Zenimax Is Arkane Studios’ Dark Messiah

I think I shall kick him into that spiked thing. That is what I shall do.

One of the stories to emerge from Quakecon was that Zenimax have got their corporate cheque-book out again. Following Id into Bethesda’s masters maw is Arkane Studios, who you’ll know from Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might And Magic and doing work alongside 2K Marin on Bioshock 2. To state the obvious – with Id, Bethesda and publishing Splash Damage’s Brink, this helps cement Zenimax as a major power in that PC-centric PC/Console developed game area. By which I mean, traditional PC games which are now developed for both (and so provoke comment thread – aha! – Rage for merely existing). The press release follows and if you want to try and work out what Arkane are actually up to, our interview with Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith is where they lay out their current thinking best. Though I would say that.


Veteran Studio Joins Bethesda Game Studios and id Software as
an Internal Studio for Bethesda Softworks

August 12, 2010 (Rockville, MD) – ZeniMax Media Inc., parent company of noted game publisher Bethesda Softworks, today announced it has completed the acquisition of veteran game developer Arkane Studios.

Founded in 1999, Arkane has offices in Lyon, France and Austin, Texas and is led by co-creative directors Raphael Colantonio, Arkane’s founder and CEO who will also serve as president of Arkane, and Harvey Smith, lead designer on Deus Ex. Arkane’s first title, Arx Fatalis, was released in 2002 and became a fan favorite with its highly detailed environments and innovative gameplay. In addition, Arkane developed Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (PC version), and has collaborated on a number of high profile game projects, including Bioshock 2. Arkane is currently working on an unannounced project with Bethesda Softworks.

“This is an exciting moment for Arkane. After 11 years of independent development, we couldn’t think of a better publishing partner,” said Colantonio. “We share so many creative values. Joining the ZeniMax family will allow us to grow stronger while staying true to the games we love.”

Arkane joins of group of development studios which includes id Software and Bethesda Game Studios, two of the finest, most respected videogame developers in the world. This deal further underscores Bethesda’s commitment to delivering premier titles to gamers worldwide.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring another experienced, high quality developer like Arkane to the ZeniMax group of studios,” said Robert Altman, Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media. “Raphael and his talented team have earned a reputation for creating immersive, innovative games which enhances our ability to deliver AAA quality games to our many fans.”


  1. Nobody Important says:


  2. LewieP says:

    Really looking forwards to what comes out of them. Bloody loved Dark Messiah, even if it was just a shallow trashy fantasy kick ’em up.

    The Crossing got officially cancelled right? It certainly looked kick-ass from the trailers.

    I wonder if they’ll be using id tech 5.

    • ZIGS says:

      Word from a dev in the official forums is that it was put on hold due to lack of a publisher and therefore, financial support. I guess this changes that

    • ZIGS says:

      I just went looking for the post but their site is under construction and the forum down. They sure didn’t waste any time being assimilated :)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I seem to recall reading the same thing, and assuming it’s true, it certainly explains why they went to Bethesda and the head guy’s comments about how they always wanted to be own because it gives them financial security.

      So I’m guessing they’re working on The Crossing again.

  3. Dominic White says:

    Dark Messiah was the best first-person swashbuckler ever. On the higher difficulties, it really forced you to play it Errol Flynn style, constantly moving around, kicking stuff over, leaping across gaps and generally making yourself as annoying as possible for the enemies to attack.

    I hope a sequel is due.

    • Janek says:

      Just so long as they stay away from the BLOODY ZOMBIE PLATFORM LEVELS.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Yeh, Dark Messiah was great. Taught me the downside of having spiky walls for decoration. I think it could have done with a bit more RPG though.

    • BarerRudeROC says:


    • El_MUERkO says:

      it came out at the same time as Oblivion and after playing both I remember thinking that an amalgam of the best of both games would have been a thing of beauty

    • Ian says:

      I’ve tried Dark Messiah twice, both times I got to the part of the temple with the zombies and gave up. Which is a shame, because up to then it’s great fun.

    • Chizu says:

      Thats what I was thinking. I didn’t really like Oblivions combat, and was constantly thinking if only we had Dark Messiah’s combat in an Oblivion-type world

      Oblivion felt like playing with those plastic swords as a kid.
      Dark Messiah was too linear to let you really experiment beyond some rather obvious physics traps.

