|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Annecy||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 12, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Dark Messiah Might and Magic: Elements is a first person action/adventure title disguised as a RPG. The title was originally developed by Arkane Studios for the PC, but now has been reworked by Ubisoft Annecy for its 360 treatment. The game was full of problems and choppy bits for the PC, and unfortunately, it has not been improved for the 360. There have been some changes to the title, however; it's not just a straight port. In fact, the majority of the RPG elements found in the PC version have been eschewed for a more streamlined mechanic of character progression in an attempt to make it more palatable for console gamers.
This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the betrayal of existing fans' expectations and the poor implementation of the system prove to be too much for the title's brighter spots to overcome. Issues abound and are especially apparent in the poor controls and often glitch-filled graphics. The middling story is passable, but definitely leaves you longing for a good deal more invention. Thankfully, the world is full of enough mythical baddies and challenges that gamers will still want to beat it. However, it is a rather low-brow title that will disappoint everyone except for the most hard-up fantasy enthusiasts.
In DMMM: Elements you take on the role of Sareth, the young pupil of Phenrig the Mage. You have recently come of age and are about to embark on an adventure to save the world from the prophesied coming of the demon spawn known as the Dark Messiah. Facing an unnatural threat, you are sent by Phenrig to deliver a crystal shard to the wizard Menelag's keep. While there you will soon realize the true depth of your quest when the fief is attacked by waves of undead, a cadre of black guards, and a necromantic cult. The narrative is decent and fairly engaging, but the richness of the storytelling soon folds under the weight of the linear world and frustratingly rough controls.
Unlike most RPGs, Elements forces players to follow a strict path through the gaming world. It can be most readily compared to the confined course of the God of War series. This keeps the action coming at a lickety-split pace. However, it makes the game purely an action/adventure title. If you were expecting to have a chat with the inn keeper's daughter, become part of the local fighter's guild or deck out your hero at the smithy's tent, think again. There are tons of secret ways that branch off from the main trail, but these are really just used for hiding weapons and flanking enemies.
In addition to the tiny world, streamlined character development plagues the game, further whittling away at any remaining bits of role playing goodness leftover from the PC version. As your character gains experience, you will follow a set skill progression that corresponds to the class you have chosen. All of the skills are very useful, and you will receive them at appropriate moments in the game, but there is no way to tweak your character to fit your style or to leave your mark on the game.
There are four classes you can choose from in the campaign. In the campaign you can choose to be a warrior, mage, archer or assassin. Warriors have a direct approach to fighting and are able to carry shields, heavy swords, and bulky armor. The warrior's strength and endurance abilities are constantly improved by the unlocked skill chain. The mage is the game's magic user. Mages are physically weak, but can summon elemental and esoteric spells to obliterate their enemies or to buff themselves. The mage's spells are greatly affected by the activation of the adrenaline rush, which, for example, can turn a simple lightning spell into chain lightning that severely damages several foes at once. The archer character does damage at long distance and actually turns the game into a first person shooter. Finally, the assassin is skilled with daggers that he dual-wields. The better your character gets the more stealthy he will be. Hiding in the shadows makes killing guards from behind with the sneak attack skill very easy. In fact, sneaking up on your enemies from behind is so easy it takes all sense of reality and skill out the game. For some reason, guards just love to keep their backs to the shadows.
Once you've chosen a class, you're stuck with it and will find it to be extremely limiting. The paucity of character customization truly is frustrating. Each character is so highly specialized that much of the loot you find will be unusable. You'll simply collect it for collection's sake. This collection feature of the game could be a neat side quest except for the fact that the weapons that are dropped are always the same. Furthermore, the secret ways I was telling you about often hold weapons and items, but they are invariably mundane. This makes the task of collecting items dull and unrewarding.