Have You Played… Dark Messiah Of Might & Magic?

This would be a very sensible location for a safety rail.

Don’t play Dark Messiah of Might & Magic as an archer. You might think yourself a cool sneaky sniper, but you’re only ruining your own fun. No, be a warrior or wizard. Rebind ‘kick’ to a convenient key. Now mash that key. Kick soldiers into spikes. Kick barrels into soldiers. Kick orcs off ledges. Kick them through barricades. Lay an ice trap then kick your foe into a fire after they comically slip. Dark Messiah is Ragdoll Murder Physics: The Game – Secrets of Trapland.

Ostensibly it’s a first-person action-RPG, but Arkane Studios really made a big murder physics playground. A health and safety inspector’s nightmare, its levels are draped in spiked trellis, filled with traps on hair triggers, constructed with wood so poor it’ll explode if anyone even touches it, and almost entirely lacking in railings around the many perilous edges.

Arkane barely stopped short of adding “KICK MAN INTO THIS” signs everywhere. You really should kick man into that, you know. Or break the bridge they’re standing on. Or lure them into that log trap. Or fling them over that railing. Or fling that railing at their face. Its swordplay was fun too.

Early Source Engine tech demos teased a gaming future of wacky physics and environmental destruction as more than decoration. We’d had a few years of decorative Havok physics, where every step raised a cloud of bric-à-brac–bottles, chairs, trash cans, and ragdoll corpses–but they rarely interacted with game systems. While Valve ended up mostly using physics for puzzles, Arkane showed us its murder potential. Sadly, not many people paid attention. After Dark Messiah, video game physics saw five dark years of crate-stacking puzzles before Bulletstorm arrived.


  1. ZippyDSMlee says:

    This game was a gem, almost so bad its good writing mixed with fun gameplay if a bit on the rails. Also a bit of trivia this was going to be Arx Faltais 2 but sometime during development they were forced to make it as a lite action RPG.

    • cyberninja says:

      Yes, this is one of my favourite games, I remember even playing through the demo multiple times, it has it’s flaws but I keep coming back to it and have a different play through experience every time. The spider parts still freak me out. But the combat is so smooth and brutal it’s perfect. I can’t imagine Ubisoft publishing anything like this for a long time.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        The demo is one of the best I’ve ever played, both in terms of fun and in showing the potential of the game. I played the part with the Orcs several dozen times and it still didn’t get boring, there were so many different murder combinations that I was in awe. “There’s an entire game with just this?” I thought to myself. I even enjoyed the voice acting and story.

        Arkane might not have a sign in the levels that says “KICK MAN INTO THIS”, but in the tutorial you hear your mentor telepathically say “Kick him into the spikes Sareth!” whenever an enemy got close to them.

        There is a mod that turns the spiders into pigs that don’t attack and gives the spider boss 1 health, so I’ll probably download that next time I’m in the mood for some.

        This and Advent Rising are my go-to games when I want to kill some enemies in a ridiculously large number of ways.

        • cyberninja says:

          Did not know about the spider mod, shame there isn’t really a proper modding scene for this game.

          • Zorlan says:

            I think the modding tools got released this/the other year… but I agree, it’s a shame.

        • phelix says:

          IMPALE HIM!! Be efficient, Sareth.

        • Ovidiu GOA says:

          i saw advent rising and had to reply, i loved that game, there were supposed to be 3 games but the first one was a flop and the next 2 did not happen. Still great. What i don’t get is why is Dark Messiah a bad game ? I thought it was ok, even great when the level design came together, but not bad by any means. I know i played Arx Fatalis before it and liked it also, arkane are great

    • Continuity says:

      I quite liked Arx Fatalis, that might be enough of a reason for me to give it a go, i’ve heard good things about it and have loved everything else from Arkane studios that i’ve played.

  2. kwyjibo says:

    This has the best first person melee in any game I’ve played. Has it been surpassed?

    • Axyl says:

      Nope. The only game to even come close to this level of First Person Melee Combat is Chivalry, which is Multiplayer only (other than bot matches) and is an arena fighter, not a story driven game you can really sink into.

