but its brevity and technical problems mean it can’t really be recommended to anyone without a lot of bandwidth and a heavy-duty gaming PC. Pixel shader fans only.

Score: 1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 1.4GB

System Requirements: 2.2 GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 128MB GeForce FX/6/7 or Radeon 9/X series DirectX9 Video Card, 1024×768 or higher resolution, Windows XP

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