      But a mix of the two would have been amazing.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, I loved Dark Messiah, but why did they go to all that effort with the great fighting mechanics and then remove most of the fun by having half the game fighting zombies and THOSE FUCKING GHOUL BASTARDS who just sort of came at you and thus were no fun to fight?

      Oh and giant spiders.

      Still, kicking orcs over cliffs or that wonderful dagger backstab animation.. good times.

    • Muzman says:

      BLOODY ZOMBIE PLATFORM LEVELS were great. And fantastic looking. What’s the matter with you people?
      The balance was a bit off for it to be a great sword fighting game. Enemies way too tough at times. I don’t mind being one-hit fragile, so long as my sharpened steel acts like sharpened steel in the flesh of my foes. Ghouls could absorb ridiculous damage. I know it’s meant to be kinda environment rich swash and buckle and the scenery plays a role in what’s going on, rather than it just being a fencing sim. But a bit better balance and they wouldn’t have needed the hilarious amount of spikes everywhere.

      And yeah; worst/best spiders in any game ever.

    • Nick says:

      Are you honestly saying that dark tomb with endless zombies/water was great?

      I liked the huge scary monster escape and some of the jumpy bits in that, but the bits towards the end were ghastly.

    • Muzman says:

      Yes, I liked the tombs sections generally. I think I know the bits you’re talking about. There’s stretch of big square rooms and lots of vampire knights and necros. Mostly I just snuck around and cast that spell that makes everyone fight each other.
      All the climby catacomby ones I thought were great fun.

    • Chaz says:

      Yep I thought it was a great game too, but I played it mostly as a spell slinger, which esnetially meant hiding in a corner and using the Charm spell a lot until you’d whittled down most of your foes and then blasting the rest with your guided fireballs.

      I definitely would like to try it again some time and try the thief and warrior types out.

      And yes those ghouls were a right pain in the backside.

  4. bill says:

    I never got to play Dark Messiah as it isn’t available on any platform in Japan. Sigh.

    • bill says:

      Nope. Region restricted.
      Same goes for gamersgate, direct2drive, impulse and everywhere else i’ve checked.

      Good thing we have this international thing called an internet…. sigh.

    • Chizu says:

      You could always get it gifted to you on steam by a friend to get around the locatiion limits.

  5. El_MUERkO says:

    Dark Messiah was a flawed but awesome game and I would have loved to see a sequel!

    • frymaster says:

      I will always have affection for it for using a cyclops as a siege weapon near the start

  6. HidesHisEyes says:

    The world’s greatest game would be Morrowind with the graphics, combat and spiky-wall density of Dark Messiah.

  7. Subject 706 says:

    A new Arx Fatalis please! And please god don’t follow Bethesda down the slope of mediocrity.

    Also, to echo previous posters, Dark Messiah sas great fun. Too bad most reviewers did not think so.

    • The Dark One says:

      Hey, you can always hope that these new studios will be the ones to rub off on Bethesda. :)

  8. Midnight says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that the world of Arx deserves some further exploration? Dark Messiah was very enjoyable but Arx was quite special.

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      Arx Fatalis was one of the very few games I’ve finished more than once.

      The post-apocalyptic fantasy setting with a touch of Cthulhu was awesome and the ending suggested a sequel.

      Also, Stephen Russell, the voice of Garrett, voiced the astronomer.

    • Midnight says:

      Yeah it was great to hear Stephen Russell in Arx Fatalis, though it felt more like a cameo with the character they gave him.

      I just started re-visiting Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah after this news, and a game that combined the combat and level design of DM with the complexity / depth of Arx would be an instant favourite. Although the skill system in DM should make you want to replay and focus on Magic / Stealth / Combat, I’d much rather replay Arx. It’s more of an exploration game, and there’s so much more to find on a second or even third playthrough.

  9. Freud says:

    Does this mean Arkane will use Tech 5 for their coming projects?

    • Kamisama says:

      @Sinomatic probably, as Zenimax want to keep it inhouse to have an edge over the competition.

    • Kamisama says:

      Ooops wrong name, i meant Freud of course :)

  10. Sinomatic says:

    Add another one to the ‘also enjoyed Dark Messiah group’.