      I would kill for a genuinely excellent sequel to DMoMaM. I go back and play through it almost yearly.

      • Faxanadu says:

        There is not even good THIRD person melee games. If you don’t count streetfighter types that is.

        Oni? Besides that? …

        Why is it so unpopular to make an FPS game with melee? Or a third person shooter with melee? I don’t get it. Oni was and is aaaahmaaahzing.

        OP: Dark Messiah is my greatest gaming regret. I learned of the game A YEAR AGO. I had not even HEARD IT EXISTED. Even though it’s EXACTLY my kind of game. It has instilled a fear in me that every moment I might be missing a classic and no gaming site is good enough to alleviate this fear.

        • kalirion says:

          Nah, plenty good first person melee games, though more combo/spectacle fighting than down to earth combat. I hear Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is considered one of the best, though haven’t played it.

        • alright says:

          Well there is Dark Souls for 3rd person obviously.

        • Hirgwath says:

          Mount and Blade is definitely janky as hell, but the combat is truly fantastic.

          • gabrielmsvp says:

            Aside from Chivalry and Mount and Blade i HAVE to recommend War of the Vikings, that i’m kind of in love with right now. If it’s the combat that interests you, you’ve gotta try. (sorry for the english)

          • defunct says:

            Loved Mount & Blade! Lancing people was an interesting sport.

        • XhomeB says:

          BOO THIS MAN! BOO!!! BOO!!!
          Severance: Blade of Darkness. The combat system in this game is so well thought out and deep (plus hard to master) it has yet to be surpassed, if you ask me. Even renowned games like Demon’s/Dark Souls (which are actually VERY simplistic and limited in terms of combat) or Dark Messiah don’t hold a candle to it.

          It’s criminal that so few people even heard about it, let alone played it.

          • sinister agent says:

            Severance was nearly there, but its control system broke it. You either locked on to an enemy, which meant your movement was relative to that enemy (and therefore the other two guys in the room effortlessly killed you), or you didn’t lock on, which meant your attacks flailed helplessly all over the place and the fight was going quite well if you could even see anyone.

            I do think it has a lot of potential for a remake though.

          • Farsi Myrtle says:

            That’s why you switch between lock-on targets instead of sticking on one target while you get flanked. The lock-on system has always been criticised, but it works fine as long as you actively engage with it. It’s also a really important part of making the combat intimate and personal instead of a brawling button masher.

          • Faxanadu says:

            Okay, I realize I have made a huge error.

            This is going to sound really weird, but… I don’t consider swordfighting games as melee games. :D

            LISTEN! LISSEN! The reason I think this way, is because swordfighting is pretty much ALWAYS, ALWAYS a game of block and dodge. And then you take a hit. It’s just SUPER one-dimensional. It’s like a shooter, but there’s just some additional animations to watch. :D

            While ACTUAL MELEE, is where you try to make a combo, you can attack from up down middle behind all that, makes a difference where the enemy is at… No, I really don’t think Darksouls or anything has this.

            Okay, I realize I’m making a really bad case for myself. JUST LOOK AT THIS FROM 0:25->

            So entertaining, and it’s from 2001!

            (that guy isn’t using all the coolest moves nor is there many 1vs3 situations tho… but you get the gist)

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          I wish somebody would figure out how to make a proper melee cursor for first-person games so you can actually judge where you are going to hit. I hated the Dark Messiah at first because I found it so difficult to judge distance.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            I’m not sure that’s really a fault with the game. Or more accurately, while Dark Messiah’s melee range was a little unusual, I don’t think that warrants some sort of special indicator. I’m already kind of against intrusive huds and highlighting and so on because it can play merry hell with immersion, no need to make it worse when judging distance is a skill that you, the player, pick up over the course of the game. It’s part of learning to play.

          • Antistar says:

            If I’m properly understanding what you’re after, then Dead Island has this, actually. It indicates which body part you’re targeting.

            The first-person melee in Dead Island is decent… but definitely pales in comparison to Dark Messiah.

