Publisher: Koch Media / Deep Silver
Developer: Sky Fallen Entertainment
Release Date: April 27, 2007
Confession time. Prior to nabbing the preview build, Dawn of Magic is a title about which I knew virtually nothing. I saw the trailer and thought, "That looks cool. I wanna play," and so play I did.
The game is set in a fantasy version of medieval Earth. Modo, an immortal from another realm, has been exiled here by his people, sentenced to live out a 100-year human life while retaining all of his memories but none of his considerable power. At the end of the exile period, he would be allowed to return to his native realm, but Modo has other plans. By the age of 40, the human version of Modo has learned enough of Earth's magic to become very powerful once again.
The player must decide whether to help Modo destroy the earth and take vengeance upon his people, or fight Modo and stop his nefarious plans. Alternately, there is a third, more neutral path, which seems to allow you to take on both sides. You choose your path during character creation when you select your alignment. This alignment choice also determines how some NPCs will react to you, and perhaps more importantly, what you get to fight later in the game.
At its most basic level, Dawn of Magic is a Diablo 2-esque hack 'n' slash kill-fest. It's actually somewhat surprising just how many concepts have been borrowed from the Diablo series for this game, and not all of them are good ones. With that said, there is one fundamental difference that sets the two irrevocably apart: magic. In this game, hand-to-hand combat should be your last resort.
There are 12 schools of magic available to each character, each with a variety of offensive and defensive spells designed to help you crush your many, many enemies. Initially you only start out with spells in three of these schools, but you will learn new spells from other schools rather quickly. One of the most intriguing features of the magic system allows you to combine your spells. Each spell in the game is classified as a primary or secondary effect spell, although a few are both. You can combine the effects of one primary and one secondary spell each time you cast, and can even save these combinations to your quick-bar. Sure, it takes more juice to cast two spells combined, but the effects are considerably more devastating.
Spells come in levels, and as you get more experienced, you will gain the opportunity to increase the level – and thus the effectiveness – of your spells. The other interesting thing about spells is that they will increase what's called your magic influence. The more powerful spells you have in a given school, the more magic influence you will have in that school. This causes your character's body to morph in some bizarre ways, giving each character a unique appearance. These mutations will also provide bonuses and penalties for using certain skills or spells, but they do not seem to affect your interaction with NPCs.
The single-player campaign in Dawn of Magic looks like it is going to be an extremely long one. At the beginning, you have your choice of four unlikely heroes, though the choice you make does not seem like it will have any impact on the game. From there, your character's progression toward becoming a mighty wizard is a slow and gradual one. You will kill many thousands of enemies before you reach your full potential, and along the way, you will discover your own spell preferences, learn how to customize your equipment with magic runes, and master the art of crafting new items.
The game's viewing perspective is from the now-standard three-quarter POV. It is possible to zoom out quite a ways to get a good view of the battlefield around you, but I personally found it difficult to accurately aim my spells unless I zoomed in pretty closely. This is important because your offensive spells will travel in a straight line toward the point you clicked, and they have a pretty limited range. There are no monster-seeking fireballs here.
Sadly, I was not able to test the multiplayer side of the game, as (not surprisingly) there were no hosted games out there to be found. What I can tell you is that there were five available modes of multiplayer play to spice things up. Because this game is so similar to Diablo 2 in its look and feel, I expect that multiplayer will be a popular way to go in Dawn of Magic, giving it a playable life much longer than it might have otherwise.
Graphically speaking, Dawn of Magic looks to be far superior to most others of the same style. Monsters and villagers are reasonably well detailed for a hack 'n' slash game where you really don't get to spend much time contemplating the aesthetic qualities of your foes. The scenery is nice, and the buildings all have a spooky, dark ages feel to them. There are flowers, bushes, trees, hills, valleys, and many other obstacles that not only look nice, but which you can also use to your tactical advantage when fighting defensively.
It seems pretty obvious which group of gamers Dawn of Magic is being targeted at, and chances are those folks have gotten bored enough with Dungeon Siege 2, or Titan Quest to give it a whirl. Check out this twist on the old hack 'n' slash theme when it launches in April.
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