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Dark Messiah: Might and Magic (Windows)

Published by
Developed by
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  MichaelPalin (1195)
Written on  :  Jul 21, 2007
Rating  :  2.14 Stars2.14 Stars2.14 Stars2.14 Stars2.14 Stars

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Fantasy, epic, boredom, spectacle, boxes, barrels and tits

The Good

So you are fourteen, you got acne, you are male and you probably live in some Anglo Saxon, European or some ex-soviet country. You have played games since you can remember and 2D is a concept that you don't even understand. Then you browse through your favorite, flash loaded webs about videogames and, suddenly, you find some videos or screenshots of "Dark Messiah" and you think, "wow!, that is a cool game".

It's like an FPS, except that there are orcs and stuff. And look, there is even a dragon, too. My god!, look at those awesome spell animations, and you can impale your opponents! And you can cut ropes that trigger traps, that's amazing. You know what?, there is even magic. Certainly, your teenage tendency to associate action with sex is making your hormones act like kids asking their fathers for some stupid toy they saw on TV before Christmas.

In fact, this game is all about shock value (yes, there is even a lighting spell, too, :)). Finally, whoever holds rights for Might & Magic has realized that the best evolution possible for the franchise is to make an FPS, instead of another game of..., well, thinking. We all know that games are all about action and fans of the series has finally received what they wanted since the first M&M game was released, an FPS, the king of genres.

The Bad

Probably, if you actually are fourteen years old, you wont understand what the problem with this "cool" game is, but this is actually a very good example of the sickness the industry of videogames is experiencing since the late 90's. It's all about shock value and fast transactions of money from your pocket to the content producers' pockets. If you don't believe me, let's see what for are you paying the 40€ this game used to cost.

The game lasts around 12 hours, 8 of which are mostly iterations of the previous ones and as you may have guessed, you can watch most of those 4 hours in the promo videos.

There are, let me count..., no more than 15 different enemies in the whole game, and I'm counting the bosses too (I'm serious, I have counted them). Not only that, but, as they barely mix, you can expend a whole hour killing the same type of enemy all the time. And with the same type, I mean even with the same model and voice. Just because some orcs have bow and others don't, it doesn't make it funnier to kill the same orc 30 times in a row.

The scenarios are also very repetitive. There are like four types of them, and the cliffs from Skull Island (you know, the island where the skull is), which are slightly more interesting than the rest. These are temple, palace/house, city and, of course, the loved-by-all sewers. Necropolis could also be counted, but it's looks a lot like temple, but multiplying the number of tombs by two. When these are not enough, fire and ruins can make some of the previous look slightly different and sum up to the total 10 levels of the game, each of one less original and more tedious than the previous. You know when you start playing a game and it's very fresh and varied at the beginning, but when the part they showed at E3 is finished the game begins getting more and more repetitive? Well, Dark Messiah has it too.

As for now, this game doesn't look very worthy to me. This is just the usual fast-developed product that gives the videogame industry the property of industrial instead of artistic or cultural and makes the general public think on videogames as a form of entertainment instead of culture. You can see this on the average to low quality of all the artistic design on Dark Messiah. You have orcs, goblins, dragons, undeads, necromancers, spells of fire, of ice, of lighting, swords, staffs, bows, etc., and they all look like always. New is a missing concept here.

"What are those statues of big warriors in the temple scenarios for?", you can ask to the lead designer, "nothing, they looked cool and we add them to fill the place" he will answer you. "Ey!, how could I design an orcish sword?" could some object designer ask, "I don't know, look on the internet and copy the coolest looking one" would say the object lead designer. "We are designing a second model for the undeads right now" could the lead designer say, "no, one foe one model, we want to release the game as soon as possible to spare money on the production" would the production director respond. "...and then Leanna defeats the..." tells the story writer while explaining the story to the marketing director, "that's silly, make her just helpless and stupid..., and with big tits" he interrupts and "much better, make another secondary hot female character" he adds.

You can imagine this kind of conversations between unmotivated designers and impatient and money-thirsty producers. Seriously, just hear the dialogues of the porn actress that accompanies the main character, I'm playing the game again just to see if I can have sex with her (which I doubt). And how cleverly does she points you to the solution of every puzzle in the game. Just when you spend more than five seconds looking for the solution to a dead-end she tell something like “well, it looks like you should go to the well hidden panel in front of you, push red-white-red-blue buttons in that order, use the “iron key” in the keyhole at the right of the panel and say the magic orcish words I'm writing you phonetically in a note”. Phew!, you nearly needed to use your brain.

And technically, the game doesn't look that good either. Yes, graphics are more or less modern, but the whole design lacks motivation and it affects negatively the player very fast (as anything else in the game). As I said, models and textures are reused a million times in each level. Orcs looks like typical orcs, swords like typical swords, black knights like typical black knights and so on, and the animations are rather broken. Even the spells, that looks spectacular most of the time, have very unrealistic sounds (yes, spells are not real by themselves, but still...).

But the worst graphics feature in this game have to be the lighting. The lighting is not bad by itself, but level design makes it really painful for your eyes. Every time you are indoors lighting will be composed of low intensity but bright light sources scattered through the level. That means a continuous change in the light intensity of your screen which can make your eyes hurt in less than half an hour of playing session. The solution to this? The dark vision spell, that let's you see the world in a scale of purples that also gives you headache. And not happy with this, the spell designers decided to make your most powerful attack spell some kind of flamethrower that fills all the screen with yellow fire to make your already hurting eyes cry. If I say this game is painfully to play, I'm talking literally.

The only thing that can save this game is the combat system, based on using extensively the many traps the levels consist on and the many weapons and spells you can access to in the game. Still, this gets repetitive very fast, specially in the last levels, when you can kill hordes of enemies without even looking put interest in what you do. By the second or third level you start considering how lucrative it has to be to have a shop of spike traps.

Other not-too-bad feature is the simplified RPG system. Every time you finish a level or complete a task, you gain some skill points that can be spent increasing your abilities. Basically, you can be a thief, a mage or a warrior (now that's variety) or a mix of them. As any role player knows, mix are only good if the system is balanced and this is quite truth for Dark Messiah. The problem is that this game is very repetitive and changing your strategies all the time to make an effective use of all the skills of your warrior-mage, mage-thief or thief-warrior will only make it last longer. I played the game as a total warrior and a total mage, and by the half of the game it was so boring that I only wanted to finish it fast. If you choose a mixed role for your character the game will only take longer and more tedious, and I don't even want to imagine how is it to play it with a thief.

Other RPG element simplified for Dark Messiah is the inventory. I think there's nothing on this game that you can be called a "puzzle" so the inventory only stores thing that wont interact between them nor with thing the world outside the inventory. And it's so huge that, unless you want to collect it all, you wont have to choose carefully what to store and what not.

The Bottom Line

Ok, Dark Messiah is a spectacular game, with a lot of action, some interesting use of RPG and... more spectacle, but it is an ostensibly low quality product. You can feel it, is everywhere. All elements are repeated a gazillion times, everything looks like done before, the story is boring, the characters void, you know that even the producers and designers of the game don't give a crap about it. It's very hard to enjoy and take seriously a game under these circumstances. Don't get tricked by the trailers and cool screenshots, it doesn't worth it.

And who the hell is that guy in the main menu?