Oldies But Goldies
The first game I can remember of Arkane Studios, who later went up and made the excellent Dishonored series, Dark Messiah Of Might and Magic is...an interesting game. Set in the world of Ashan, as established in the Heroes Of Might And Magic V games from Ubisoft, we follow the adventures of Sareth exclusively in first person mode as he travels the world and gets himself into all sorts of shenanigans. Using the Valve engine of loopy and weird physics, the game has some amazingly fun moments, impressive graphics, proper violence and a solid story on one hand, and some horrible voice acting, terrible multiplayer support and a lot of great but wasted potential on the other hand. But lets dive into it, and see why ultimately, this game is an oldie, but goldie.
Using the Valve engine can have its merits. The first person view of this game is handled with some grace. Sure it can get whacky and the platforming might be a bit tricky at times, but overall the gameplay is surprisingly responsive. The melee fights feel intense and bloody, the ranged combat is as responsive as a Valve game could feel, but what really stands out in this game are two things. The first being the magic system, which utilizes the engine to its fullest, making every spell feel interesting, fun and easy to use. The second thing that stands out is the perfect use of the environment to overcome obstacles. From creating oil spills to light aflame, to using spikes and cliffs to kick your enemies down the game offers multiple ways to approach any and all situations.
Add to that, the whacky nature of the Valve engine and you can have yourself a hilarious experience as you use telekinesis to kill your enemies via running away screaming while throwing various mugs, bottles and cups at the heads of your enemies.
The graphics manage to still look rather appealing even today. With a very CS:GO look about it, the skyboxes are nice, the animations are fun and the overall textures, despite obviously old, manage to create an aesthetic that keeps on even today. Where the game begins to slip however, is in terms of enemy design. Aside from a few interesting monsters and bosses, the rest seem pretty similar even when they are supposed to be two very different things. Another issue of the game is its obsession with darkness. Sure you do have a spell from the beginning that allows you to see in the dark, however the more interesting designs of the game are hidden behind dark rooms.
On one hand, I understand and I fully endorse the embrace of darkness in the game, as it sets a proper atmosphere and can lead into interesting situations (if you play a sneaky character), on the other hand, I do believe that there are a few situations where you -could- get away with giving some form of illumination to showecase the more interesting and breathtaking structures and objects.
Music in this game is surprisingly nice, thematic and interesting. However the rest seem to fall flat. Voice acting is dreadful, with the only redeeming quality is that you do not have to suffer it for too long. Aside from that, the sound effects and general noise is rather standard.