        • KenTWOu says:

          OP: Dark Messiah is my greatest gaming regret. I learned of the game A YEAR AGO. I had not even HEARD IT EXISTED. Even though it’s EXACTLY my kind of game. It has instilled a fear in me that every moment I might be missing a classic and no gaming site is good enough to alleviate this fear.

          Oh, I know this feeling, it’s so infuriating. I don’t want to mention the name of my game, don’t want to derail the thread.

    • Fenix says:

      I really liked the 1st person melee combat of Condemned: Criminal Origins. Having played both, I actually liked it way more than Dark Messiahs!

      • Optimaximal says:

        Condemned is much more physical, but it’s nowhere near as varied as Dark Messiah. It’s also hamstrung by console-y bits and bobs.

    • vedder says:

      Zeno Clash?

      • Kruton says:

        Absolutely Zeno Clash, I was going to say just that.

      • kwyjibo says:

        I’ve played Zeno Clash, it doesn’t have the same physicality, variation or hit detection of Dark Messiah. Is the second one better?

        • Fenix says:

          No sadly the second one is not good, actually. They tried to ‘go big’ and open world and instead ended up with a very boring game with a story that makes even less sense than the original (without retaining the charm).

      • Rise / Run says:

        I bounced off of Zeno Clash. I liked the concept, I liked the weirdness, but I thought the combat was horrible. Maybe I was missing something, but it just didn’t work for me. Mostly because I never got any feeling of control of a situation at all.

      • Rise / Run says:

        [oops double post]

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Everyone goes on about the kicking in this game. I found it way more fun to strategically swing your sword so enemies go flying into the traps.

      You NEED to turn down the FX if you want your frame rate to survive.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Some of the most satisfying moments of its combat are when you’re a fully skilled-up warrior and you can literally decapitate most enemies with one well-aimed horizontal swing.

    • El_MUERkO says:

      It came out at the same time as Oblivion, I remember thinking a combination of the visceral combination of Dark Messiah and the expansive world and lore of Oblivion would be an incredible game, I’m still waiting for some bright spark to make it happen.

  3. Snoken says:

    I wish new games would be more like that one but that does not seem to be possible to do…

    • Fontan says:

      I still miss a kick key in every game I play after this one…

  4. Prolar Bear says:

    No because spiders.

    • Rob Maguire says:

      I’m not afraid of spiders, but I’ll make an exception for Dark Messiah’s spiders. No game before or since has made them as nerve-wracking to fight.

      Unfortunately, a lot of that is due to some terrible (or just plain evil) game design, particularly with the game’s implementation of poison. Whose idea was it to make poison a permanent status effect that also partially blinds you, put poison resistance halfway up a mostly useless skill tree, give every spider attack a 100% chance to poison you, place less than a dozen antidotes in the game before this point (many of which are hidden), then proceed to throw what feels like hundreds of spiders at you in a dark environment where they have natural camouflage?

      And in this game spiders are not easy enemies like they are in nearly every other RPG; no, they are agile dog-sized monstrosities that swarm you and take several good hits each to put down. I’ve read walkthroughs whose advice for the spider nest area is to just run past everything and hope you don’t get poisoned along the way.

      That said, the secret area in the well where you have to ascend a broken stairway using rope arrows while a dozen spiders are climbing up the walls beneath you is one of my favorite moments in gaming.

    • Chaz says:

      I played as a mage and a single fireball, or was it two, would take care of them. And as you could guide the fireballs you could drop them at a distance quite easily. Playing a mage felt a little bit cheaty though. All you had to do for the most part was find a quiet corner to hide in whilst you cast charm spells until the bad guys had whittled each other down to practically nothing. Charm didn’t work on non humanoids though, but guided fireballs took care of the rest. It did mean you missed out on most of the glorious in your face combat though. As being a mage of course meant you were a complete lightweight when it came to waving a sword around and even a lowly ghoul could rip you to shreds in short order if you let one get close.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Hah… Mages WOULD have been useless up close, except that you’ll probably be carrying around a good staff, since the higher level ones have magic skill requirements. Staves are so powerful in Dark Messiah it’s genuinely hillarious. That orc boss in the spider temple? You can knock the guy around like a straw dummy and he’ll never even get a hit in.