    I think if you took the kicky, slashy, rope-and-fire shooty side of dark messiah, added it to the open world enormity of oblivion (I never got on with Morrowind), had the dialogue and consequences of dragon age/mass effect, the multi-path approach of deus ex and added the horse-back mischief of mount & blade…..I might die in some sort of game-related bliss explosion.

  11. Sam A. says:

    I’m also a huge fan of both Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah. Arx is still great fun and holds up shockingly well visually (the textures are amazing) and it’s cheap on Gog.com. I’m really looking forward to what these guys come out with next.

    • mcnostril says:

      I was really impressed by how well Arx Fatalis holds up today.

      I recall when it came out back in the day and I played demo and thought it was awesome. I recently purchased it on GoG and I have to admit, it’s still a great game, and I was every bit as awed now as I was back then. The graphics hold up just fine, and the world is pretty believable (and like you mentioned, the textures are great). I’d definitely like to see more games in this vein, by which I mean games that take a small area and just fill it to the brim with interesting content. Arx Fatalis is a small game when you look at the surface area, and yet it feels expansive and interesting the whole way.

      Taking Arx Fatalis, making it slightly prettier and just expanding on its mechanics (more choices, better combat, etc…) and you’d have one hell of a game. It’s a shame that everyone seems to be stuck in this “epic is BIG” kind of mindset.

  12. Navagon says:

    Given what Arkane have been working on lately this can only be a nudge back in the right direction. Hopefully they’ll be in full control of their new project.

    I did love Dark Messiah too though.

  13. dan. says:

    The only thing that’s prevented me from installing my brother’s old copy of Dark Messiah is that, apparently, there’s a pretty horrific section involving giant spiders.

    I fucking hate spiders.

    • Navagon says:

      Yeah, you go through a big nest of them with cocoons containing drained bodies hanging from the ceiling. Fun times.

  14. user@example.com says:

    I stopped playing Dark Messiah at the spider level. I can usually play through spider levels, and massacre spiders by the thousand in other games, but I couldn’t face it in Dark Messiah. Shame, I enjoyed the rest of it.

  15. Deuteronomy says:

    Dark Messiah is up there as the most underrated game of all time. Yeah the plot was about as generic as possible but the gameplay and art direction was ace.

  16. Urthman says:

    Dark Messiah also had some really great level design with lots of fun secrets to find and alternate routes to get to your objective.

  17. PrepareToMeetThyGod says:

    I must admit, I absolutely hated Dark Messiah. And for that I apologise, because clearly I’m alone here =P Still…it’ll be nice to see what they produce :D

  18. Jetsetlemming says:

    This means that Arkane won’t die, which is what I was afraid was going to happen to them after the news about The Crossing.

  19. TheApologist says:

    Dark Messiah had its flaws, mostly in some of the enemy and level design, but was a really fun and to this day a unique experience.

    Glad to see this – hope they get the backing they deserve.

  20. Fenchurch says:

    I hope I don’t get accused of being a robot for posting a link, but regarding love for Arx Fatlais…

    link to moddb.com

    If you didn’t catch it on the Mod round up a few days ago, this is a fascinating attempt at a mod made using the Doom 3 engine, an attempt to make a prequel to Arx!

    I am quite excited by the idea. :-X

    • Fenchurch says:

      Arx Fatlais of course being the ill fated Spectrum port…

      No, of course, *hits self on head* ARX FATALIS.

  21. jvempire says:

    Rest in Peace, Tha Government.

  22. CommanderZx2 says:

    I would love to get me some Morrowind with Dark Messiah melee combat, it would be heaven.

    • Gritz says:

      With a graphics engined designed by John Carmack, and the world interactivity of Arx Fatalis. And while I’m daydreaming it would be a PC-only release.

      It would be the perfect game.

  23. DMJ says:

    Dark Messiah of Might and Magic made both magic and melee satisfying in a way that so many other games can only dream of. While playing it I couldn’t escape the thought that it would have been awesome to watch a replay of my game from a cinematic perspective, throwing fireballs and following them up with the Boot to the Head or a smack from my Flaming Staff of Flame.

