Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, a great game!

Oh, I am weak. I'd already decided not to download the game from various reasons. First of all I didn't have the greatest computer to play it on, then the fact that it would totally consume me and take me away from work or any intelligent activity; third of all, I didn't have the space. Well, the hell with it, I've taken the hard drive from another computer, deleted all the movies, downloaded the game and played it at lowest graphics. Luckily (or unluckily) I've finished it in about 5 days. Here is my experience.

I had huge expectancies regarding this game. Made by Arkane Studios, the brilliant makers of Ultima Underworld (AND NO! I DON'T MEAN ULTIMA, BLEAH!) and Arx Fatalis [blog entry], both greatly intelligent games, but in a Might&Magic universe (I've loved the might and magic series, even from Might&Magic 1 - AND NO! I DON'T MEAN HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC, BLEAH!). Also I have seen the videos of gameplay and also noticed a multiplayer mode, something like Counter Strike, another sick obsession of mine. So Arx Fatalis + Might&Magic + Counter Strike = the greatest games of all times!

Wrong! Actually, the entire game is like Arx Fatalis II, a project that Arcane Studios have started but never finished. The Might&Magic name is completely misused, since the game is quest based, without open spaces or branched game play. The fighting is pretty cool, but on my NVidia FX5200 it showed white instead of water when swimming, a transparent checkers board on the screen when using magic items and a white rectangle when animations were played. Maybe that last one is from a glitch in the DVD image.

That doesn't mean it is a bad game. Au contraire! the 3D engine is great and the feeling and the story are almost identical to Arx Fatalis. The interactions with the environment and some of the innovations are extraordinary. However the complexity of the game greatly diminished, kind of like the decrease in complexity one sees from the 1-5 series of Might&Magic to the 3D version starting with 6. The quests are real no brainers and there aren't many creatures in the game. Somehow, the electric flying demon-octopus had made its way all the way from Ultima Underworld :) but other than that you only have: goblins, Orcs, soldiers, tough soldiers, necromancers, leeches, cyclops, pao-kai (corrupted dragons), undead zombies, undead cyclops and undead pao-kai, a huge spider and a lot of small and annoying other spiders and ghouls (which are the most scary and dangerous if you ask me) in 10 levels of fun.

I mean, where are the undead goblins? I've never seen them in any game!

Anyway, some innovations deserve a lot of credit:

The rope arrow (shoot an arrow and climb the rope) which would have been even better without the bug that made me fall through walls or get stuck there.

The fact that you can pretty much grab anything and throw it in your enemy.
The interaction with the environment (throw enemies off cliffs, into fires, into spikes, push coffins and statues and barrels on them, destroy wood supports or cut ropes to unleash hell on your enemies. This would have been great if you wouldn't have had to hit a ghoul several times with the coolest weapon you have to kill them, but you killed it instantly if you kicked it into spikes.

The way that the character evolves through your choices, making you an assassin, a wizard or a fighter depending on the usage of your points. Unfortunately you only win points when finishing quests, not when actually defeating enemies.

The head shot bonus.

The general dynamic of the game, which means smart monsters run when they are badly hurt, hide themselves behind obstacles if they can't reach you so you wouldn't just shoot them with a bow several times, etc.

Ok, spoilers follow! I will be telling the story of the game.

You are some magician's apprentice, before he sends you on a quest to carry a crystal to a friend, he implants you with a helper (a female voice) that gives you a lot of suggestions (too many if you ask me). She is also very sensual and making sexy remarks, so that means she has to be evil :-/ Anyway, you get to this city when the city is attacked by necromancers, they steal your crystal, you have to get the crystal back, find a skull, the necros take the skull, you have to get it back and the moral of the story is that... you are the son of the strongest demon of them all, imprisoned by the seventh dragon by using the very skull everyone has been after.

Now, you have options: purge yourself from the evil implantation in your head or not. Keep the good girl alive or not. Use the skull to imprison your father forever or to set him free. There are different endings for this, and the video below shows them all.

Very basic story, yes? A lot like the one in Arx Fatalis where you also were a pawn of ... everybody. And you also don't get any sex in this one. Plenty of violence though. The animations aren't very cool either. It seems as if Ubisoft bought the unfinished Arx Fatalis II and gave it a shine, then released it as fast as possible. Having morons like me playing the game without paying could also explain the lack of extra details.

My suggestion is to get the charm spell as soon as possible, as it gives you the opportunity to make enemies fight each other while you watch. :) Of course, assassin is cool, too, but I hadn't had the time to test it yet.

Bottom line: Not the greatest game ever, but still one to show everybody else how a game should be conceived and how important innovation is.

The different endings of DMOMM: