Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: 10/24/2006
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The Good: Great visuals and voice acting, decent story, fun deep combat, lots of upgrades to get, tons of items to use
The Bad: Little in variety of enemy types, very linear, combat is tedious after awhile, semi-poor level design, HL2 engine is starting to look old
Before I start here Dark Messiah suffered bad reviews because of all the terrible bugs that launched with the game. now that 2 1/2 years have passed Dark Messiah’s bugs have been pretty much been ironed out and you now have a pretty fun action RPG. Before I start explaining the game DM uses the Half-Life 2 engine so you can expect some wonderful graphics and effects. DM uses the HL2 engine very well, but the engine is a bit supped up so you’ll need a fairly beefy rig to run this game. If your computer was being pushed with HL2 then your computer will have a hard time running this game. I also have to mention that DM felt a lot like Oblivion Lite in the sense that it is set in Medieval times, melee combat is the first person, and the art style is a little like Oblivion (not as unique of course).
You play as a young protagonist named Sareth and you must stop the evil Arantir from using the Skull Crystal and bringing the Dark Messiah back to life. You have a choice to either stop him yourself or let the Dark Messiah live on. The story is actually fairly interesting and will keep you on the edge throughout this 15-20 hour adventure. Now DM is a linear RPG (it’s not free roaming like Oblivion) but makes up for it with an intricate combat system. You have about 30-40 different item slots and you can carry things from health, mana, weapons, magic etc. As you progress through the game you will earn skill points for completing objectives and you can upgrade a variety of things from endurance, health, stealth, archery skill, learn new skills such as heal, fire arrow, freeze, sanctuary etc. There’s a lot to learn and you won’t upgrade 100% in a play through. You can either concentrate on being a Knight, Mage, or Archer or just go down the middle.
There are a variety of unique weapons you can pick up throughout the adventure such as the awesome rope bow (shoot an arrow at any wood overhanging and a rope will come down), ice staffs, flame swords, poison daggers, and even a cool electricity shield that stuns enemies when they attack you. Now there are no shops where you can buy things so everything has to be picked up throughout the world. This keeps the action constantly going, but will disappoint people who are used to having stores in their RPGs.
Combat consists of left clicking for your basic attack, but if you hold it down you do a Power Strike and whether or not you strafe, move forward, or backward will determine whether it’s a side swipe, impale, or overhead strike. This can let you easily dodge an attack and quickly strike back. You can use the right mouse button to block (and when you get the ability) left clicking to knock enemies back. Hit enough bad guys and you’ll get your adrenaline bar up and this results in a gory slow-mo instant kill. This applies to all weapons and each of them has their own unique advantages to them. You have a kick button and this is great when you are on a ledge so you can just kick them off. Every so often you’ll find spike beds on walls you can impale enemies on, also you’ll find traps that can be kicked down to crush enemies.
While the combat is really fun and you can do a lot with it; it will get repetitive after about half way through unless you use different weapons and toss things up. Every so often you’ll find a blacksmith room where you can add bars of metal and forge your own weapons. Now when it comes to enemies there aren’t too many of them (knights, undead, spiders, necromancers, evil demons) and that’s about it. They are mixed up a lot, but you still can get bored of them after awhile.
Every so often, though, you will get a great boss fight and these are huge creatures that require key items in the environment to kill them. These are pretty awesome and are very satisfying to take down. My biggest complaint must be the level design. A lot of times you won’t find most of the hidden secret areas since they aren’t even in places you’d remotely think they’d be in. There will be times you’ll wander around for over 30 minutes in the same place wondering where to go and this has to do with poor level design. The levels are very linear, most of the time dark, and really hard to navigate. Other than this Dark Messiah is a pretty good game, and you can even get it off Steam for $10! I highly recommend Dark Messiah to any action RPG fan.