  5. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    I have an abiding love for this game. Ive played through it at least 3 times, as have a few members of my family. Terrible writing, and boring story take nothing away from this game, as it is just so gosh darn fun.

    What I would love to see added to these have you played is something like:
    If you liked this you might like x…
    Does anyone know of games like Dark Messiah?

  6. thegooseking says:

    I’ve ‘played’ it, but I ran headfirst against the old “unplayable framerate after five minutes” issue.

    Going to try it again and see if I can’t get around that this time.

    • ZippyDSMlee says:

      Back in the day it was crashy on high settings have you tried medium graphic settings?

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Turn down the FX especially.

  7. boner says:

    This was an absolutely fantastic game. They really could have made it brilliant, but they did a really good job anyway. Dumb as fuck but a really fun game.

  8. klops says:

    Ahh Dark Messiah today and X-Com Apocalypse yeasterday… Great stuff! Great stuff! The only thing I didn’t care about were the dull zombies (why? always! why?) and the level where they spawned on and on. Less zombies and more orcses for me, please.

    I wish someday a new Elder Scrolls game copied the physics of DMoMM or Dishonored and replaced the weightless and floaty combat the ES games have.

    • ZippyDSMlee says:

      Would be nice if they reigned in the reach of melee weapons a bit, I always felt they was 30ish% percent to long.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      The Vampire Knights near the end of the game are my favorite enemies. You can spend most of the game gimmicking your way through fights, but these guys know all of your tricks. You have to dig deep and beat them in a fair fight, and they just happen to be stronger, faster and smarter than anything youve seen.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        That’s what makes a great videogame baddie, giving them either the same tricks as the player, or counters to those tricks. The Vampire Knights are like a sort of final exam to see if you’ve been paying attention all game. In addition they have two elements that make them crazy scary.
        Firstly, they are TOTALLY silent until they actually engage you in battle – so they can run right up behind you at full speed and you won’t hear a thing until they’re actually in the process of putting a sword through your head.
        Secondly, if you snipe one of their underlings, even from half the map away, even in total darkness, they always seem to be able to tell where you are. I dunno if they have night vision or what, but they are scarily good at figuring out where you are. Made getting by them with a sneaky thief type bloody difficult, as I recall.

    • Davie says:

      I remember Bethesda absorbed Arkane back in 2010 or whatever, and there was a rumor going around that they were helping with Skyrim’s combat to make it less floaty and flailing. Oh, how I wish that one were true.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I found it’s better to just try and avoid the zombies, a lot can be avoided in the catacombs by using the rope bow.

  9. baozi says:

    Yes, super fun. Would love a sequel.

    • Zorlan says:

      The world *needs* a sequel to this game! Easily one of my top 10 games of all time.

  10. RARARA says:

    I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it in the beginning – boring Medieval aesthetics with the obligatory sexy sidekick and a dull storyline.

    But then the kicking began.

    • N'Al says:


      The opening really doesn’t do this game many favours, with a hammy voice over telling you to “Grab the crystal!” or equally hokey fantasy nonsense, but boy does it get so much better (the game, the story not so much) as it goes on.

      • Noxman says:

        “But Twwooo can traavell liiighter than oooone……”

        “You can call me…………. Xaaanaaaaaa”

        *Boobs up in your face*

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Am I the only one who found Xana’s voice acting particularly unbearable when she was human, but actually pretty decent when she was a demon?

  11. Halk says:

    The initial release of this was the buggiest thing I have ever seen being thrown onto the market. Absolutely incredible. It took them month until it was patched far enough to be half-playable. Even then it still had lots of graphical oddities (such as looking out from a cliff to the sea, which consisted of 5 polygons or something). People on the relevant forums were extremely pissed. But I suppose this should be fixed by now.

