Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements Hands-On

The latest release in the long-running series, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements brings the medieval FPS from PC to console. We've played through the first two chapters of the game and lived to tell the tale.


Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements begins with an ominous prophecy. This is fleshed out in a prerendered cutscene in which the Dark Messiah is empowered by an enemy that looks very much like the Balrog from Lord of the Rings, serving to set the game's tone. Other Tolkien references in the opening cutscene include elvish-looking text and narration that sounds like someone trying to impersonate Gandalf.

Assuming the role of Sareth, an apprentice working under the tutelage of the sorcerer Master Phenrig, you'll need to choose between four different classes before beginning the game. As our previous coverage has mentioned, you'll level up throughout the game and gain access to new abilities based on your chosen class.

The skills for each class are fairly standard. Warriors use sheer force and have increased strength and armor, as well as the ability to perform single-strike kills, whereas archers are lacking in hand-to-hand combat but make up for it in long-distance attacks. Mages rely on elements (that is, magic) to get the job done, and perform hand-to-hand combat using a staff. Lastly, assassins rely on stealth, can perform backstabs, and are equipped with daggers that are more effective in combat than one might think (but offer less defence).

The prologue introduces you to the basic gameplay, mechanics, and physics of the game. Valve's Source engine can be used to manipulate physical objects to your advantage, much like Half-Life (although sans the Gravity Gun, naturally). In the prologue, you'll be required to retrieve the Shantiri Crystal, a powerful gem that Phenrig requires to help a fellow sorcerer. Rather than the character working alongside you, his voice serves as a guide, and he will automatically heal Sareth while you get to grips with the game.

The crystal lies inside the Temple of Asha, an ancient relic filled with a number of enemies, including human guards and zombies (as well as another nod to LOTR, a giant Shelob-like spider at the end of the prequel) lurking around to stop you.

Although soldiers can be taken care of with a few slashes of your sword, the undead prove more difficult. The only way to defeat them seemed to be kicking them squarely into a nearby spiked wall. It seems a bit strange that impaling them with a sword does nothing, but the same thing, when affixed to a wall, is enough to finish them off.

Other uses for Source physics that we saw included breaking the support beams of a platform to crush guards, and using wooden crates to destroy a weakened bridge, after which you can jump across using a rope. There weren't a huge number of creative uses of the Source engine (at least compared to Half-Life 2) in the section of the game that we played, but a pregame trailer promises plenty of action later in the game.

After the prologue you'll finally meet Master Phenrig, who sends you on a second mission to the town of Stonehelm to deliver the Shantiri Crystal to another wizard, Lord Menelag. Before you set off on your next mission (The Gates of Stonehelm), Phenrig summons your companion, Xana, a spirit that inhabits your body and serves as a guide.

Throughout your quest you will acquire experience points, which will result in unlocking new skills and abilities. You'll also gain adrenaline when fighting enemies. A bar at the top-left of the screen also shows how much you've gained, and once it's full, you can use X to unleash a powerful, brief attack in slow motion.

There wasn't a lot of interaction with non-player characters from our experience, other than a few passing remarks. The soldiers that we did interact with had a vocabulary range on par with the commentary in a low-budget sports game. From what we've seen it seems that the game is mostly driven by the overall mission, rather than encouraging interaction with townsfolk and free exploration. Another point of contention with this preview build was the long load times between--and within--stages at several points. At least it gave us ample time to read the onscreen text.

The graphics in Elements are quite reasonable, with detailed textures. However, we did notice some slowdown during the introduction to the prologue when the camera swept down a valley to the starting location at the bottom.

Lighting is used to good effect; bright outdoor terrain contrasts with dark dungeons, canyons, and nighttime environments. An earlier spell gives Sareth night vision from the beginning of the game, which adds a bluish tinge and watery effect to your vision.

At several points we were forced back to the beginning of the chapter after dying, yet other times we restarted at the point where we saved. Hopefully the final release will follow the latter, rather than forcing us to replay entire chapters from the beginning.

