At first glance you might dismiss CyberMage: Darklight Awakening as just another Doom clone. But Origin, the other big boys in Texas, have used the canvas of a Doom-like first-person 3-D engine to paint a master work of their own in this comic-book action game.
The interface expands greatly on the Doom model. The three dimensional world lets you crouch, as well as look up and down, skills that will enable you to find cleverly hidden items and give you proper perspective as you make perilous leaps across dangerously high platforms. Like Doom, CyberMage also pits you against hordes of enemies who come from every direction, but power-ups and new weapons are harder to come by than in most 3-D games, requiring you to think strategically and use both your conventional and magical weapons sparingly. Restocking can be tricky, as you must find standard ammunition to reload your conventional armament, and rest occasionally to replenish the drain of your magical weapons on your superpower.
On-screen readouts keep you abreast of your ammo supplies, health, magical power, and armor strength. You'll often find that there's too much information on the screen at once, but you can toggle through different views so that only the most important gauges are left on the screen.
CyberMage's two most notable improvements over most Doom clones are its ability to enter and operate vehicles, and the development of story through other characters' digitized speech. The vehicle modes are very simple, and the game designers wisely keep the action moving by not introducing a complicated set of keys for vehicle operation. Key characters in each level approach you and give you information or orders that advance the plot. Thanks to excellent sound design, these speech passages are surprisingly realisticif you turn while someone is speaking to you the voice will be louder from the left or right speaker respectively.
CyberMage's comic-book story tie-in is a little hard to swallow because of the conflict between the blocky nature of 3-D games and the colorful art that is the hallmark of comics. Even so, CyberMage remains a triumphant example of successfully applied creativity in an existing game genre.