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Might and Magic: Dark Messiah, also Known as Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, is a first person hack-and-slash game with major RPG Elements by Arkane Studios. It is in a few ways a bit of Spiritual Successor to Arkane's previous work Arx Fatalis (Itself one of Ultima Underworld, though Dark Messiah has little relation to either of the UU games.). It takes place in the same world as the Heroes of Might and Magic V reboot.

The game stars Sareth, a young student of a mage called "Phenrig" trained in both magic and martial arts. After a short training mission where a magic crystal is acquired, Phenrig sends Sareth "half a world away" to locate an artifact known as the "Skull of Shadows" (Sounds pleasant), the crystal being a key to the Skull, with the help of fellow wizard Menelag and his apprentice/niece Leanna. Before Sareth leaves, a woman called "Xana" is fused to his spirit by Phenrig to advise him and provided running commentary.

The game is built on Valve Corporation's Source engine and it makes full use of the engine's physics component. Objects in the world of appropriate size, can be picked up and thrown at foes to disrupt them, while strong blows, or the game's dedicated "kick" attack", can knock enemies around (this is particularly pronounced with Goblins and Undead due to their lack of bulk), pushing them into traps, bottomless pits or each other. Magic is similarly more than a rocket launcher. Spells allow you to freeze the ground, throw big things around with telekinesis, light your enemies on fire and be a general badass.

Arkane Studios was announced to be working on another "immersive first person RPG" in 2009 before their acquisition by Bethesda Softworks, which has since been revealed to be called Dishonored

Tropes used in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic include:
  • All Webbed Up: Spider lairs in Dark Messiah have loads of webbed corpses.
  • Anti-Villain: The Orcs aren't evil, just territorial, and have every good reason to keep you from taking the Skull Of Shadows.
    • Arantir is honestly trying to stop the prophesy from being fulfilled. Which, if you opt to do and release your demonic father, ends up making him the lesser evil.
  • Anti-Anti-Christ/The Antichrist: Sareth, depending on your choice.
  • Arrows on Fire: If you hold down the attack button to keep your bow drawn, you can set the arrow alight using fires in-game, such as torches. This allows you to deal fire damage and/or set barrels of oil on fire.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI doesn't recognize that walking through a burning puddle of oil is a bad idea.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Kicking! Kick bad guys into fire, off cliffs, down stairs, into furniture, into each other...the possibilities are endless, but always fun. There's even an upgrade almost exclusively dedicated to being able to kick more.
  • Back Stab: You can pull off stealth kills once you raise your Sneak skill high enough. Useless Useful Spell is averted here, this technique works on the Final Boss.
  • Bad Dreams: Two of them, one where you dance with Leanna and then stab her while Arantir watches, and one when you remember your first meeting with Xana in a different way. Depending on your choice, the dancing dream can also be Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • Betty and Veronica: The game presents you with two strongly contrasted female companions in the form of the blonde, goody-two-shoes mage Leanna and the exotic, sultry, and Obviously Evil Xana.
  • Cap: You can only hold 20 of an item at once. This really only becomes an issue with food rations (which all food becomes when picked up) and mana potions for non-pure mages.
  • Big No: Performed by Leanna, if you choose to release your dad.
  • Character Class: Averted, the game uses a point buy system for abilities. Played straight in the multiplayer though.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Xana, as every other succubus in the series, frequently suggests that Sareth betray his allies, even when they are technically on her side. She will even betray the Demon Sovereign if Sareth chooses to leave his father sealed.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sareth frequently uses his environment to his advantage (there's a reason why some dub it The Adventures of Sir Kicksalot Deathboot in the Land of Conveniently Placed Spike Racks).
  • Dark Messiah: Averted. The "Dark Messiah" is not a Messianic Archetype with morally questionable goals, but a demon/human hybrid that will free the demons from their prison; he is not a dark saviour, he is the saviour of the dark. Potentially, anyway.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sareth eventually starts responding to Xana's "advice" this way.
    • Xana also has her moments, mostly where Leanna is concerned.
  • Dem Bones: The final boss is a skeletal dragon.
  • Demonic Possession: A benevolent version is used by Xana when you are Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
  • Dual-Wielding: All daggers come in pairs.