From the time we spent with Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements, it struggled to set itself apart from other fantasy games and lacked a deep, compelling storyline, a notion that was reinforced by some weak dialogue.

However, Elements looks and sounds quite good. If you can forgive some of the issues and are a fan of fantasy shooters, you might find it a worthwhile adventure.

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Avatar image for KBFTodd

Gamestop has the PC version for 20 bucks, should've bought that instead.....oh well I like the game and it's pretty cool so far, although you guys are right, it's no Elder......

Avatar image for daf269

Yeah this game is no where near elder scrolls as far as RPG, this game would compare more with Bioshock. Its like a fantasy FPS with rpg elements thrown in. Combat pwns ES...

Avatar image for Sammojo

Yeah Elder Scrolls had more depth and stuff, and a better story and character customization, but I think this has a much more enjoyable combat system. The two were very similar, although being able to kick and hurt enemies with surroundings like spikes and by throwing objects at them is what oblivion didn't have. If they had been combined then a truly awesome RPG would have existed, but they weren't so we take what we can get. And what we can get is pretty damn good IMO.

Avatar image for pythxvii

The game is pretty good in terms of gameplay, especially the warrior. Sure the game needs a bit of polish but its fun for someone who doesn't need a deep RPG. I wish Oblivion had a melee combat system lik ethis game though, it was so boring =(

Avatar image for jamesallenyz431

i thought the demo was kinda lame. i think if they changed some sh!t this could be a pretty cool game. keep on keeping on

Avatar image for BigDaddy973


Avatar image for sethbouldin

You don't HAVE to kick he un-dead into the spiked wall lol. I really liked this but I agree that The Elder Scrolls pwns

Avatar image for bendall01

M&M ? what is this? candy?

Avatar image for bulletwaster

The Elder Scrolls owns this

Avatar image for thenephariouson

I was expecting so much more from this game, especially as it uses the Source engine, quite dissapointed due to the glitches etc,

Avatar image for thenephariouson

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for smokevatr

ouch terrible graphics and glitches everywhere more like an old xbox game than 360 far from N-gen stuff ... id maybe consider this one when it hits the bargain bin wich i suppose wont take long and its still only a maybe ...

Avatar image for Chef_Bretz

"ppffft!!! oblivion kicks dark messiah's ass." - roger that.

Avatar image for Diernes

I enjoyed this game on PC. An yes Oblivion is a better game (especially with mods), but honestly the combat and physics in Dark Messiah leave Oblivion in the dust. You can chop people's arms and legs off for god sake. In oblivion the game doesnt care if you hit the enemies finger, or neck. Same damage... Anyway these games should not be compared.. Oblivion is a First person RPG. Messiah is an action game pure and simple. Now, I played the 360 Demo last night, and i was not impressed. Graphics seem lackluster compared to the PC version, and alot of the game elements appear to be dumbed down/ changed.

Avatar image for seany_lad

ppffft!!! oblivion kicks dark messiah's ass.

Avatar image for kaziechameleon

dark messiah on pc would have qualified as a sleeper hit if it still wasn't riddled with ridiculous bugs.

Avatar image for Omegax23

this game is not Oblivion so stop comparing it to it. It is almost like the pc version although I hate the leveling system on this Version.

Avatar image for jmrwacko

To all console gamers... the PC version of dark messiah was enjoyable, but wasn't all that great and only lasted a couple of hours. If the port is the same thing as the original, you should rent this game, not buy it.

Avatar image for ChestyMcGee

I played the demo...mixed reactions really. It's like Oblivion but with less RPG elements and the action is a bit more in-depth, sort of like the close-quaters combat of Condemned. AI didn't hold up very well, you can just run around them and stab them in the back most of the time. Good use of the Source Engine though.

Avatar image for reckeweg

I am going to get this game simply because I love first person games and I love the fantasy element. It looks pretty from what I've and Oblivion had its problems and I still loved that game like no other. I'm gonna stay optimistic.

Avatar image for thekodaman

Dear god Gamespot, this game isn't an FPS. It is by definition an Action RPG that just happens to be in the first person.