    Otherwise it was not bad. In the whole visual style of it you could clearly see the similarities to Arx Fatalis. For example mine tunnels looked exactly the same. Very beautiful locations. There were also many onvious Thief influences. The story was of course ridiculously predictable.

    All in all it was a “dumb” game, but executed in a rather intelligent way. There should be more of those.

    • Turkey says:

      2006 sucked. It was supposed to be the greatest year for PC-RPGs since the 90s, but all we got were these buggy messes. Gothic 3, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dark Messiah were almost unplayable at release and Oblivion just steamrolled the competition.

      I can’t really describe the disappointment of buying all those games on release. I think that was the last time I bough any full price games.

  12. K_Sezegedin says:

    Arkane is really talented, but I wish they could write.

    You can see it it in Dark Messiah and Dishonored, – they can’t write for shit but are good artists and good designers.

    Arx gets a pass because it was their first and most ambitious title.

    • ZippyDSMlee says:

      No matter how flawed Arx was great and is still better than alot of the newer AAA titles.

      • sinister agent says:

        Arx had some of my favourite voice acting ever in the goblins and orcs. Utterly silly pidgin english nonsense, and best of all, Anook the Outrageously French Chef. A real one-scene wonder, but god, what a scene.


        Pity the humans were all boring as toss.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      It’s certainly not great writing, but you can do way worse than Arkane has.

  13. Det. Bullock says:

    I played it about ten times, I’ve done al lot of possible combinations.
    Yes, even archery combinations, and it was always tons of fun, I really wish they’d make another one.

  14. Jamesworkshop says:

    hha oh yes, i was an ass in that game, my best moment was when a man dropped his sword to check if a body was alive or dead, and i nicked his sword and ran off with it

    or kicking two combatants of the wall at once because they got in my way

  15. vedder says:

    Fun Fact: There actually is no “of” in this game’s title. Everybody just thinks there is because there should be! I found this out about 4 years after I played it.

    • Gilead says:

      I actually had to get out my boxed version to check this, in case everything I thought I knew had been a lie. The title doesn’t have an ‘of’ on the cover, but towards the back of the manual they do call it ‘Dark Messiah of Might and Magic’, but that might be a typo so it’s debatable. Steam calls it Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, but they might have been misled by well-meaning dupes.

      The world may not yet be ready to know the truth.

    • kdz says:

      It might not be there on the box, but it’s anywhere else, including the two instances of the game in my Steam library (the singleplayer and multiplayer components).

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        The of is not in the games loading screen either. The title screen just has that necromancer for some reason.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          I’m convinced whoever was in charge of doing the logo for the game genuinely just forgot the “of” and nobody in the team noticed.
          Then when they DID notice they had to drop the “of” from the Heroes series in order to seem like they’d done it on purpose.

          • kdz says:

            Or perhaps they had no idea where to put the “of” in the logo, so they skipped it :D

  16. NetsukeMonkey says:

    Personally, I think this series should be renamed – ‘Have You Played…[title]? Why not? You bought it several years ago in a Steam sale. You wanted to play it and you never did’

  17. Wytefang says:

    The biggest issue with Dark Messiah is exactly that – the Archer class. When you play a FPS shooter, a gun shoots straight and fast, right to the target so you can actually figure out how to hit stuff. With this game, it’s slow and shots arch, and while you can learn that aiming process, it doesn’t feel very rewarding or terribly accurate. So shooters are at a huge disadvantage to melee types and the melee just devolves into button-mashing, mostly.

    A promising but extremely underwhelming game.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Can’t say I’ve ever had melee devolve into button mashing, honestly it’s a pretty tactical experience and even when there’s multiple bads you can usually stay on top of it. As for the archery, I found it to be pretty fun – once you level up the appropriate skills and can shoot quickly, powerfully and accurately, at least – but then I’ve played so much Thief (1, 2 and 3) over the years that I think videogame archery is just an ingrained skill for me now.

