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Dawn of Magic Review

Dawn of Magic pack shot
Developer:SkyFallen Entertainment
Publisher:Deep Silver
Genre:Action RPG
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://dom.deepsilver.com/
Release Date:April 27th, 2007 (UK)
Reviewer:Craig Laycock (Cragtek)
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Since the days of Diablo – and its successor Diablo II - there has been a strange void waiting to be filled by a hack n’ slash title to take the genre forwards. Many have tried, many have failed and now it’s the turn of Dawn of Magic to step up to the plate.

Well, I’ll make this simple. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Dawn of Magic does innovate and take the genre forwards in some respects. The bad news is that it doesn’t do it nearly enough or breathtakingly enough for this game to sit up there at the right hand of titles like Diablo.

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The visuals are nice without ever making you go "wow". The sound is nice, the music is nice, the action is nice and the magic is nice. It’s all so nice, but, as we all know, the nice guys never get the girls (writer excluded, obviously).

Make no bones about it though, despite all this anonymous nicety, Dawn of Magic is at times still good fun and, in some of the more frenetic parts, reminds me a little of the up-and-at-you nature of Jade Empire: Special Edition, albeit lacking a considerable amount of polish. It’s a romp, frankly.

The world seems populated and lively, the combat is furious and intense, but unlike with Jade Empire, which kept us hooked with a tremendously woven storyline, Dawn of Magic’s gameplay starts to wear thin – and a bit too quickly for my liking. Combat becomes repetitive and tedious and, while the world seems to be an initially well-designed place of intrigue, it quickly reveals itself as a bit of a façade, without as much depth as the initial excitement seems to promise. Shame, really.

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Dialogue is stilted and somewhat dull, but acceptable without really ever excelling, the in-game camera is a bit irksome and – frankly – the humour is just a bit weird. Now maybe I’m missing some huge joke, but having the main character classes comprise of Awkward Scholar, Friar, Weird Gypsy and – wait for it – the Baker’s Wife (!) just seems a little odd to say the least. My only conclusion is that there is some big joke to be found here, but with the rest of the game really not seeming all that funny, it all seems a bit out-of-place. Still funnier than Jim Davidson though.

I like the look of Dawn of Magic. Visually, it’s very attractive. In many ways, it’s like Jade Empire – it looks good without pushing the envelope or making any real innovations. Jade Empire wins this tussle for having the more cohesive sense of visual style and art direction, but don’t let that put you off. This game really does look nice.

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And there is some good fun to be had in developing your character – mostly due to the unrestrictive nature of the classes. The spells system allows you to boost your character’s attributes left-right-centre with more magic than you can shake a wand at up for grabs. There are twelve schools of magic in all – I won’t list them – and the number of spells available is enough to keep you interested for a fair while in crafting your Baker’s Wife into some sort of lean, mean, killing machine. Well, maybe not lean, but certainly mean.

Item crafting is fun, allowing you to attach magical properties to your bog-standard items to give them the all important X-factor when you’re waving them about in enemies’ faces. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a nice touch and brings a bit more fun customisation to the game.

One big failing, however, is the lack of balance the game strikes between letting you go it alone and holding your hand. The early stages of the game are patronising to say the least, and in other places you’ll be left scratching your head wondering exactly what you should be doing – a particular pet hate of mine. Although the on-screen mini-map and objectives is very useful, at times the game just doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as it could be with a bit more thought. Enemy AI is another big problem – baddies don’t seem to have much in the way of brains, instead choosing just to run at you, making combat seem almost like a chore at times.

Summary

It’s the age-old story: if more money and a bigger development team and of course more innovative ideas was thrown at this title, it could have brought some life into this dying genre, but, as it is, it’s sadly it’s just too bland to warrant any kind of extended play. Instead it seems content to occupy that forgettable middle-ground of gaming and let people reminisce about the good ol’ days. Dawn of Magic can be good fun, but just be sure to play in small doses. Don’t expect it to be Diablo 3.

The bottom line
6.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Good-looking visuals
  • Fun, mindless romp
  • Nice character development

Not so good stuff

  • Limited scope
  • Repetitive combat
  • Doesn't innovate enough in a slightly stale genre


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