Interviews

Dark Messiah of Might & Magic

Ubisoft's action-FPS rattles its magic sabre as we corner Arkane Studios and Kuju for a chat

Ubisoft, you'll no doubt be aware, has just released a Dark Messiah demo, so chances are - if you've managed to download the monster 1.4Gb file - that you've now stepped a foot into the DM waters. Primarily a fantasy-flavoured first-person PC action game, but with RPG elements included, the title thrusts players into the world of Ashan and the hero shoes of main character Sareth. Sareth has been trained in the arts of stealth, magic and war to combat an apocalyptic prophecy - known as the Dark Messiah.

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Arkane Studios is responsible for Dark Messiah single-player, while multiplayer development duties have been handed to Kuju. At a recent Ubisoft shindig, we caught up with members from both teams and quizzed them about the title. Answering questions were Alastair Halsby (Kuju, designer), Romuald Capron (Arkane, studio manager) and Julien Roby (Arkane, lead designer) and once you've aborbed their words of wisdom, flick your eyeballs right to the top Preview and check out our recent and rather massive hands-on with the game.

Dark Messiah is primarily an action game, but you're including a character evolution system - how does that work?

Julien Roby: Well, you start the game without any skills and throughout the game you earn skill points when you achieve objectives. We're not giving you skill points when you kill enemies because we don't want a player who is playing stealth to be [penalised] because he's not killing anyone. So you earn skill points and then use them to buy any skill you want. You can have a pure class character or try to do a more multi-class character and have a bit of magic, and bit of stealth and a bit of warrior.

Are multi-class characters as powerful as pure-class characters?

Julien Roby: Yes. Multi-class will be interesting, you know. Even though you maybe won't go as deep in one area, so maybe you won't have all the most powerful spells... but combining spells with melee is very powerful. The maximum power you can get can be achieved in many different ways.

In what ways is the Source technology directly impacting gameplay in Dark Messiah?

Romuald Capron: We really had this philosophy of, if you see something, you should be able to do it, if you think you can do it, you should be able to do it. This engine really has good integration of physics, and it's fairly easy for designers to use, for designers to implement that into the game. And the performance of it is pretty good too. If you've seen all the physics we have active in a level then...

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How in-depth is combat in Dark Messiah?

Romuald Capron: Basically, one of the ideas was that it shouldn't been too complex to use, we didn't want to have too many combos that would mean players would have to do really complicated actions. The actions are very easy, but you have many different choices.

We've seen a 'boss fight', with the player battling a massive Cyclops. Are there many such boss fights in Dark Messiah?

Romuald Capron: There are quite a few boss fights in the game. What's interesting is that we always have to find a clever way to get rid of them [the bosses], because they're not 'easy' monsters. You can use your abilities and skills to get rid of them, try to find their weak spots - it's a bit of learning. Sometimes you'll also be in a situation where you meet a boss and you won't be able to fight them but you'll learn about his weakness and meet him later and then you'll be able to accomplish what you couldn't accomplish before.

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