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Page 1 of 2Dawn of Magic is another in a long line of action role-playing games. I seem to play a lot of these, and while it's been a while since I've encountered a truly awful one (of, say, Konung 2 (quality)), I haven't seen a good one recently, either. These days when I receive an action role-playing game -- and especially a bargain-priced one, such as with Dawn of Magic -- I just hope for something reasonably entertaining, where the combat has enough going for it that the experience isn't a total bore. Using that weak standard, Dawn of Magic is a success.
Dawn of Magic has a background story -- something about an immortal wizard named Modo who wants to destroy the Earth -- but you can safely ignore it. Dawn of Magic isn't the kind of game that wants to deal with things like plot or dialogue or motivation. It just wants to throw thousands of creatures at you and see how you do. Each of the game's five acts goes about the same: you wade through all sorts of enemies so you can defeat a boss, and then eventually you defeat the end boss. In an interesting twist, that end boss doesn't have to be Modo. If you choose an evil alignment for your character, then you can assist Modo in the campaign and presumably face some champion of good at the end. I played a good character (that whole (let's destroy the planet) spiel didn't make the evil path look so hot), but I'm guessing the campaigns aren't all that different and only the bosses change.
Oddly, Dawn of Magic almost requires that you play as a magician of some sort. You can play as a melee character if you really want to, but melee characters get all of two skills to help them out ((bash) and (weapon mastery)), while casters get 96 spells to play with. The press release I received with the game implies that this is a positive, but I thought it was strange. It made me think of a recent news article I saw where a game was called (innovative) for not supporting a single player mode. Since when did offering less turn into a good thing? Is there such a thing as a diet game? Fortunately, Dawn of Magic makes it expensive to build up spells, and the spells are linked (for example, the (fireball) spell has a chance to trigger the (burn) spell and set enemies on fire), and so you have to make lots of choices when building up your character, and the system works well despite the restrictions.
Also fortunately, the combat system is effective. Dawn of Magic uses a fairly standard point-and-click Diablo-style interface, and while it has a few quirks (for example, you can't map both mouse buttons to spells; you're stuck with one controlling your weapon, even if you never use it), it doesn't really cause any problems or get in the way of the action. Meanwhile, the enemies have a lot of variety -- some summon minions, some raise the dead, some teleport, and more -- and the bosses are challenging. During the course of the campaign, I never found myself having too easy or too difficult of a time, and that's a difficult trick to pull off.
But that's the end of the good news. The bad news is that Dawn of Magic is a bargain-priced action role-playing game that doesn't strive to be anything more. Every so often it does something sort of cool -- like it allows you to insert runes into equipment, and if you use them to spell a special word (like (future)) then you get an extra bonus -- but mostly the title doesn't do anything interesting or memorable, and it's marred by a lot of sloppiness and repetitive gameplay.
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