Skip to main content

Great moments in PC gaming: Climbing the orc cliffs in Dark Messiah

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Dark Messiah of Might & Magic

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Year: 2006
Developer: Arkane

Dark Messiah has some great linear sequences, like the rooftop chase where you pursue a ghoul over the city of Stonehelm, or the bit where a giant serpent tries to eat you as you leap across crumbling pillars. But its centrepieces are the open levels where it hands you a big space, fills it with enemies and physics, and lets you go nuts.

In Dark Messiah you have spells and weapons, but the most reliable attack is the plain old kick. One of the best kicks in any videogame, right up there with F.E.A.R. and Bulletstorm, it sends bad guys through wooden barriers, down stairs, and slambang into each other with slapstick vigor. It's a little too good. You know that saying about how when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail? That, but with kicking.

The best showcase for this is the level where you climb a cliffside path, weaving in and out of caves, past a fortress full of orcs. There are plenty of opportunities to kick orcs to their death of course, and they will happily stand with their back to you regarding the majestic view and no doubt thinking deep orc thoughts until you put the boot to their back. But there are also opportunities to get creative.

Every rope you see can be cut, whether to trigger traps or to make that rope bridge fall while three orcs chase you across it. Support beams can be kicked out, and the shelf of heavy barrels they were supporting will roll off Donkey Kong-style. There's a lot of that old buzzword verticality, with a rail-less stairway fort right out of Mordor and ledges that can be reached with rope arrows. You can set up or improvise a whole Rube Goldberg machine of kills and there are YouTube compilations of exactly that.

Every time an orc falls to their death they blurt out a sudden "aaaaarrrgh" that never stops being funny—something about the abruptness of it and the way it triggers slightly after they go over the edge gives every death perfect comic timing. I mean, you shouldn't have built your entire fortress into the side of a mountain if you didn't want me to come along and kick you off it. Honestly, orcs, this is your own fault.

Jody is that guy who will try to convince you to play some indie game you've never heard of with a name like Extreme Meatpunks Forever. He is also on a doomed quest to play every Warhammer game.