The dark before the dawn
If you have issues with Dark Messiah until the patch is released:
Ok, pay close attention to this and it might just save you a headache. You need to go into the game’s menu, enable the developer console and type the following command:
Why this, well, it helps – it helps quite a lot. Now to be honest a game as big as Dark Messiah shouldn’t have this many bugs, some of them related to the way it handles textures are real show stoppers. There are frequent crashes and definitely a number of jumpy frame-rate issues stuttering and the like. The mm.exe has a tendency to belt you hard to the desktop and leave you wondering what just happened.
I’m going to probably take some flak for this but once that little command has been entered, 90% of the crashes are gone for good. I was able to play for quite a few hours without trouble, taking the usual responsible eye-resting breaks and so on.
I shouldn’t have to rely on reducing the graphics quality slightly to stop a game from crashing, Arkane however have been appearing on the forums and Ubisoft have been doing a good job at coming up with pre-patch fixes, like the one listed above.
So I am going to be kind and review the game based on my experiences with the command, and not out of the box. Boo-hiss I hear you say, well, lets see if the game’s worth playing before we start getting out the pitch-forks and so on.Story
It starts out as a generic fantasy story and soon develops into something a little meatier? I am not going to spoil it, but suffice it to say that Dark Messiah’s plot has a few twists and turns that lift it out of the fantasy mire. You play as an apprentice to a local wizard, Phenrig, who has sent you out to gather a particular crystal (this is the focus of the first game level and the actual tutorial) that he needs…but soon things develop beyond a simple treasure hunt.Gameplay
Dark Messiah uses the rather excellent Valve
Source Engine that powered the hit, Half Life 2
and it has been tweaked quite considerably since then. It is a first person game and rather like GRAW PC
it uses a full body awareness system that gives you a view of the character’s feet, torso, hands and so on when you look down and around.
It is an action game mixed with some RPG conventions, it’s not a core RPG and it’s not like Oblivion
where you can wander the whole world and interact with everyone, do side quests and so on. Dark Messiah is a linear game that succeeds by providing non-stop action and certain puzzles.
You explore the various big locations and enter into combat with various denizens; it plays a lot like a FPS except there are some key differences. The most notable is the inclusion of a skill system that allows you to build your character based on your play style.
If you prefer the sneakier (Garrett) approach and would prefer to shoot your enemies with arrows, backstab them and slide through the shadows like a ghost then you’re going to want to put points into the stealth based skills.
If you’re a dangerous brawler and warrior type, you’re going to want to put points into the various blade skills and so on. A wizardly type would put points into the magic that’s available.
This simple but effective method of skill resolution (you get skill points for accomplishing objectives) provides a good level of customisation for your character. If you want to mix a fighter with an assassin, you can, it’s up to you in the end how you spend those points.
As you progress through the story you are rewarded for exploration, usually by finding hidden areas that contain some useful items and often you’ll track down a particularly impressive or dangerous weapon. Some of these require you to have a certain level in a particular skill or ability.
They are quite numerous and there are some pretty nice magical items to find. A personal favourite of mine so far has to be the Assassin’s armour and a pair of shadow daggers, these make hiding in shadows and backstabbing enemies a lot easier.
There’s not just one way through a level, there are numerous ways you can destroy your enemies and the physics system makes sure that you can utilise your environment to deal damage as well. From fires, oil spills and rickety walkways, there’s usually something in Dark Messiah to destroy to create a little bit of havoc.
There are often spiked walls or iron spiked railings that make a nasty mess of the enemy, all it takes is a well timed kick.Combat: Dark Messiah style
The key to any FPS is decent combat, be it guns, knives, rubber chickens or high explosives. Thankfully Dark Messiah has fantasy sword, knife, staff and bow combat in abundance – enough to satiate the most blood thirsty Robert.E.Howard
fan out there.
Battle in Dark Messiah is a gore-fest and the game has a 15 rating since its fantasy violence, so no gangs here or helpless little old ladies being beaten with baseball bats. What you can expect to see are orcs, Cyclops and some truly terrifying monsters trying to take a bite out of our hero.
The combat system is based on key press directions + mouse buttons and works in tandem with Havok physics to provide a truly bone-crunching experience. There hasn’t been a first person combat system like this since the awesome Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
and in my opinion Dark Messiah tops Riddick in that respect.
Blows are exchanged at a furious pace and each hit causes damage to the victim, strike hard enough and you might even sever a limb or cause a knockdown. You build up a power bar as you fight, eventually this adrenaline meter fills up and you can launch a power attack.
The results of a power attack vary depending on the type of strike direction used, the weapon and the opponent. It might be a blow that severs a limb or takes off the enemies head, or you might thrust your sword through the chest of an enemy and then viciously boot them off the blade.
All attacks in Dark Messiah have an adrenaline effect and the magic effects are often increased dramatically when your meter is full. With a fully powered bar you can lift some incredible size objects with telekinesis for instance, or hurl enemies around like rag dolls.
There are also weapon-locks in the game, when you parry a blow you might become locked to your opponents blade and have to push the RMB rapidly to break the deadlock – do it right and you could end up disarming your foe or leaving them open for another attack.
Knock them down and you can coup-de-grace, just power up a strike and aim, your character will stab them and take them out of the combat.
Blades clash, shields break and the enemies surround you in some of the most brutal and effective combat in a game yet. Dark Messiah is truly excellent in that respect and it really is an adrenaline soaked FPS fantasy combat game.
A quick note is that enemies can often grapple you; they can then throw you to the ground and follow up with a couple of blows.