Multiplayer in first-person shooters usually means battling it out in a series of matches online that have little meaning, apart from whichever side can wipe out the other side first. That will change when Dark Messiah of Might and Magic ships later this year. This upcoming action game from Ubisoft features a promising new multiplayer mode called crusade that will put some meaning back into battles, as you fight for ultimate victory.
The crusade mode is an online campaign that will pit one team playing as the humans against another team playing as the undead. However, instead of offering a random series of missions, crusade mode has persistence, as the goal is to win a series of battles and advance into the enemy's territory and capture its stronghold. Over the course of a campaign, you'll be able to level up your character, unlocking new skills and abilities and becoming more powerful. Once a campaign is won or lost, another campaign will begin, and everyone starts at level 1 again.
There are five multiplayer classes in Dark Messiah, each of which is highly specialized. The fighter is the frontline warrior, the assassin is the fast and nimble striker, the priestess is the healer, the archer is the sniper, and the mage is the heavy spellcaster. In this preview, we'll take a closer look at the archer and the mage, the two primary ranged classes. They're not particularly suited for melee combat and instead like to stand off in a battle and attack from afar. Dark Messiah is scheduled to ship in October.
The archer is the "sniper" class of Dark Messiah's multiplayer mode. It's also the class that offers an experience closest to that of a traditional first-person shooter. However, hitting a target with an arrow won't be easy in Dark Messiah. The game's physics model means that arrows in flight behave like the real thing, so you have to compensate for range and movement when you aim. If the target is far away, you should aim high, and hopefully the arrow will arc into your target. If your target is moving side to side, you should lead your target. It'll take practice to be able to hit a target reliably, but once you do, you can inflict a large amount of damage with a single shot. You'll be able to upgrade your skills throughout an online campaign, and your choices are listed below.
|Burning Arrow||What's more destructive than an arrow? A burning arrow! The burning arrow does more damage and may set targets on fire.|
|Composite Bow||Level 1: Increased drawing capacity means longer range and higher damage. |
Level 2: Tauter bow string translates into even more damage inflicted on the target.
Level 3: Range and damage are increased thanks to special battens bonded to the bow.
Level 4: Bow is reengineered with magical materials to become the most powerful archery device in the game.
|Double Arrow||The double arrow skill lets you draw and loose two arrows at a time, increasing the chances of a hit but at the price of reduced range and accuracy.|
|Triple Arrow||The triple arrow skill lets you draw and loose three arrows at a time. This is very inaccurate, but, like a shotgun blast, it's powerful at close range.|
|Drill Arrow||The arrowhead has a spiraling steel tip that can dig through armor and flesh, inflicting greater damage.|
|Eagle Eye||Level 1: Lets you zoom in on distant enemies. |
Level 2: Lets you zoom in on the most distant of targets.
|Fast Reload||Level 1: Greased arrows slide right out of your quiver, increasing reload speed. |
Level 2: The quiver is spring-loaded, so arrows really leap out for fast loading.
|Flare Arrow||If you need to mark a target for teammates or determine range, use this arrow with a bright flare attached to it. It does not increase damage.|
|Poison Arrow||Level 1: Disorient your target with this poison arrow. |
Level 2: Make your enemy really sick with a double-doused poison arrow.
|Bramble Arrow||Slow down fast opponents by hitting them with this arrow. The barbed tip causes extreme pain and slows movement.|
If the archer is the sniper, the mage is more like artillery, as there's little finesse required to hurl powerful spells across the map. The mage can cast area-effect spells, including fire and electricity spells, and can call upon a magic shield, if the ability is unlocked. The downside is that the mage is fragile and is a favorite target of assassins. Mages can specialize in either fire or lightning skills, which are the two main offensive spell schools. However, specializing in one school makes spells of the other school less effective. There are five levels of mastery. Fire mastery (pyromancer) means you gain a large fire bonus at the cost of most of your lightning skill. Fire affinity means you gain a bonus using fire, but your lightning abilities are hampered a bit. Elemental balance means you can use fire and lightning equally. Lightning affinity gives you a bonus with lightning but a penalty when using fire. And lightning mastery (stormcaller) gives you devastating lightning abilities, but at the price of most of your fire abilities. The spells are all listed below.
|Magic Affinity||The magic affinity skill increases magical strength, allowing you to cast more spells.|
|Quicker Regen||Recover your mana faster, so you recharge quicker.|
|Chain Lightning||When loosed, this lightning bolt can leap from target to target if aimed properly.|
|Eldritch Arrow||Who needs a bow and arrow when you have magic missiles?|
|Fire Orbs||Level 1: The beauty of fire orbs is that if they hit the ground, they explode like a grenade, but if they hit a person, they kill. |
Level 2: Lets you cast two fire orbs.
Level 3: Lets you cast three fire orbs.
|Fireball||Just what it sounds like: a guided ball of flame.|
|Fireblast||This guided ball of compressed flame is like the fireball on steroids. When it hits, it ruptures and ignites all nearby targets.|
|Flame Arrow||Release a stream of fiery missiles. You can guide the flame arrows by holding down the fire button.|
|Lightning Bolt||Release a powerful bolt of lightning, but do not hold onto this spell too long. Overcharging it can be unpleasant.|
|Lightning Shock||Level 1: Release small bolts of electricity. |
Level 2: Hold down the fire button to release more powerful bolts.
Level 3: Holding down the fire button releases even bigger bolts.
|Lightning Sphere||The lightning sphere is like an electrical cloud that zaps anything near it, including teammates if you're not careful.|
|Magic Shield||If you're under attack by magic, the magic shield protects you from magical effects. However, do not try to cast spells while inside a shield.|