      • klops says:

        I agree. But near the end when you were in a city under siege, the multiple panting hound-gollumns were a huge trouble for me with “tactical” fighting. Usually you tried to attack the enemy in a sort of intelligent way, kicking one guy, sidestepping the next, slashing here and there retreating to a bottleneck, build up some rage and hit the biggest bastard with a power strike but with those fast undead buggers this just got me killed.

        Then I took the flaming sword, held the button down and quickslashkilled the meanies very easily. This was again one more wonderful thing for the game, I really had to change the tactics in order to stay alive.

  18. kdz says:

    This game is getting a very positive response here! I have GOT to play this. I actually did play parts of it, about two years after it came out I bought it for cheap, but I think I stopped when I reached the spider boss. I somehow managed to beat all the freaking giant spiders and they rewarded me with an ever bigger one?! That was too much for 14-year-old me.

  19. Spacewalk says:

    Fuck yeah I have and it rules!

  20. Muzman says:

    I have indeed. Was just replaying it again not too long ago.
    It is an unusually fun slice of cheesy pulp fantasy. I think people tend to take it too seriously. It’s kind of like Xena or something.

    I do wish it had some mods though. The FOV/weapon range still feels off and the damage balance could be tweaked into a white knuckle sword fest without compare

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I always thought Source Engine was capable of just making mods for itself.

      • Muzman says:

        Indeed. For some reason Dark Messiah is quite locked down. It resists any basic ini file type hacking I throw at it.

        Not that it can’t be done. It could just use a mod scene of smart people who know stuff.

  21. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Even better kicking than Duke Nukem 3D’s Mighty Boot + Quick Kick double kicking (only possible in certain versions) with steroids.

  22. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Looking back at some of the games that Arkane has done . . . well, lets just say I’m really sad they’re owned by an evil empire these days, as I suspect they won’t be taking such seemingly-minor-but-actually-fundamental chances in the future.

    • Farsi Myrtle says:

      How do you figure? Dishonored wasn’t exactly a conservative game.

      • ZippyDSMlee says:

        What killed Dishonored for me was the that no kill=good ending and kill=bad ending. Also thought the level design was a bit too simple. It was a very dumbed down thief game that inspired to be something else…

        • Jason Moyer says:

          You can still kill people in Dishonored and get the “good” ending. It’s not like BioShock where killing the very first little sister and saving the rest results in the “bad” ending, if you have medium high or full high chaos in Dishonored you’re pretty much slaughtering everyone.

        • KenTWOu says:

          no kill=non-chaotic ending and kill=chaotic ending. I fixed that for you.

        • klops says:

          What I didn’t like in Dishonored was that you had a huge arsenal of murdertools and killingmagick but the game constantly reminded me how the guards were ordinary chumps just doing their job and rewarded you for not killing them. You were a great assassin who should behave wonderfully and not kill people since it would lead to a miserable ending.

          Even playing as the DLC Michael Madsen-assassin there was a non lethal path offered and I took it. The silly achiever in me wanted to pass the levels as a ghost while I enjoyed it less. So everytime I alerted a bunch of guards and put them down beautifully I reloaded. Ughh! Of course, all this was my fault and not the game’s. I just like that when you have a huge and nicely working killing arsenal, you _need_ to use it. Makes the murdering mentally easier.

  23. rilian says:

    I’ve tried hard to get into this but it’s too buggy. It played fine for a number of hours, then it suddenly stopped loading my recent savefiles. Looks like something bad happened to the gamestate and all my saves in a long session were corrupted. Apparently it’s a known if uncommon bug, I lost too much time to be willing to return. If someone knows how to stabilise the Steam version (beyond verify-cache, update-drivers, cross-fingers) I’d probably have another go.

  24. MuscleHorse says:

    Quite shocking that no one has posted this video to demonstrate the games entertainment.

  25. Farsi Myrtle says:

    If Shadow of Mordor had combat more like Dark Messiah’s and less like Batman’s, it would be a really brilliant game.

  26. geldonyetich says:

    Every time somebody said Skryim had a fantastic combat system, I remembered my experiences in Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic, and knew just how badly Bethesda had shirked on what it should have been.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      While I absolutely agree that anybody crediting Skyrim was a ‘fantastic’ combat system seriously needs to play more games, I also don’t get all the hate it gets for it. Its combat is fine. Not especially impressive, but fine.

