Characters and Weapons
The game contains a lot of interesting characters and weapons. The standard weapons like the sword and bow are exactly that - pretty standard. After killing a few bad guys, you build up adrenaline which allows you to perform special moves. The long sword one is pretty gruesome, plunging the sword straight through the enemy's heart before sticking your boot out and kicking their lifeless body away from you.
Other weapons offer different options. For example, you can use a pair of Sai
instead, which are much faster than the sword but do less damage. There is also the wooden staff, which does much less damage but allows you to attack more than one enemy at once. There were many situations I found myself in on a number of occasions where I found this useful.
The sneaking element to the game is also worth mentioning - when in the shadows, you can creep along and remain hidden from the enemies, getting right up behind them before performing a power attack that kills in one move. I found the sneaking element to be a novel touch, but tended to not use it all that often.
The other side of the weapons tree holds the range of bows you can pick up. These range from the standard arrow to a poison, fire and ice variant (which you can find by discovering hidden areas in the game). A really cool inclusion in the game is the rope bow, which allows you to fire an arrow into any wooden structure that then drops a rope which you can climb on. This was utilised in some cool ways.
In one instance, you walk into an area where the walls are closing in on you Indiana Jones style, but a quick rope bow shot later and you're clambering out of danger just in the nick of time. In another area, where you are being chased by a group of oversized arachnids, you use the rope bow by firing a number of ropes into various beams. You then jump from rope to rope to escape the spiders – excellent fun and a great way to incorporate new puzzles into the game.
The game has a rich cast of characters to interact with. As you can see from the pictures (all the character pictures with a black background are enemy characters), some of the beasties you'll be fighting are pretty horrible-looking. Word of warning, the AI wasn't really amazing in the build I played, especially when working with a friendly AI character that you have to protect. On quite a few occasions, she ended up volunteering herself for a gangbang session with a group of orcs as soon as I had my back turned. I was obviously less than pleased about that.
Talking about sex, the game has a pretty foxy leading lady who goes by the name Leanna. A husky female voice from somewhere inside your female mind makes constant sexual references throughout the game, as well as jealous remarks about the relationship between you and Leanna. Who or what this voice is I have no idea, as the story of the game wasn't properly explained in my preview...though it is certainly an interesting area I look forward to exploring in the review.
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A real highlight for me was the boss battles, of which I got to play through two. The first is a huge flying dragon-like creature that, after chasing you across the level, finally corners you in a run-down old temple. It was a really creepy experience to watch it squeeze into the building we were locked in, and the resulting puzzle on how to kill it was intriguingly fiendish.
The second boss I fought was a massive cyclops. It bursts through a wall, plodding along and slamming fists into the walls and floor apparently oblivious to your attempts to kill it. It was a cool boss battle that took place whilst I was trying to fight off small imp-like creatures (the Cyclops kept plucking them off the floor and eating them, which was handy). I was assured by the Ubisoft guys that there will be plenty more boss battles, which is certainly a good thing.
I must make the initial comment that the computers on which we played Dark Messiah weren't the greatest in the world. I felt a little bit sorry for the poor Geforce 6800GT tasked with supplying me with the visuals. It really huffed and puffed and struggled to keep up with the improved Source engine, particularly in the more intense points in the game. My experience was also a bit marred by the fact that the game wasn't complete and loading times were hideously long These are problems that I was assured will be fixed in the final version of the game, but nevertheless are rather worrying considering the game is only one month away from release.
Overall though, one can't help but be excited about this game. The game will be available through Steam, but for those of you who don't fancy the hefty download then there will be a traditional store-purchase option. I haven't discussed the multiplayer aspect here either, for a few reasons. The multiplayer I have played is still in beta stage and is far from completion. When I quizzed the Ubisoft guys about the status of the multiplayer portion of the game (which is being developed by a seperate studio called Kuji
) I was told there are a few problems with it at the moment that are being ironed out. Chances are the multiplayer will be released with a lot of bugs, but because of Steam updating and patching shouldn't be too big a problem.
Keep your eyes peeled for our review next month.