They nearly got the title right... It's a Dark Mess

User Rating: 4 | Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements X360
Straight to the point… this is a bad game, the sort of game that makes you wonder what the hell you were thinking of when you handed over your cash at the till, the sort of game where you'd almost appreciate the greasy haired, pizza faced, window licker of an assistant telling you that buying the game you've just handed over is a horrible piece of garbage.

But I didn't buy this from a shop… it's an Ebay special… a mere six notes of my hard earned cash and a few days later the disk lands on my doormat… still sealed… never a good sign.

My excuse for buying it… I needed something to play… Star Ocean 4 does not appear in the UK until June and that leaves a whole in my schedule to fill, this was going cheap and I'd found the demo to be passable, not good or decent… passable.

For those who never played the demo it was the tutorial level at the start of the game, the one way forward only level that shows you what you'll be able to do, the basics of combat, the lateral thinking required every so often, the hunt for keys to locked doors and the occasional hidden area to discover… and a passable boss battle at the end… passable, not good or decent… passable.

Passable because it all goes downhill after that.

Early in the piece you find yourself chasing a thief across rooftops to try and recover an artefact that has been stolen from you… this requires so quick running and some deft jumping from roof to roof, not easy when the jump button is as responsive as a week old corpse, and made a damn site harder when you consider the whole game is played out in First Person.

This sort of "free-running" experience is not good in First Person, and will kill any thoughts you may have had about maybe giving Mirror's Edge a spin at a later date, it's hideous, one wrong turn or missed jump and the level ends, usually with you in a presumably bloody mess having fallen to the cobble below, and you have to restart the level… even if you miss timed the very first jump the level has to reload… the only saving grace being the levels where you are chasing are exceptionally short… on the down side of this is that there are then more of them to work your way through to finish the level.

The game also likes to think of itself as an RPG… which it isn't… not even close… the closest it gets is allowing you to choose your character type at the start of the game, you do level your skills up but you don't get to choose which ones, the new skills and abilities are all nicely laid out in a certain order for you to collect.

Nor will you find any shops to trade in, but then that's okay because you won't find any gold to spend in them anyway, this is a world that survives without currency… which is a shame, as a warrior I have no use of magic available to me, but I can collect Mana potions that in any other game I could sell to make some cash… not here, in similar vain I cannot collect the quivers of arrows dotted liberally around the game because I chose to be a Warrior and not an Archer at the start of the game.

The game then proceeds to contradict itself… having been told that as a Warrior you're simply not good enough to use a bow, you suddenly find yourself in an underground area with only one means of escape… using the "Rope Bow" that suddenly appears in your inventory, this allows you to fire an arrow at an object high above you and, when hit, when it hits a length of rope suddenly appears below it allowing you to climb up… now you were incapable before of hitting anything with a bow because, being a Warrior, you just weren't capable of doing so., but now you're skilled enough to make use of a different bow because the locations as so badly thought out that's the only way you can escape your current predicament.

Even worse, the appearance of this "Rope Bow" means the game can add more misery to the recipe by adding some precision platforming areas where you're required to jump to ledges, via the ropes which you've set up using the special bow, to get to locations higher up… miss one rope or misjudge one platform and splat… long fall followed by a squishing noise… in the first of these areas, a tower in a ruined temple, there's a hidden area further up from the area where you need to reach to continue the level… which can be reached by more rope jumping and numerous failed attempts to reach the summit, which is a lot bloody easier than trying to get back down again to continue the level… after a good half dozen attempts I turned off in frustration.

The games real failing is that it expects you to know where to look at all times, having reached a hidden area, so hidden that the game requires you to find it, which hardly makes it a secret to-be-discovered area, has you pull a lever to open up a passage to the next section, which is fine… if you knew where to look after you'd pulled the lever as the location is hardly obvious… even with a walk through telling me where this new room was it still took me 15 minutes to get there as it's in a near inaccessible place.

The crowning glory is the epilogue, now whenever I've come across an epilogue in a book it's the chapter or passage that follows the conclusion to the story, the part where you learn what happened following the end of the story… in Dark Messiah the Epilogue is the final part of the game, and comes after the conclusion of Chapter 9 which makes me think that they either couldn't count any higher, and if you've played the game this theory may hold some water, or the game engine just can't cope with double figure Chapter numbers.

Dark Messiah is not a good game, if you're a blatant achievement whore then you'll need to play this through around four times, once with each character class… then tackle the online multiplayer game to score the 1,000 points… and let's face it, that's not going to happen.

Even if you see this game on offer, even if they offer you money to play it or take it off their hands… think twice, it's not worth the torture of having this on your gamer card for all to see, it really isn't.