      …oh good lord I just got it. I literally just got it as I typed that. What is wrong with me.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Indeed. Considering that DMoM&M was released in 2006 and Skyrim was released in 2011, I am not sure what their excuse is. DMoM&M really should have revolutionized first person fantasy combat, but didn’t. Sure, it was a little awkward sometimes, but I’m pretty sure enough spit and polish would have buffed most of that right out.

        • TimePointFive says:

          Any game where you look down and see your torso/legs gets an immediate boost in my book.

  27. Urthman says:

    You guys are all forgetting to mention how great the level design is in this game. Even if you forget about the awesome and hilarious physics, the levels are great fun to explore, with multiple routes to your objectives, tons of secret areas to find, lots of verticality (thanks to the rope arrows). And then on top of that you have all the traps you can set with collapsing bridges, barrel avalanches, flammable oil slicks, and, of course, spikes everywhere. All that together makes Dark Messiah one of the best playgrounds in video games.

    I also like that, while you do have to specialize somewhat, they were generous enough with the skill points that you could mess around with several approaches instead of having to spend the entire game swinging swords or tossing fireballs. Even a stealthy backstabbing knife specialist can afford to learn to possess opponents, or use that foe-freezing frost bow.

    • klops says:

      Oh yes, the level desing! I remember my favourite being the mountainside where the screenshot was taken. Then again, like always in fantasy settings the game also had boring colourless zombie dungeons and spider caves.

      Another very enjoyable thing no one hasn’t mentined here was the rage building -skill. Pumping your angrypoints up by hitting enemies and then launching a devastating strike was something new for me back then and I greatly enjoyed it.

  28. mohfuu says:

    I played this game a lot back in the day, I liked the singleplayer and loved the multiplayer.

    I feel that there is a thin line that runs between Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and Dishonored, in retrospect I see that Dark Messiah was quite telling of Arkane Studio’s greatness and in light of that I am all the more excited for Dishonored 2.

    It is a shame that more people haven’t played this game and those that did sometimes write it off as this goofy orc-kicking simulator, not taking the time to admire the fluidity of the gameplay that resonates in Dishonored as well.

  29. Bart Stewart says:

    Still love this game. The hokey story is just sauce for “Ragdoll Murder Physics: The Game” (which is possibly the most brilliantly accurate summary of a game ever).

    One of the appealing elements was that the creators didn’t take themselves too seriously. Included on the disk of the game was a series of shorts called “Kill Kevin,” which consisted of one of the game’s goblins (nicked from Arx Fatalis) being put through the ragdoll murder physics wringer in various inventive ways. It was and is a clever way to showcase what you can actually spend your time doing in the game.

    That series of clips, plus an additional marketing video, can be enjoyed on YouTube if you’re somehow still on the fence about getting and playing this game.

    I’d also like to add a note that DMMaM was IMO heading down a particularly interesting side road in computer game design — one in which the world itself was designed to be highly systemic and reactive. You could certainly do plenty of things directly through your character in that game, as so many current games limit you to doing. But Raphael Colantonio founded Arkane because he loved the Looking Glass game design philosophy of systemic/reactive worlds, such as Ultima Underworld and System Shock, that gave you multiple kinds of indirect ways to solve challenges by getting the world of the game to work for you. DMMaM traveled further down that road than most other games, past or present.

    Unfortunately, it did so mostly alone. I would be very happy if someone were to understand this design philosophy and make another game that really embodied it. Maybe former Looking Glass lead Paul Neurath will do that in his recently announced spiritual successor to the Ultima Underworld games. (Or maybe Arkane Austin’s revision of Prey 2?)

  30. Honsou says:

    I can remember playing this thinking that the combat was so amazing, I wondered what Bethesda will do with Oblivion to try and top it…

  31. phelix says:

    One of my favourite games evah. I still revisit it every few years now that it runs on practically every laptop.

