Platform: Xbox 360
Nearly eighteen months after its PC debut, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic arrives on the Xbox 360. We never got around to looking at the original version, but it wasn't for lack of interest. This is, after all, the game that came across like the bastard offspring of Thief, Oblivion, Half Life 2 and Ultima Underworld. A fantasy FPS with RPG elements, built on the Source engine and featuring a remarkably flexible approach to combat - really, what could be finer?
Of course, on the PC the reality was a little different from the promise. The game was buggy at launch, and not everyone who played it really understood the game's potential. Still, with eighteen months to update and polish the game for its console incarnation, Ubisoft must now have a winner on its hands. Right?
Yes and no. Dark Messiah still presents a beguiling mix of FPS and fantasy RPG elements. As in an RPG, you choose from four character classes at the beginning of the game, and whether you play a warrior, an archer, a wizard or an assassin really will have an impact on how you play the game and on the tools you'll have at your disposal. The warrior, for instance, rewards the rush and attack approach, while the archer is more about FPS-style run and gun antics. The wizard has some heavy-duty spells and makes a great choice if you're the type who went plasmid-crazy in Bioshock, but feels weak in melee combat. The assassin, meanwhile, suits those - and only those - who like the stealth approach.
Cleverly, each class has its own specialist arms and armour, limiting your choices later on, and each class develops new skills with experience, earned - as in an RPG - by completing quest objectives and killing monsters. An easy-to-use skills and inventory screen is only a press of the B button away, and you can assign spells, skills and weapons to the directions on the D-Pad if you need rapid access. There are even swords to forge and magic items to discover along the way. While Dark Messiah veers too hard towards the FPS side to be called a true FPS/RPG hybrid, it has enough role-playing stuff in there to make it more than just the new Hexen or Shadowcaster.