  • Duel Boss: One Orc challenges you to one on the stipulation you don't use magic. You can not follow the rules and face his 4 henchman along with him, but given the single Orc is already insanely powerful (one of the few foes that can survive a finisher on normal) with no traps around, it's in your best interest to do so unless you are a pure-mage and can't win the fight normally.
  • Escort Mission: Leanna is subject to a few, but thankfully she 1: has her health on screen, 2: can be told to stay put, 3: heals herself (and you!), 4: Isn't an awful fighter in most of them, and the one she is outclassed in you've killed most of the enemies before starting the escort.
  • Emergency Transformation: See Demonic Possession
  • Evil Feels Good: So Xana promises. Sareth seems to agree if you use his Super-Powered Evil Side much.
  • The Faceless: Sareth. His models literally have a mass of untextured polygons for a head. Averted in the 360 "port", where he has a very goofy face that is featured prominently.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Leanna appears to be killed by Arantir. However, you get the chance to rescue her from his lair later in the game.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: However due to the classless point system, hybrids are fairly easy and practical.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Averted hard. Allied soldiers and mages rarely fight alongside you, and when they do they only have about as much health as the basic enemy Mooks. When Leanna follows you around as a partner, she only has slightly more health than a basic Mook and dies all too easily if she gets mobbed by two or three enemies at once.
  • Godiva Hair: Xana, in demon form.
  • Good Parents: Sareth's demon-lord father is actually pretty good to his son, assuming that you don't decide to rebind him into his prison. A bit like Darth Vader and Luke, without the dueling.
  • Goomba Stomp: Though it doesn't come up much, the player can damage enemies just by landing on them.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Sareth is thrown into a spike by Arantir in the middle of the game.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Lampshaded by the Final Boss, who wonders who will win the duel: a twenty-year-old Magic Knight or someone who trained for centuries.
  • Horny Devils: Xana.
  • I Can Rule Alone: By sticking with Xana the entire game, Sareth has the option of leaving his father trapped in Sheogh so he can rule Ashan with the Skull's power.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: "I do this for the sake of Ashan." — said by Arantir while he is killing Sareth.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Light Elemental weapons are the most powerful in the game (and also have the added benefit of doing extra damage to undead, the most common enemy type encountered), but since your character is a half-demon hybrid who's also carrying around a demoness in his head, you can't actually use them until the last chapter where you can purify yourself at the temple of the world's Crystal Dragon Jesus, who also is good enough to provide you with a Light Elemental weapon, in case you didn't manage to find any before.
  • Kill It with Fire: Enemies die quickly once they've been set on fire. There are multiple convenient fires to kick enemies into and even more oil jars which will create a small puddle that can be ignited with any attack that generates flame, including the multiple flaming weapons.
  • Magic Knight: Actively encouraged and an explicit ability of Sareth in the manual. Melee skill is so bloody cheap to purchase and the skill (fast mana regeneration) that makes pure-mage really viable are really late game (25 points total to obtain)
    • The same is true of pure fighters. It is very easy to run out of healing until you have the late-game hitpoint regeneration power, but the heal spell is very cheap and mana does regenerate.
  • Magic Skirt: Leanna has one of the shadowy variety. Blatantly obvious in the opening to chapter 5 where she sits in-front of you and you see right down it.
  • Mauve Shirt: Duncan, the surviving guard from the orc attack on the temple reappears a few times and his cousin is an important character in the final level. Duncan is pretty much doomed to die after telling you about said cousin, as he has low health and there are a few enemies he will rush. You can save him with major effort, but his AI was not programed for the possibility, and runs around in circles afterwards.
  • Mission Control: Xana, with the odd variation in that she's inside you.
  • Multiple Endings: With little variation in-between each. Whether you cleanse Xana or kill Leanna. And whether you imprison your father again or release him and destroy the world with him.
  • Multi Melee Master: Sareth can fight with swords, staves, or daggers. And of course, his mighty boot.
    • Swords are most plentiful and the most powerful weapon of the game is one. They can be paired with a shield.
    • Staves do less damage, but provide better defense when blocking and provide a higher chance of knocking an opponent down and are therefore often useful when mobbed by enemies.
