Released on the PC well over a year ago, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements is Ubisoft’s Xbox 360 update to the game that addresses the issues from the PC version, adds a few new levels and improves the multiplayer mode to work on Xbox Live. To fans of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, this overview sounds like Elements might just be worth picking up. Sadly, it isn’t — and the fact that Ubisoft released it at full price is downright insulting.
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is probably best described a modern version of Heretic, a first-person shooter but with a fantasy hook. In Elements, rather than pick up guns and ammo, you’ll be armed with a sword or a dagger depending on your character class. If you’re thinking this sounds like Oblivion, think again. While the levels are big and there’s a fair bit to check out, this is no more a sandbox game than Rainbow Six.
Like modern first-person shooters, players can pick from various classes at the beginning (Warrior, Assassin and Mage), and their choice will affect certain skills and the weapon loadout. Yet to even think about calling this an RPG would be wrong, because while it may seem like it has the traits of leveling-up and assigning points to player stats, the points and stats don’t really amount to much. In fact, the perks in Call of Duty 4 have more depth than those in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements.
The combat is mildly interesting, but it, too has issues. The physics system lets players kick enemies off bridges and into spiked walls, which seems fun until you’re forced to do these physics-based activities because of your overly weak normal attacks, or when you’re compelled to cut ropes and kick support beams to drop rocks on enemies. At this point, the physics novelty quickly becomes a pain. The rest of the combat doesn’t fare well either, as the swordplay is fast and furious but uneven, and trying to land certain blows seem to happen by pure chance. The bow and arrow require no real skill either, and in fact they do so little damage that you’ll find yourself forgetting it’s even an option. And let’s not forget the voice of a Wizard mentor who tells you what to do next if you’ve taken care of all the enemies, a feature that probably could have been implemented better with a simple text box.
And about that Wizard mentor? Let’s just say that he, like the rest of the plot, is forgettable. Like a poorly implemented coming-of-age story, the tale has players finally being trusted by their Wizard mentor to go out into the world to retrieve artifacts, which are usually guarded by a boss. Really (and sadly), that’s all that matters plot-wise, and it’s probably all most players will end up caring about. It’s a half-assed tale at best, and even then, it’s poorly told.
But wait, there’s multiplayer, right? Technically, yes, but after waiting a few hours on Xbox Live I still saw no one else. Maybe they were just all involved in the single-player mode. It’s doubtful they were snagging the downloadable content, which consists of some weapons and more classes, because you’d have to be crazy to even bother to pay the Microsoft Points for those items.
In short, if you’re a fan of the Heretic series, this may be worth a rent. For everyone else, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements is at best a good way to get some easy Achievement Points, but even then it’s probably not even worth the effort.
- Score: 5
- A poorly executed game that suffers from just about every malady known to gaming, from bad plot to sketchy gameplay. Best to avoid this one entirely.
— Phil Vollmer