Dark Messiah: Might and Magic Elements

Written by Joe Martin

March 10, 2008 | 07:29

Tags: #arkane #dark-messiah #elements #fps #hybrid #kuju #might-and-magic #necromancer #physics #port #rpg #source #xbox-360

Companies: #steam #ubisoft

A Different Class

You may still be reeling from the bombshell I dropped on the end of the last page, so I’ll clarify it up for you: no freeform class-crossing. In Elements you choose your class specifically and at the start of the game – Warrior, Assassin, Archer or Mage. It’s a radical and fundamental difference to the PC version which gave you a variety of skill trees to mix and match from as you wished.

Yet, strangely, this change actually works. I’m as ardent a fan of freeform gaming and non-linear progression as anyone else, but in Dark Messiah: Elements the change actually works very well even though you’re massively limiting yourself. Each class can only use certain weapons and will progress through a set number of skills in a specific order, but blow me down if it doesn’t come together nicely.

Plus, because Dark Messiah isn’t a massively long game anyway, it can actually add quite a lot of replayability to the game as you want to play with each and every character and level each up fully.

Dark Messiah: Might and Magic Elements Conclusions of Might and Magic
Click to enlarge

Oh, and about that levelling up – it’s a little different too. In catering to the short attention spans of console gamers (zing!), Sareth now earns experience for every kill he makes and objective he accomplishes. On the PC, XP was only earned for the latter and was a much more scarce resource. In Elements that’s turned around a bit.

Of course, not all of the changes work all that well and some of the new content is a little irritating. For example, after starting the game up I was pleased to see a different tutorial area – one area from the original that I never liked. This old spider temple is gone and replacing it is a nice green valley. Delightful.

Except, oh, wait – that’s been done so that the Spider Temple can be recycled later in the game to form an extra level where you have to search for a key on the other side of a necromancer portal. To me, using the levels like that feels just a tiny bit lazy and instead I would have preferred the old tutorial and a new level spliced in elsewhere.

Collectibles are also a somewhat ham-handed addition to the game, added in to help please the more casual console gamers no doubt. The idea of having collectible items themselves isn’t so bad, I suppose.

The main problem is that collectibles should be small and hard to spot – you should have to look for them if you want them, pass them by otherwise. In Elements however they aren’t small or hard to spot – they’re big golden sceptres with massive diamonds on the end. The whole thing is a bit too phallic for us to swallow – and if that isn’t open to interpretation then I don’t know what is.

Dark Messiah: Might and Magic Elements Conclusions of Might and Magic
Click to enlarge

The controls for Dark Messiah: Elements do take a little while to get used to and admittedly the game isn’t as easy to control as it is on the PC, but that is balanced out by less intimidating AI and the removal of the general clunkiness that made fluid movement such an impossible task on the PC. It’s now much easier to run around in tight circles and it’s no longer as nauseating to fight three or four orcs with a combat staff.

Conclusions

Up until now it’s mostly been pretty good news for Dark Messiah – not fantastic news perhaps, but good enough. However, there are still a few little problems with Dark Messiah that might prevent it from reaching the loftiest of heights. Dark Messiah: Might and Magic Elements Conclusions of Might and Magic

For starters, the game is just a little bit buggy and laggy at times. We never had our Xbox 360 crash, but there were more than a few times when we had clipping bugs and ended up underneath the ground. The framerate would regularly plunge too, getting stuttery whenever there was a bit too much going on on-screen – like the first time you face a Cyclops.

The framerate problems are probably the biggest issue we’d have with Dark Messiah: Elements too and framerate drops are something I honestly just can’t tolerate on a console game. When you are aiming for specific hardware then there’s no excuse to let your game get into a framerate dropping scenario.

Aside from that, the game’s major fault is that despite the changes and tweaks it doesn’t actually do all that much above and beyond the PC version – it’s just rebalanced and with a few new levels slapped in. There’s nothing wrong with that at all—Dark Messiah: Elements is perfectly alright—but it was never going to bowl us over, not with the engine starting to show its age.
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