Avatar image for spoof411

this demo gave me AIDS

Avatar image for grungehead1991

the demo wasnt half bad. ...and what diernes said about the undead

Avatar image for Diernes

This is a useless preview, it says nothing regardng the differences between the PC and console versions. Also the information is flat out wrong in some parts. You can kill undead without kicking them into spike for example. I have played this game on PC extensively as well as Oblivion. and I have to say the combat is alot better than Oblivion. It still gets repititive though but really oblivions combat is alot worse

Avatar image for TooQuickStix

GOt the Demo, but havent started yet. Looks interesting, thought it was more RPG than it sounds though. I didnt mind Oblivions combat other than that it got VERY repetetive, I mean by the end you are fighting the same enemies in the same place over and over. The first 3/4ths of the game were amazing, then it just sputtered out, and no I didnt play the addons.

Avatar image for MortorVos

I played the demo and personnely i thought the combat felt a lot nicer than oblivions did. I hope bethesda take some notice of how to make good medival fps combat system.

Avatar image for Kilgore1987

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Kilgore1987

i thought the pc demo for the original game was amazing, however the full game was just way too short lived with gameplay that was not varied enough

Avatar image for nightfend

Is this exactly the same as the PC version? Or is it a slimmed down arcade version?

Avatar image for masterclone

sparten1012, You asked who wrote it, Maybe check up at the start of the text :p "By Luke Anderson, GameSpot UK " . But i do agree that this preview is bad , Can you mention LOTR more please? I played through the Dark messiah game on PC and it was a good game. I mean i finished it and i don't finish sucky games :p I have hopes that this will be atleast decent

Avatar image for Redhairboy491

Seemed pretty good too me, and when i played the demo all you had to do was knock the zombies down and impale them with your sword.

Avatar image for Pete5506

The demo was ok, not the best

Avatar image for sonofabear17

I thought the demo was pretty fun i might pick this one up but mabye after a couple months when the price goes down

Avatar image for sparten1012

the previewer seems to be a really piss LOTR fan the game was awsome on the PC had a few gliches but it was fun as hell Im so gana get it for the 360 but Im afrid there ether gana perfect it or ruin it with this game (who wroute this its sighed game spot so it wasint a chief editor)

Avatar image for fenwickhotmail

demo is crap

Avatar image for LPH79

I dont have XBL but i'm still interested in this game.

Avatar image for Agermemnon

@lowenergycycle yeah gamespot been way off with time keeping of late tut tut tut lol .

Avatar image for lowenergycycle

I never played this on the PC but I recently enjoyed the demo from XBL so I'll no doubt pick a copy up on release. But then, surely anybody who's even remotely interested in this version of the game will have downloaded the demo two weeks ago, rendering this preview pretty much redundant.

Avatar image for crawfish406

"It seems a bit strange that impaling them with a sword does nothing, but the same thing, when affixed to a wall, is enough to finish them off." But impaling them with a sword while they're down DOES work =/

Avatar image for gord_mose

Considering the lack of RPGs at this stage in the 360's life, this seems like a worthy purchase. I have enjoyed the demo and will probably buy this instead of Lost Odyssey.

Avatar image for Rinkalicous

As long as this doesn't crash every five seconds like the PC version, i'm in.

Avatar image for STARS_Splinter

I'm with Grantelicious; the PC game was an unsung hero of the fantasy genre, with some spectacular swordfighting and great locales. And the story isn't bad, either, though the focus is pretty much on the action and adventure. Honestly though, this preview is a pretty awfully written piece. The previewer is clearly completely biased against the game from the offset, and apparently didn't even grasp the idea that you can impale the zombies on the ground with your sword to kill them, too... Don't get me wrong, the game has its issues. But underneath them theres a lot of enjoyment in DM. Oh, and since when was this a 'fantasy shooter'? =/

Avatar image for deactivated-5ce72effd6960

It seemed a tad sluggish on the demo but I still think it's worth looking at.

Avatar image for Grantelicious

Loved the PC version and don't think it got the respect it deserved and i have a feeling this game wont do so great too.