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.