Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Elements Hands-On

The Xbox 360 version of Arkane's mystical action game has just been announced, and what's more, it's almost set for release. We grab a hands-on with the game at Ubisoft's 2007 preview event.

Released in February 2007, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a fantasy take on the action genre from French developer Ubisoft Annecy. Built using Valve's Source engine, the game features an advanced physics system that gives magic and materials believable properties, and there are often a variety of different solutions to any given problem in the game. Reactions to the game on the PC were mixed, but an Xbox 360 version was always in the offing, and today that conversion was officially confirmed at Ubisoft's 2007 "Ubidays" preview event. We attended the event in Paris, and we were able to get a first play of the game as well as talk to the developers to see what they have planned for the conversion.

The single-player portion of Dark Messiah on the Xbox 360 will remain largely the same as the PC original. Ubisoft claims to have added in around two hours of brand-new material, while also ironing out the many bugs that were reported in the PC original. The new content consists of ideas that Arkane didn't have the time to include in the original, and it's interspersed throughout different parts of the game. The developer promises that players of the original will spot differences in the beginning and middle portions of the game, although the overall story will remain the same between the two versions. The developer also claims to have fixed some 800 bugs from the PC version during its move to the Xbox 360, and thanks to another eight months of development time, they hope that the only downloadable content that's issued for the game comes in the form of expansions, and not patches.

As with any game that moves from the PC to a console, the control scheme for Dark Messiah has received an overhaul to accommodate the move from mouse and keyboard to gamepad. The right trigger is now used to attack while the left trigger defends, and pulling both together performs a kicking action that can be used to knock down barriers or perform a follow-up attack. Moving and looking has been mapped to the left and right analog sticks, but the inventory system has been adapted to use both the directional pad and face buttons. The weapons and magic are mapped to different directions on the directional pad, and once you choose from the main categories, you can pick suboptions by using the face buttons.. For example, to choose between a sword and a bow and arrow, you have to hold right on the directional pad while pressing Y or B. It takes some getting used to in the heat of battle, but Ubisoft says the system is not yet finalised and could end up changing in the finished game.

While the representatives at Ubisoft were slightly reluctant to let journalists play this single-player build, we pleaded to be allowed to sample the full demo that was on show at Ubidays 2007. Although short, it let us get a feel for combat against soldiers, spiders, and skeletons, as well as see the advanced physics of the Source engine in action. The first obstacle in the demo was a bridge that collapses as you try to cross it, but fortunately you have a bow that can fire arrow ropes in your arsenal. Aiming a couple of these arrows at the bar suspended over the bridge, you can fire a succession of ropes that you can then swing from to make it to the other side. All of the same physics-based attacks from the PC game also promise to make their way to the 360 version, so you'll still be able to use ice magic close to the edge of a cliff and then kick an enemy onto it to send them sliding off.

Our demo consisted mostly of combat interspersed with a series of minor puzzles. After taking out a couple of spiders with our trusty sword, we moved on to fight human enemies in the form of warriors. The human enemies are fairly intelligent, circling around you during swordfights and retreating when hurt, but they didn't pose too much of a challenge in the demo. As you battle your way into a dungeon, you meet a character who you need to free from a prison cell, but the only thing you must do is find the key to unlock the cell. From here, the skeleton characters posed a little bit more of a challenge in combat, but again they were nothing too taxing, and it seems like Arkane has certainly made this introduction more welcoming for console gamers. For example, the auto-aim system makes it easy to land sword strikes and bow-and-arrow shots even though you're using a control pad.

While the single-player game remains largely unchanged in this conversion, Ubisoft is passionate about totally revamping the multiplayer elements. The developer is very vocal about its own disappointment in the original multiplayer game, and they are keen to address the many weaknesses that have been leveled at it by the community. All of the maps have been totally revamped, with the size of each one adapted to cope with the maximum 12-player limit for Xbox Live. The team at Ubisoft believes that the classes were not properly balanced, so adjustments have been made to make all of the different characters useful in different situations. However, despite all these changes, the popular campaign mode will be returning, where each consecutive map is chosen depending on the outcome of the previous match.

Ubisoft is aiming to release two demos for Dark Messiah onto Xbox Live over the summer to drum up support for the game in the run up to its September 2007 release. At this stage, the game wasn't optimized for the Xbox 360's triple-core processor, so the graphics engine and frame rate will improve in the final release. Hopefully, the additions and fixes to the single-player game will improve upon what was accomplished in the PC original, while the revamped multiplayer game will appeal to the millions of people who currently battle over Xbox Live. From what we've seen, the game looks to be shaping up nicely, and we'll be sure to have more on Dark Messiah Might and Magic: Elements in the run up to the game's release in September.

