Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dark Messiah: Might and Magic

I was scanning through my PC collection when I came across a little devil I got around 2006. I never got pass the first couple of stages and to be honest, I don't remember why. Well I popped it in, installed in, and then the utter horror of this title seeped into me. Is it a bad game? No. Is it an ugly game? Not at all. So what's the problem? This game is brutal!

But lets back up a bit. What is this game about? Well you start with the voice of your character calling out to his master, who actually seems to either teleport in mid-blink, or your character was just declaring defeat at a game of hide and seek in a rather ominous location. Well after a slight tutorial in which you learn the various techniques, including the downright lethal kick, you get sent to a place called Stonehelm. Clever, no? This lovely little castle town's only flaw is being prone to necromancer attacks...wait, what? So, you come to the front gate, and apparently the undead horde is polite enough to wait until you get your credentials out of the way before tearing the ass out of the city. After a few heroic maneuvers (which include running away and firing at a cyclops from over a quarter of a mile away) you're treated as the local man-of-the-hour and taken to Menelag, the town Lord and mage...who promptly gets offed few hours after your character's having met him. The main character seems to have a string of bad-luck that follows him around.

From this point on you begin to fully grasp how downright unforgivable this game is. The game gives you a broad range of class specializations, but I'll save you time by telling you the only one I have managed to work with is a paladin type lad with focus on the healing-debuff spells and the rest in strength. The game's alleged stealth element is downright impossible unless your the type who's actually managed your way through a Splinter Cell game without firing any bullets or alerting as single guard. The enemies scope of vision and hearing is incredible, in the sense that if you start causing a ruckus every damn guard in the tri-county area will flock to the scene to bum rush your ass. The second problem is this game can be rather clever at times, enemies won't hesitate to rush you from your squishy exposed backside and shove a sword straight up happy land. Unless you have a sword and shield, you'd better know exactly what your doing. Finally, make the kick button your best friend. Due to the fact that most enemies take five to twenty power strikes to down on hard and you only two, the kick will be your ticket to victory more time than anything else. Chasms, fire pits, punji spikes, and other downright hilarious traps are generously scattered about and a well timed kick or sword strike can save you from dulling your blade on the impenetrable skulls of orcs and henchmen. Bosses are another matter, these gods of sword and spell will, more likely than not, kill you in a single well placed hit, leaving you wishing you hadn't bought a glass computer you ram your head into it in sheer utter rage.

I've talked enough about the combat mechanics; what about the visuals? Well, this game is downright pretty. Taking full advantage of the fantasy setting, you get pretty little castles, spires, and dungeons to take in when your not being hacked at by ghouls and cyclopes. The game sprawls across many different landscapes including dungeons, a castle town, island ruins, villainous underground lairs, and...sewers. You clash swords with henchmen, zombies, ghouls...Orcs. Okay, the game isn't really creative in the choice of locations and enemy variety, but it does provide good artistic direction to give every locale a unique flair. The particle effects on weapons and enemies are also very well done, again, taking full advantage of the fantasy setting to go all out with the shiny items of the hacking variety.

Finally, how's the story? How to describe it, have you ever watched a movie that overall had a good story, but provided one too many hints toward upcoming plot-twists, ultimately dulling the moment? That happens to be the one major flaw with Dark Messiah's story. Starting from the ten minute mark on you are constantly reminded that you are an important person, who will have a major impact of the fate of this place. You hear constant chatter of your father who you've never met or heard of yet seems to be a person of great power. By the time it finally comes to expose you as the demon son of an immortal imprisoned evil, it almost comes off as expected. When you ignore this major flaw the rest of the story is adequate enough to enjoy throughout the game, but probably won't be mentioned again during the topic of great game plots and stories.

So how does this game rank up?

Difficulty = (C+) This game can be very unforgiving at times and one wrong move can have enemies swarming you like angry bees with gigantic swords.

Graphics = ( A-) You'll always have an eyeful every glance you take, but sadly the choice of locations and enemies are far from original.

Story = (B) A rather standard story with a bit too much foreshadowing, but overall it will stay you over for the duration of the game and keep you interested.

Replay Value = (A-) The class tree inevitably allows this game to be played multiple ways and the game, for the most part, endorses this. Sadly there are parts that outright restrict certain class specifications and this will funnel you into a narrow selection of rules when choosing how you spend your points.
The multiplayer is pitiful. Don't even try it.

Demographic Reach = (C) The incredible difficulty of this game will scare away casual players, leaving this gem for the hardcore and avid gamers only.

Overall Grade = (B-)

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