While Bethesda Software’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has ruled the RPG genre since it was released earlier this year, in a matter of weeks the competition in the RPG arena is going to heat up.
One such title that should give Oblivion some competition is Arkane Studios Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, which continues the Might and Magic brand under Ubisoft’s direction. In the game you’ll play the role of Sareth, an apprentice sent by his master to help retrieve an ancient artifact. Over the course of the game your character will complete several missions. At the conclusion of each mission you’ll gain skill points which you can use to acquire new abilities, skills and spells. If you want to play as a mage, you can spend your skill points on magic and other attributes, or if you’d like to play as a warrior, you can spend them on warrior skills.
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is played from the first-person perspective and uses Valve’s Source game engine, which was used successfully by Valve in Half-Life 2 and Ritual for Sin Episodes.
Arkane Studios has integrated all of the goodies from Source into Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, including high resolution displacement maps/textures and HDR lighting. In fact, Dark Messiah uses higher resolution textures than those used in the original Half-Life 2.
Judging by the texture quality present in the demo and publicly available screenshots you can make an argument that Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is the best-looking Source engine title that’s been released to date. And since Valve’s Source engine uses your DX9 card’s pixel shaders rather than FP16 to handle HDR lighting, you can game with HDR+AA regardless of the graphics card you own.
This means that even those of you with older Radeon 9800 cards can play Dark Messiah with HDR, or GeForce 7 card owners can turn on HDR with AA. In our preliminary testing with Dark Messiah, turning on HDR brought dropped performance by about 20-25% depending on screen resolution though, so you may want to play with the HDR setting on/off and compare the difference if you’re using an older/slower graphics card.
For today’s article we wanted to take a look at how well Dark Messiah of Might and Magic played with today’s latest high-end graphics cards. In order to do this, we’re testing with FRAPS, as demo recording/playback seems to be broken in the current Dark Messiah demo. Our gameplay testing comes from the opening level of the demo, and in order to make the testing sequence as repeatable as possible, doesn’t include combat. We’re testing in a pretty stressful area of the map to compensate (in part) for this.