Dark Messiah of Might and Magic on Steam (demo available)
Platforms: Windows, XBox 360
Steam rating: 95% positive
The Might & Magic franchise has been around for thirty years now, and encompasses multiple genres of games. The earliest Might & Magic games were party-based RPGS, but the turn-based strategy spin-offs – Heroes of Might & Magic – might be even more well known. When Ubisoft acquired the rights to the Might & Magic series in 2003, one of the first games they published in the universe was Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, a first person hack & slash RPG, which seems to be related to the other titles in the Might & Magic franchise only in name.
Which is not to say it isn’t freaking fantastic in its own right. This was a party I arrived at about 10 years too late, because in 2006, I was eyeball deep in Oblivion for pretty much the whole year. Although the two games superficially share a genre, they’re also worlds apart. Where Oblivion featured an open world and nearly infinite character customization, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a game on rails, with a slender skill tree. But what it does, it does so right.
I mean, who hasn’t wanted to kick the crap out of the enemy every now and then? Here, you’re not only able to kick, you’re actively encouraged to do so. You can kick enemies into holes, into campfires, into spike walls. It’s the kind of mechanic I can’t recall seeing anywhere else, and I’m surprised, because it’s just as fun as it sounds. Sure, kicking is tied into your stamina – you’re not a ninja after all – but it’s an interesting spin that makes melee combat feel so much more satisfying.
Of course, you can still choose to focus on archery or on magic, and the attention to detail in the game’s physics makes these options equally appealing. It’s a 10 year old game, and it looks like a 10 year old game, but it still plays beautifully, with the controls feeling very responsive.
I don’t dabble in hack & slash too often, but I’ll certainly be returning to Dark Messiah of Might and Magic sooner rather than later. The price feels spot on with the age of the game and length of the single player experience (about 10 – 12 hours), but it also comes with the multiplayer client, which although isn’t terribly populated nowadays, is still supported.