Right off the bat, this game kind of has a public relations nightmare going on. Dawn of Magic 2 is called Time of Shadows in the United States, because the original Dawn of Magic was originally a game called Blood Magic, and well, you can see there’s a bit of an identity problem here. Since this game is called Dawn of Magic 2 both in my Steam library and in the game itself, I’m going to stick with that from here on out, even though the page in the Steam store calls it Time of Shadows. Get it? No? Me neither, really.
If only the name were the biggest problem here. Yes, one of the four character choices is the Fat Friar. They don’t really get any better as you go, but I decided that the stats of the gypsy character were most in line with how I tend to play ARPGs, so I went with it. You also have to choose your alignment (good, evil or neutral), and the game seems to indicate that this will impact the actions you’ll be able to take in game. Choosing immortal allows you to respawn after dying, choosing moral is this game’s version of hardcore mode.
One of the great things about ARPGs is that if they manage to do a couple of things really really well, then gamers tend to overlook the ways in which they don’t shine. A decent game can get by if they have at least two of the following: great classes with interesting skill trees, plentiful and powerful loot, and a compelling story.
Well, there are no real classes in Dawn of Magic 2, and most of the character customization is based around schools of magic, so if you’re not interested in being a caster, there’s nothing here for you. Oh, and by the way, as you increase in power in the different schools of magic, it causes physical deformities in your character, so if you’re the type to be overly concerned about your character’s looks, you may want to stay away.
Before the end of the introductory cut scene, I kind of hated my character. Maybe the others are a little more pleasant. Either way, I thought I’d go for a bit of a spin and see how the game actually plays. The answer: not so well, actually. The UI is beyond clunky. Nothing feels like it’s in the right place. My first death came from simply not having figured out where my health bar was. Turns out those things that look like gems in the lower left and right hand corners measure your health and mana – wait, this game calls it Chi – respectively. Maybe it’s just me, but I would think you’d want those a lot closer to each other.
I tried to figure it out on my own. I failed. I played through the tutorial, and then there was a lot of rolling my eyes and chicken slaughter. I broke a bunch of boxes, and only got the loot that was scripted into the tutorial. Random townspeople kept yelling at me in unattractive and overlapping text boxes. There just wasn’t enough shine to make me want to try to keep polishing.
There’s something in here that wants to be a good and interesting game, but I’m not sure I want to wade through the awkwardness and bad first impressions to find it. The magic system looks like it has a lot of promise, if I could only figure out how to make it work. Dawn of Magic 2 really does itself a disservice every step of the way, and it’s not surprising that so few people are willing to take the time to see if there’s a game worth playing somewhere in there.