Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Dark Messiah is one of the many spin-offs from the Might and Magic series. It is more action-oriented in nature and was developed by Arkane Studios. The developer is the reason I bought the game as people recommended it for having similarities to Dishonored.

Dishonored's predecessor

And indeed, some of the gameplay features are quite familiar. Adrenaline and the slow motion kills that follow are very much like in Dishonored. The sword spinning animation after drawing it is also a telltale sign the developer is the same.

You can play as a stealthy backstabber type in Dark Messiah too, but there are options for combat and sorcery as well. You can sort of jump between the playstyles albeit the limited number of skill points will probably force you to specializing on one. Equipment generally has a skill requirement and the best pieces require one of the top end skills to be maxed.

Since I played a stealth game previously, I decided to go for straight up combat for a change. By being in melee range all the time I also got plenty of opportunities to use Dark Messiah's famous kick feature. Kicking staggers or sometimes even knocks over enemies by using your stamina bar. However, if there is an environmental hazard like a long drop or one of the copiously placed spike walls behind your target, the kick increases in force to push them into instant death.

Fairly difficult even on Normal

Melee combat can be challenging. I think that is partly caused by the first person perspective; enemies sometimes hit you even if they seem to be too far to do so. Various creatures also use poison that will start reducing your health until you die. Couple times I had the poison effect disappear on its own but usually it takes an antidote potion to remove it. And if you are out of them, it is time to reload a save.

I found the gameplay enjoyable regardless. I got better at it as the game progressed and the top tier gear towards the end made it easier as well. The final boss fight was bit of an annoyance for a melee-focused character as there was this some sort of bone dragon that was difficult to get within a sword's reach. It was easy enough to defeat once I actually got to hit it with my undead bane weapon.

Being able to use the blade, Sword of the Dragon Claw, was a reward cleansing myself, or rather the protagonist, Sareth, of demonic taint. I thought I might as well do it since I had not used the demon form at all. I guess I had missed the game informing me about it. I only even realized it was there when I suddenly recalled seeing a keybind for special ability in the options menu. And by then it was kind of late to start using it.

The cleansing is one of the decisions that affect which of the four endings you will get. The ending cinematics are pretty similar, though. And amusingly enough one of the differences is what color is the beam that shoots to the sky. One YouTube comment mentioned now getting where BioWare got their endings for Mass Effect 3. The story in Dark Messiah is pretty barebones to say the least.

10 years old

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic was released in 2006 and it shows. Although considering Crysis came out the next year, it is not really the age but Valve's Source engine that is the cause for the mediocre graphics. In addition to the visuals, movement is also a tad clunky. This shows especially when trying to pull yourself onto a ledge. Often Sareth will go up a bit and then just fall. Arkane sure improved that a lot for Dishonored.

The game is not without bugs either. I experienced a handful of hard crashes. Loading screens in particular seemed like an unstable spot for the title. Even running on Windows XP compatibility mode did not help. Quitting out of the game would always "crash" it as well. Luckily that at least had a fix at PC Gaming Wiki.

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