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I just finished Dark Messiah Might and Magic last night, so I thought I'd write about my feelings on the game, as I quite enjoyed it.

As a preface, this game received some poor reviews which seems to have led quite a few people to have not played it. After having played it myself, I've come to realize reviews really should be taken with a grain or two of salt -- and also the opinion of a reviewer you're not familiar with should typically just be tossed out the window.

I suppose a lot of the detractions come from whether or not the game is an RPG -- for those that were looking for an RPG and felt it wasn't, they came away disappointed. This brings me to a tangent...I define the game as an RPG (action RPG, specifically), I think because I define RPGs by their elements (sorcery, story, enemies, weapons, items, armor, etc) and less so their mechanics (levels, stats, stat progression, etc). This is why I'm one of the people that firmly thinks of the Zelda and BioShock as RPGs (pick your subgenre as you please), whereas many others do not.

Anyway, the game isn't very deep in terms of mechanics, so if you're looking for that, this isn't for you. But I find it just deep enough to be satisfying. How it works is you have four basic stats (attack, defense, HP, MP) with a couple of substats (critical, stealth), and then a bunch of magic (freeze, inferno, heal, telekinesis, etc. -- BioShock fans will be right at home, here) and misc. skills (poison resistance, lockpicking, archery, adrenaline, etc).

These are all completely customizable by you, based on the amount of skill points you earn by beating sections of the game. Note skill points are completely irrelevant to how many enemies you beat, so you can't just backtrack and destroy them over and over -- extra points can be earned by completing optional tasks, beating optional bosses, finding secrets, etc., however.

The game itself is quite linear -- aside from the optional tasks, it's pretty straightforward, though there are sometimes multiple routes to get to your end destination, and towards the end of the game, there are some choices you can make which will influence your weapons and abilities, as well as your ending (there are a few). How this affects your enjoyment of the game depends on your preference, and I suppose what you're in the mood for -- personally I welcomed the break from a huge open world RPG, though I love those to death.

The story is pretty good I think, along with the voice acting, though I understand if some people hate either. It's generic in some ways, but in such a way that I love it for that. This cutscene (one of my favourites of any game, actually) should give you a fair idea:

There are a few awesome twists, and I like that you can choose your ending depending on a few straightforward events -- I can't stand it in games like Silent Hill where you have to play through the entire game this way or that to unlock one of five or ten endings or whatever.

Combat is where the game really shines, at least for the assassin. I played through about 1/4 of the game as a sorcerer, but was really bored by the spells and found them kind of useless. Of course, I didn't get to use the almighty Inferno spell, but if it was anything like Fable where you basically just spammed your way through the game with that one spell, then to heck with that.

I'm not really into the warrior approach in general, so I went with assassin and found that immensely satisfying, particularly when I unlocked the hide in shadows ability or whatever it's called and creeped around everywhere, cutting enemies throats before they even knew I was there.

It's really satisfying to take out an entire room of enemies like this -- check out my previous post to get an idea of what the gameplay is like there.

I should note I played the game on hardcore difficulty, and recommend at least hard mode to anyone playing it -- normal was insanely easy. If you're going to play as an assassin, I would probably recommend hard mode, just for the ghouls you'll encounter -- as they can kill you in one or two hits on hardcore, and they're really annoying to fight as an assassin...I almost threw my keyboard a few times.

So, music and sound effects are quite good, and graphics are amazing, particularly given this is a 2006 game. All in all, I highly recommend it.

A few miscellaneous notes: have at least 2GB of RAM to run this with minimal (or no) problems -- if you have less, you'll have to apply this workaround. I had countless troubles before doing this, and afterwards, not one.

I also recommend checking out the Tweakguide on the game -- even if you're not really into the technical stuff, there's some neat stuff to check out -- on the neat stuff page.

Oh, and if you are interested in picking it up, this site I like has it for cheap -- link.

Now I'm off to play the spiritual prequel Arx Fatalis.

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Some great cutscene footage from Arkane's ARPG.
Dark Messiah: Might & Magic

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