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SummaryA fun first-person shooter you probably never even heard of
The GoodSome people think Origin is a legend when it comes to creating role-playing games. They created System Shock, a successful first-person shooter that had many RPG elements. They wanted their next FPS to be more of the same, and they wanted someone who worked on role-playing games to create a first-person shooter/RPG hybrid. That person would be David W. Bradley For people who don't know Bradley, he was behind some of the games in the Wizardry series (namely 5, 6, and 7). That game would be called CyberMage: Darklight Awakening, which is set in a cyberpunk reality.
The comic-style introduction tells how the player gets brought back to life after saving the life of a stranger, only to discover a crystal embedded in his forehead. This crystal gives the player control over a mysterious power known as the Darklight. The lab, where the player was resurrected, is attacked by an army led by NeCrom, who also is capable of controlling the Darklight. This introduction sets the story up quite nicely.
Like a few Origin games of its kind, CyberMage is set in a dark and gritty world, a world already realized in the Tex Murphy universe. Most of the game takes place outdoors, having the player navigate slums, cities, trenches, warzones, and gardens. Some of the backdrops are excellent, with my favorite one being the skyscrapers and mountains on one side, and industrial areas on the other. Also, I like the way that it was one of the first games to allow you to play in high-resolution. The graphics are far crispier in this mode, and I haven't had any trouble running it through DOSBox.
The first RPG element that kicks in is the use of mana, which provides you with ammo for any spells you come across. Every enemy drops a certain amount of mana when they are killed, and because of this, it's impossible to run out of mana if you use it well. There are still weapons to pick up, but these have limited ammo. So I believe that mana is use for backup in case you do run out of weapon ammo.
As a first-person shooter, CyberMage features gameplay mechanics that were unheard of at the time, and these more or less made their way in future games of its kind. One thing is the existence of NPCs (non-playable characters), who tell you what you need to do upon your arrival in a certain location. Jetpacks are also introduced, and these help you fly across hazards such as acid and lava. And which first-person shooter before it allowed you to jump from rooftop to rooftop?
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the ability to commandeer a vehicle, starting from level two onwards. Not only does it allow you to use its powerful weapons against an entire group of enemies, but it can also serve as backup. There are so many hits the vehicle can take before it becomes disabled, and once it is, the vehicle doesn't die with you in it. You automatically get out and proceed on foot. Finally, the interior of each vehicle is laid out nicely, and each is equipped with a map that allows you to steer through certain areas.
The game contains both RPG and adventure elements. At some points in the game, you can get cash laying around the place and use it to buy weapons, ammo, or power-ups. I like the adventure element since there are so many things to do other than shooting anyone you see. All throughout the game, you have to use an inventory item with something on screen; and more often than not, things that are essential in completing a level Once you make your way out of the lab, you proceed through the slums where you have to collect at least 2k to fight in the arena. Later, you have to free your comrades at SARCorp so that they are able to fight against NeCrom's forces.
The atmosphere is very good. No matter where you go, there are always people walking around, whether it is enemies or citizens just going about their business. Once you pass this big TV in the city featuring NeCrom, he starts to speak about establishing a dictatorship and that everyone will tremble at his knees.
The music consists of a series of tracks (MIDI, not CDDA) that blend in well with the gameplay. It doesn't loop so that you won't get bored listening to the same one each time. There are some good sound effects, with the main one being the CyberMage huffing and puffing as he moves around in short increments. The enemies taunt you like in other first-person shooters of the time, and some of the things they say are hilarious. My favorite are the Culties, who you meet halfway through the game. Their taunts are even funnier. The sound effects that play when you pick up mana or firing your weapons are good also.
The BadCyberMage wasn't very successful due to the difficult gameplay. I found it difficult to get around the later level, with the major one being navigating the temple. You have to find numerous hidden passages to get to the level exit, and there are buttons that blend in with the walls and are not clearly visible. I had to consult the walkthrough to get around. Another gripe I had was the jetpack. When you turn it on, you are lifted up from a ground at a reasonable height, but if you try to get to a place that is the same height as you, it drops back down to your original location. What's the use in that?