Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Is Awesome

I’ve recently started playing DMoMM. It’s a third-party Source Engine game set in the Might & Magic universe, a fairly generic swords & sorcery setting. And it is fricking awesome.

I actually bought it a while ago on one of the weekend deals, a little while before I got my new laptop, so I didn’t get a chance to play it right away.

It has a bit of a learning curve, with a tutorial section that’s a little too brief and too reliant on the player already being familiar with how other Source Engine games (such as Half Life 2) play. It’s also not clear right away, but you really do need to specialize in a particular set of skills as my usual method of picking a broad skill set and specializing later led to me quickly starting over again with another character.

I recommend Melee 1, then getting Stealth and the Healing spell as quickly as possible, in that order. But it depends on your playing style. The catch is that you don’t get a chance to “try out” different styles before picking your skills, so expect to start over at least once if it turns out your initial picks aren’t as useful as you thought.

Anyway, the game overall really, really reminds me of the Ultima Underworld games, specifically what UW6 or 7 might have been like. The combat mechanics, with the classic “click quickly for rapid strikes, hold down for a stronger strike”, the broad range of skills to choose from which all are focused on different “classes” without forcing you into a particular role, the inventory system, and many other aspects take me back to the early 90s. More than anything else, is the environments and the pacing of the action. This article reminded me of precisely what it is about DMoMM that most reminds me of the Underworld games: the ability to calmly plan between fights, and the constant need to improvise and revise said plans as things don’t go quite as you expect.

DMoMM isn’t merely a homage to the classics, however, as it flawlessly integrates ideas from Source Engine action games into the action: lots of objects to grab and throw at enemies, traps to trigger, several ways to knock enemies back into fire or spikes, climbable chains, and various other ways to exploit the environment inspired by Gordon Freeman’s adventures. Blackguards are as allergic to fire as Headcrab Zombies are, but Blackguards are much smarter.

Certain other games also come to mind: Hexen & Hexen II with the general art style and “you’ve found a secret area!” secret areas. Zeno Clash (though DMoMM was released first) with it’s complex and delightful melee fighting mechanics. Prey comes to mind, with the clueless, annoying protagonist who is a fantastic illustration of why the main characers of all Valve games are mute (to be fair, the hero of DMoMM isn’t nearly as annoying… so far), but fantastic level design that makes up for it.

The plot (as far as I’ve played) is typical generic swords & sorcery stuff, with the twist that your mentor is so obviously one of the bad guys. I won’t be surprised if he says the words “nefarious plan” at some point. Unless it turns out he isn’t a villain. But seriously: from the “spider key” line onwards he just oozes “evil”, and even the older wizard guy who’s supposed to be his friend doesn’t trust him.

I haven’t played, or even installed, the multiplayer add-on yet. The single-player alone is easily worth the $10 price tag. I’m assuming from the file size and the skill tree I have a way to go before the end, so I’ll assume it’s of decent length as well. Note that the Metacritic score is merely 72, but the user score is 8.7. I don’t review every game I play, but this is definitely worth a write-up.

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One Response to Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Is Awesome

  1. The single player is somewhat excellent but multiplayer the polar opposite. I don't know why it scored so low on Metacritic, probably because of the shoddy 'plot', bad voice acting and the atrocious end – still fun all the way through though.

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