  24. Bullwinkle says:

    Not only was Dark Messiah’s combat fantastic, but basing the acquisition of skill points on completing tasks instead of killing enemies meant that all three build types were viable, and most importantly, played very differently from each other. Really, one of the most underrated games I’ve ever played.

  25. yhancik says:

    11 years and Arkane is a “Veteran Studio” ?!

    I only played the Arx Fatalis demo, and I have fond memories of it. I remember wishing for a mix of Arx & Morrowind ;)

  26. HermitUK says:

    Arx with Dark Messiah’s combat would pretty much be the best game ever made ever in the history of ever.

    Go to it, Zenimax!

  27. ezgili says:

    By playing a game I love

  28. ManaTree says:

    Hm, I gotta get around to playing both Dark Messiah and Arx Fatalis. Thank you Steam for the former, thank you GOG for the latter! Immersive sim time.

  29. Malagate says:

    Ohh I’m really liking these comments about liking Dark Messiah, especially the ones saying “flawed but good”. There’s a bloody good reason why it got poor reviews to begin with, simply because it was a beta. I remember the release, despite being source it was a sea of bugs and unimplemented features, definately an unfinished game. Enjoyable (when they quickly patched it to work for most people) but still lots of flaws.

    The good news is they did finish the game, the bads new is the finished game is called Dark Messiah: Elements and is Xbox 360 only. Advertised as coming with “over 200 bug fixes”, oh and with no further support for the original. Yes, extra single player content, re-vamped multiplayer and a whole heap of bugfixes, not for you paying PC version beta testers.

    Bitter, moi? Only to the point where in my mind whenever I think of anything Dark Messiah related I imagine a 100 metre tall sign which reads as “fuck you ubisoft”, who I somehow blame for it (basically through association, ubi has before beta’d on one system and completed on another, see Assassin’s Creed differences between xbox and PC release). Probably just a weird PC entitlement issue mixed with the irrational feeling of being a bit ripped off.

    If a new version of Arx was released, I would pick it up in seconds (after checking it carefully of course). If a new version of Dark Messiah was released, I would check the publisher and then decide on if I will get it sooner or later (but will most likely get it eventually, still enjoyed the first one). If Dark Messiah was re-released with the bug fixes and updates, with those who bought the original getting the updates for free, possibly co-inciding with a discount weekend and maybe a free multiplayer weekend, then all would be forgiven and forgotten. The first two I hope will happen, the last I know never will.

    • Dominic White says:

      The 360 version of Dark Messiah was crap. The PC version was far better.

      And after patches, I can’t say I had any major problems with the PC version.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah – seriously, Elements was genuinely terrible. It was a 4/10 game to the PC’s 8/10. They stripped out masses of the features.


    • Dominic White says:

      I just want to know why they stripped anything out in the first place. It was hardly a complex game before it moved to the 360. Did someone in upper management hear that console gamers were retarded or something, and passed that down as an order to the studio?

  30. a synge says:

    Or you could connect to a VPN with an European or American ip address, takes care of all region restrictions.

  31. Celeste Achterhof says:

    Can anyone suggest something like Dark Messiah? Oblivion simply will not play on any of my computers…we’ve tried everything. I’ve done Arx and loved it as well but really miss kicking orcs over the cliffs. Please suggest something else I might like. Morrowind just didn’t catch my interest. I would love a few suggestions. The Hobbit was pretty good believe it or not once you get past the baby levels and so was Black Buccaneer and I liked Origins..Dragon Age…loved flying around as a dragon, but am really missing Dark Messiah’s style. Please help a gal out.
    Thank you,

  32. Celeste Achterhof says:

    I would love some advice….Can anyone suggest something like Dark Messiah? Oblivion simply will not play on any of my computers…we’ve tried everything. I’ve done Arx and loved it as well but really miss kicking orcs over the cliffs. Please suggest something else I might like. Morrowind just didn’t catch my interest. I would love a few suggestions. The Hobbit was pretty good believe it or not once you get past the baby levels and so was Black Buccaneer and I liked Origins..Dragon Age…loved flying around as a dragon, but am really missing Dark Messiah’s style. Please help a gal out.
    Thank you,

    • Chris D says:

      The Witcher is really good but if you can’t run Oblivion that might not work for you either. Jade Empire is also fun if you like a good bit of kicking. Knights of the Old Republic is worth a look as well.