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Written by Starfox   
Thursday, 04 January 2007 18:00
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Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Ubisoft
Official site: http://darkmessiahgame.com
Availabilty: Retail DVD or via Steam
Demo available from Filefront (1.38 Gb)
ESRB Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity)

Notice: This review is based on the second patch issued for Dark Messiah Of Might and Magic (further referred to as Dark Messiah or simply DMoMM, whatever I find appropriate or ridiculous) namely version 1.02 just because even though I played the game in its vanilla version, I thought that building a review on the first release wouldn't have done any justice to the game itself. The use of patch 1.02 has some importance because not only it fixes a lot of bugs but also clarifies the hardware requirements to run the game and (last but not least) also adjust some gameplay parameters (supposedly to make the game more difficult as your character evolves) which means that you won't have exactly the same experience between the vanilla or 1.01 versions of the game and version 1.02. With that being said, let's go to the review itself.


Might And Magic is a longtime tradition series with a first game that was issued back in... Wow, 1986 on things that were not even called PC back then. Anybody remember the Commodore 64? Anyway, Since the franchise was bought by Ubisoft in 2003, the guys tried to put some new life in it first of all by leaving behind any connection with the previous nine games. Two new games were issued from this, Heroes of Might And Magic V (that I won't discuss here) and Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic (the one that I will review today). Dark Messiah is the only first person game in the history of the Might And Magic franchise. As such it offers a quite different perspective from the other games although still being RPG stuff. But before coming to the point where I will make a quick comparison with some other current first person RPG titles (The Elders Scroll IV: Oblivion comes to mind), let's run through the story bit -- that will be amusing.

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Dark Messiah: The Son Of His Father

Yeah, that will be amusing to try to tell you a bit of the story without giving out spoilers because during the 2 first chapters of the game (plus the prologue) you -- as the main character -- learn just about nothing on why you're there and what you're supposed to do. Only after the third chapter will you start to get the full picture. Anyway let's try this: who (or what) is the Dark Messiah in the first place? The Dark Messiah is the son of the master demon (something like Satan) that was imprisoned for a thousand years deep in a fortress by your people. The task of the Dark Messiah (which is in fact a demon born as a human being) is to reach and free his father so this one can reign forever on a world of pain and suffering. Your task -- at least as you understand it during the first bit of the game -- is to help some people to stop it. For this purpose your Master, Phenrig, sends you, Sareth, to the little city of Stonehelm to deliver a magic crystal to a colleague of his, Menelag. He gives you some... let's say "help" to accompany you in your journey under the form a summoned female entity (Xana) that squats your brain and frequently interferes with your thoughts during the story.

However as you arrive in town with the crystal, the Necromancers forces have already begun to attack and your first task will be to help the city guards to repel them. Once this done you meet Leanna, another woman who is the pupil of Menelag and will also (like Xana) have some importance in the rest of the story. It's not really a spoiler to tell you that before long you will have to make a choice between the hot Xana (who keeps titillating your most primal male instincts) and the so-so rather boring Leanna. I will keep for me the reason why you'll have to make a choice though because that would be a spoiler directly linked to the storyline itself. The Necromancers that you will frequently meet during the game are not on the big devil side but they are not on yours either. They just do their own thing which is as bad as freeing the Dark Messiah's big daddy Demon. Discovering what their leader, Arantir, wants will be one of your main tasks in the game.

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RPGing redefined

Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: Dark Messiah is not Oblivion. The game is clearly mission based and the exploration is limited to finding alternate routes to deal with a problem or some secret areas or resources. You should better regard Dark Messiah as a Thief styled game (a story through a succession of missions) in the principle with the real flavor of a medieval RPG.

Dark Messiah is best describe as an action game rather than a RPG game though. The reason is that the RPG system within is rather scarce and does not feature any kind of leveling. You just gain some skill points when achieving the objectives you are given and you can use these skill points to... well, learn skills that will define the type of character you will be. The skills themselves come in three categories, the combat skills, the magic skills and the miscellaneous skills (which include stealth and thieving). The three categories define three main classes of character: the warrior, the mage and the assassin/thief. However due to the nature of the game, chances are that you'll end up with a character that is not a pure breed of one of the three classes but rather a mix of at least two (and likely all three). The real challenge here is to define what is the right mix corresponding to the way you want to play.

The combat skills allow you basically to better defend and attack with blades and bows. The better you become the more damages you deal and the more efficient you are. It's essential to invest some points in these skills because sadly you can't avoid every threat in the game (even if you want to play stealth) and not having sufficient combat skills can become really painful as you are progressing through the game (and even more painful with the 1.02 patch, but more on that later). These skills work with the adrenaline system which we will discuss a bit later.

The magic skills well, they're not really skills but spells that you learn. However if you don't want to play as a mage, you'll find in the game world a number of spell scrolls which have similar effects and that you can use even if you didn't learn a particular spell. The only difference is that these scrolls come in a limited amount and once you run out of scrolls... well it's up to you. Most of the magic spells are range attack ones with a few having a more tactical purpose (fire traps, weakening the enemy, creating a temporary shield or even putting an ice layer at your enemies feet while they are running toward you...). Magic skills also work with the adrenaline system.

The misc skills contain everything related to survival, stealth and thieving. For example, only by acquiring the thieving skill will you be able to lockpick containers and doors in the world (but not the ones pertaining to the main mission objective to not spoil the adventure bit). The stealth skill will allow you to sneak by your opponents to some extent. There is also a magic affinity skill which will provide mages with more mana to use and the misc skills also allow you to increase your health and even to regenerate it (slowly) when you master the utmost skill (cost a lot of points).

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Last Updated on Friday, 22 February 2008 00:38

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