    • Daggers always come in pairs. They do the least damage, but are the only weapons that can be used for stealth kills and a fleeing or stunned enemy can be taken down with a one-hit ranged kill by throwing the dagger.
  • No-Gear Level: Sareth's horse is startled away at the start of chapter 1, taking everything he found in the prologue with it. Given you get far more than what you found in the prologue (which is a short sword, 2 health potions and maybe a bow) before you have any use for it and Sareth kept the plot coupon on his person, this just makes the intro a bit more cinematic. A strange example occurs in chapter 7, where you can't even use your spells (which are treated as inventory items by the game, complete with taking up space) until you get your stuff back, nor can you pick up any items (they are stored in your taken backpack, and you still can't even hold one in your hands). Thankfully both enemies you meet before getting your stuff back are conveniently in front of a fire and bottomless pit and you can still kick, plus you just got access to a "demon form" ability that doesn't need weapons.
  • Obviously Evil: Xana.
  • Porting Disaster: The 360 version "elements".
  • The Reveal/The Untwist: After you acquire the skull you've been seeking for the whole game, your Evil Overlord demonic father reveals himself to you and explains how you were his Unwitting Pawn. That said, if you'd been paying attention to the cutscenes and Xana's dialogue or even just read the manual, you probably saw this coming.
  • Screwed by the Network: Arkane had mod tools ready to release when Ubisoft said "no" for no reason, dooming the game to obscurity.
  • Shielded Core Boss: The Final Boss. It's Arantir, who summons a skeletal dragon to fight you and remains invulnerable as long as it lives. After defeating it, he's open for a few seconds after which he summons it again.
  • Shout-Out: The Master Thief's armor you can acquire towards the end of the game is embossed with a "G", a reference to Garrett from the Thief series (which the game's stealth gameplay strongly resembles), and must be reached with use of rope arrows, one of the signature tricks of the Thief games.
  • Spiritual Successor: As mentioned above Dark Messiah is one to Arx Fatalis (indeed, a few file names, primarily basic weapons, use "arx"). Additionally, Dark Messiah borrows the "marked secrets" system of early First Person Shooters, complete with the ability to find more powerful than standard weapons/armor early, while missed equipment is sitting out in the open a few levels down the line.
  • Stripperific: While Leanna's outfit isn't the worst example out there, it is still effectively the "wizard robe" armor minus the pants, 3/4s of the mantle and the sleeves.
    • Xana doesn't wear much either. And her true form doesn't wear anything at all.
  • Squishy Wizard: Let's just say that if you choose to play an all-mage build then make sure you can quickly reach the heal spell.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: After The Reveal, Sareth can take on a demonic form, courtesy of Xana. In this mode, you cannot cast spells or use special abilities, but you can drain an enemy's health to restore your own.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Arantir is very fond of telling Sareth how pathetic he is.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Though not all that shocking.
  • Unwinnable: Your health doesn't regenerate, and healing items are both finite and relatively scarce. Even worse, the basic healing potions only restore a portion of your health, and the special items that restore you to full health are very rare and usually only found in secret areas. As a result, if you do poorly in the first few levels, it's quite possible to end up in a situation where you don't have enough health to make it past the next area, and the healing items nearby aren't enough to help you get through. However, after the first few chapters you acquire an ally who will heal you to full health after every battle, and then a ring that (very slowly) regenerates your health over time. There's also an upgrade that causes your health to regenerate, but you won't be able to purchase it until very late in the game.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Put it this way... hacking the limbs off of your enemies is the least imaginative thing you can do. To put it another way, it sure is convenient how the game starts placing throwable, fragile jars of oil around the levels just as you start getting access to fire spells.
  • Villain Protagonist: Potentially, depending on the ending you go for.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Though it is really hard to agree with him given he murders and imprisons civilians while laying waste to everything in his path, Arantir is out to stop you from fulfilling the prophecy and seal Sheogh forever while he's at it, which is a good-ish thing.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Phenrig describes fairly mundane things with absolutely delicious quantities of ham.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Phenrig disappears from the plot after the tutorial, despite being Sareth's foster father and implicitly being aligned to demons.
  • Wreaking Havok: The primary function of telekinesis and kicking.