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Discussion

26 comments
Kain4678
Kain4678

OMG I can"t believe Ubisoft is making a console version of Dark Messiah. I have a feeling this game is going to own all, specially If it's just like the PC version. Best part of all I don't have to worry about requirements.

King_Louis51
King_Louis51

It looks like a linear copy of Oblivion.... but i'm still looking forward to it.

Polarskill
Polarskill

Hope they don't push it back... i can even wait until september!!! looks awsome!

PeteMad
PeteMad

Goody. Another long game to complete, and worth $60. Hopefully it will have a very smooth frame rate and a whole lotta fun to keep me playing. If it includes co-op play via Live, friends at work will ask me, "Dude, what's with the stupid grin?". :)

Alexmon
Alexmon

Console fans don't worry about the lying reviews! I've played the PC version and I must say it is an excellent and fun game, especially multiplayer. Yes, there are a few bugs, but what Source game doesn't? They are also very minor.

ironcreed
ironcreed

I do not care what the reviews say, every video I have seen of this game just looks killer, and I KNOW for a fact that I will dig this game. If I always listened to reviews, I would have missed out on a TON of games that I personally thought were great. Same can be said for music, books, and movies as well.

Darkorcs
Darkorcs

But it is true they really should fix bugs for the PC version not just the console version.

Darkorcs
Darkorcs

Can't wait to try the version for 360. And it is a great game guys!!!

Somini
Somini

It really sucked on the PC, so you people considering getting it for your 360's should think again, even if they fixed a lot of bugs...

termadoyle
termadoyle

Hope this'll be good. I skipped the PC version because it didn't get such nice scores as I anticipated.

jimi_man
jimi_man

Cant wait to play such kick ass action

nobeaner
nobeaner

Good point Charlie2688. That didn't even occur to me.

Charlie2688
Charlie2688

I wonder if the 360 version will actually be playable compared to the PC version and remember if they had 0 quality control over the PC version I have my doubts about the 360 version since we all know the 360 is being ported for some quick buck...since the PC version sold so poorly :?

sadikovic
sadikovic

Ooh looks like another game i will be purchasing, missed it for the PC dont know why i didnt buy it but oh well.

living_dead17
living_dead17

"The developer also claims to have fixed some 800 bugs from the PC version during its move to the Xbox 360" Thats great... now how about going back to the PC version and fixing those bugs in there? You know... for your customers that have already paid for a bugfest. I'm sure this will be steadier on consoles than it was on PC (largely due to the fact every console have the same hardware), but unless it quickly goes to the bargain bin - like where the PC version can be found now - I'll not be wasting my money on it. I'd rather have them spend some time and fix something that is already out there!

Daytona_178
Daytona_178

Like i said before. Its better than if it wasnt coming out on the console!

jimi_man
jimi_man

Im am very glad this is coming out on 360

jcahn
jcahn

After the ridiculously buggy release of this game on PC most of the PC game magazines panned it and even wrote editiorials about how they are sick of buggy crap using this game as an example. Then a few months later some of the same mags gave Arkane a damn cover story about their next upcoming bug fest. What are they thinking. Why reward them when you only have 12 covers a year to give out!!

Yealdin
Yealdin

This is good news, new improved multi, and bug fixes=me a happy camper. Still though, I hope they make the Sep release date..

SpazH3d
SpazH3d

Hmm September...Assassins Creed or this...tough choice....NOT! They better fix this game up so we get a nice bug-free game.

homer2001
homer2001

eh try getting a job as a quality assurance team... I did that for EA... and ohh my... god there were thousands of bugs, and maybe a thousand more that hasn't been found. Plus a console game will always be steadier than a PC, cuz every console is the same so give it some credit, it might not be that bad

Truth01
Truth01

800 bugs! How do you release a game with that many bugs. I hope this game is good, I hoped the PC version would be good, but I don't plan on getting my hopes up again. This version will have to prove itself, before any excitement comes out of me.

konradak
konradak

Hmm,,,, Hope they can fix the game up 'n make it good,,,

blank_wave13
blank_wave13

Can't wait for an Xbox Live demo of this.

bossjimbob
bossjimbob

Here's to hoping the 360 version fixes all the problems present on the PC one.