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Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements


A port of the PC game, "Dark Messiah: Might and Magic - Elements" is an average first-person action/RPG (although it's mainly an action game), focusing on Sareth, the apprentice of Phenrig, who is sent out to retrieve the Skull of Shadows. As the game opens, the player has to choose between different classes: Warrior, Archer, Mage, and Assassin. Each class has different skills and, over time - after completing missions and other tasks - the player can open up new skills. Unfortunately, the player doesn't have any control over how to distribute his new skill levels.

I was a little dismayed with the opening of the game, which launches you into the story...in an average looking mountain area. After dispatching a few random guys and finding a key to open an even more randomly placed door. This is one of those games where you have to sift around and maybe turn a few things over to try and find keys, but thankfully the keys aren't so hidden that it's frustrating. The locked doors, however, are randomly placed - they generally don't lead to anything special, they are just locked because the designers thought it would be a good time to make the player search for a key.

The fighting is another story, as the game's melee fighting is some very average swordplay against enemies - largely either undead or generic soldiers that all largely stand around until you smack them and even then seem a little dim - that isn't particularly intense or interesting. Eventually, it even starts to get a little repetitive. Layered on top of the fighting is frequent narration that becomes irritating (not only is the dialogue corny (some of the text notes that play between levels are terribly written), but overly expository), such as one rather laughable moment where the player is told that they can't be helped beyond this point and then reminded that they can't be helped - before a boss battle against a rather slow-moving spider creature. Speaking of reminders, there's some dialogue from NPCs that keeps repeating on a loop (kicking them to get them to stop talking unfortunately doesn't work.)

A few things do work, although they aren't dazzling enough to boost the overall impression too much. The first element would be the ability to use the environment to dispatch enemies - things like tossing boxes at them or knocking down a platform and sending whatever was on it on the heads of the advancing enemies...who have no clue that you are trying to drop things on them (in fact, they often seem to be conveniently standing under such things.)You can also knock enemies into objects in the environment or other things, as well. There are collectable pieces of loot or other items, but the act of finding these items gets a little tired as the same items often show up.

AI is another problem to mention, as the enemies mostly either seem clueless to your presence or try to rush you. A few soldiers mentioned trying to get reinforcements and ran off but then I found them standing around the corner, just doing nothing. Weird. Overall, the game does give the player a respectable amount of options to use to attack - from spells to a bow and arrow to the sword and a good amount of melee possibilities. However, when you feel as if you're battling the same dim-witted enemy over-and-over, the game starts to grow duller. The generic storyline - which seems to be something of an afterthought throughout much of the game and is advanced by some horribly written text on the loading screens - doesn't help matters, either.

Graphics, on their own terms, are just okay at best. Graphics, when considering that this is on a current generation console, are unacceptable. Character animations are wooden and look like a PC game from a few years ago, not a PC title from a year or so ago. Surprisingly, the game has some framerate issues, especially during some of the more intense battle sequences.

Glitches are also seen, from items vanishing to characters getting stuck in walls. I - or enemies - would score hits, despite the fact that they appeared to be further away than sword's length. There's nothing terribly noteworthy about lighting and textures, and level design is fairly uninspired. Those of you who like digital boobies (digiboobs?) will find some considerable clevage on any of the female characters in the game. Load times are not horrendous, but are certainly unpleasant.

Audio, unfortunately, isn't anything special. Offering a non-descript array of sound effects, the audio lacks a certain oomph. What's worse is the voice acting, which ranges from Z-movie level campy to just flat and wooden. The story is a thin layer of bland fantasy, often forgotten about while dealing with legions of the same characters.

Multiplayer is included, but I had a problem at first - no one to play against. Hmmmm. Well, after a few tries at different times, I managed to pull up a few matches and jumped into one only to find a group of players running around in a herky-jerky motion, attacking whatever or whoever appeared in their path. It was chaotic and - like the rest of the game - a lot of button mashing. Overall, the game's multiplayer modes don't add much, and the fact that hardly anyone seems to be playing them doesn't help. Strangely, at one point I accidentally hit the quit button (yes, it was an accident) and couldn't select anything but quit. Maybe the game was trying to tell me something.

Overall, "Dark Elements" could have been an engaging mixture of RPG and action elements, but the game goes light on the RPG elements, pulls together a thin story and the action - while passable for a while - starts to grow repetitive. While not a total loss, there's just too many other titles to choose from to give this one a slight rental recommendation.