    I still can’t forgive Ubisoft for canning mod support though.

  32. Shadowcat says:

    I finally played Dark Messiah at the end of last year. I don’t spend a lot of time gaming these days, so playing it to completion in a few days was quite the feat for me. But once I’d done that (mainly using bow & arrows, supplemented with a little magic), I found that the only thing on my mind was playing it again as a Mage to find out what it would be like to fling those high-end spells around. The answer was “pretty damned awesome”, of course; and sure enough, after two complete play-throughs I started a third one almost immediately so that I could hack and slash my way through.

    No game had had that effect on me for a really long time, and the hours absolutely flew past. It really is tremendous fun to play, and the ability trees do make it a very different game each time (provided that you specialise). I still want to do a back-stabby character, too… I didn’t discover the joy of the creeping death until late in the first play through.

    • Rob Maguire says:

      The sneaky, backstabby route is quite fun, though the difficulty spikes noticeably in any area where you’re facing non-humanoid enemies. And dual-wielding daggers is extremely satisfying. Many gamers have sounds that when heard fill them with nostalgic joy, be it the ding of a level up or the death cry of a particularly frustrating boss. For me, that sound is the click-click-shink of a dagger being hurled into a fleeing enemy’s back.

  33. Ben says:

    I played this for the first time ever last month, and was pretty disappointed. Aside from the tech issues (which still exist 8 years later!), I just found the difficulty level too high to be able to take advantage of all the fun stuff they put in – you’re either fighting six enemies at once or you’re getting poison chucked at you. I wanted to be Errol Flynn with magic powers, but the game wouldn’t let me.

    • Muzman says:

      You just weren’t very good.
      It’s a common problem with games. They’re either too easy or handholdy or you never really get good at it until the end when it’s too late.
      That was me the first time. It was fun enough but I never really got the most out of it. Then I tried it again and it was a belter.

      Which isn’t to say it’s not without a certain amount of clunkiness here and there.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Was that a… triple negative?
        I’m sincerely impressed.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Strange, on normal I never found it overwhelmingly difficult, there were a few parts that made me almost break the quickload button (that bloody spiders!) but overall it was fair, but then again I’m the kind of player who likes to hunt for secrets (though I’m a bit rubbish at it, I’ve never managed to find all secrets in my many playthroughs) and probably I’ve found a few weapons, potions and rings a bit earlier than most at my first playthrough.

  34. Malagate says:

    Oh this game, hoo boy…the best description I have for my experience is love/hate. As in love the game, hate the failings around it.

    Loved the demo, pre-ordered it – Special edition, no less. Greatly anticipated this game, and after a few patches it was…well, I share a lot of the positive comments here, although my favourite part of this game was exploring and finding everything that wasn’t nailed down.

    It’s interesting for me to not see more negative reactions here actually, I certainly remember there being a lot of complaints that didn’t just relate to the buggy launch – I recall a lot of outcry regarding continued support as well as some controversy regarding the console port (DMoM&M: Elements – new things, more polished, less bugs, I recall a specific sentiment that some felt the PC version was a beta for the consoles). DMoM&M was the last Ubisoft game I bought actually, perhaps I’ve been spoilt by other publishers who support their releases better, but I don’t trust Ubi anymore. Weird how that’s come about, especially as I do like the game, ehh.

    Also: Anyone else play the Multiplayer? I played far too much of that! So very broken, yet so much fun, and also a much quicker way to experience all the playstyles the game has to offer. It’s so rare to find a fantasy FPS multiplayer game, this one was great to boot and a more polished/balanced version would be dynamite.

  35. Siz says:

    using source engine and some Gaben know-how, this has actual real life 3d gameplay! (maybe it should be called 4d because people say 3d so much about 2d games, just because of using a rendering development but without the evolution in gameplay design to match)
    most games of last 10 years are a money grab joke but this game shows you what could have been.
    hopefully the new source engine will be a bewilderingly financially successful for what ever art dept uses it, to make it so idiot game developers are forced to make decent games again, or fuck off