CyberMage: Darklight Awakening



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With "CyberMage: Darklight Awakening", Origin launched its fifth title built around a first person perspective, following the trail of the Underworld series, Shadowcaster and System Shock. Although at first, you could think "CyberMage" is just another Doom-like product, you will rapidly change your mind when you see the new features offered by the game. The possibility to drive vehicles and fly around with jumpjets is among the most innovative, but there is also a storyline to be revealed as you progress in the game, and plenty other things we'll discuss below.

Knowing that "CyberMage" was designed by D.W. Bradley is somehow a mark of prestige, and a good assurance that the game won't resume in shooting at everything around you. When he was still working for Sir-Tech Software, D.W. Bradley created some of the best titles of the Wizardry series such as "Heart of the Maelstrom", "Bane of the Cosmic" and "Crusaders of the Dark Savant" which probably explains why "CyberMage" has many references to the world of role-playing games.

The world of "CyberMage" is set in the middle of the 21st century, in the year 2044. Since the end of the 20th century, large corporations driven by profit replaced governments and established a total control over society. In this period of hard competition between the corporations, the technological achievements were blooming. Soon new technologies appeared such as electronic neural implants, attached mechanical enhancements for human bodies, and hybrid beings, products of genetic engineering. However, these scientific advancements were not destined for the public, but rather conceived to assure the corporates a victory over the growing rebellion. The comic included in the box resumes the series of events that happened prior to your awakening. In a few words, you gave your life to save an 'Exotic' and, as in the "RoboCop" movie, you were transformed into a super-hero by the power of the Darklight gem placed on your forehead.

Picture of Necrom
The comic-style introduction explains how the laboratory was attacked by the infamous Necrom troops looking after you. Still in the Bio-Gen device recovering from your lethal wounds at that time, you suddenly awoke by accident to find yourself trapped in this underground laboratory. Your priority now is to get out of this place and discover the reasons of your transformation.

As soon as you enter the game properly said, you will immediately notice that the graphic resolution is unusual. "CyberMage" offers two choices in the installation depending on how much memory you have on your computer. If you have 8Mb of memory, you will only be able to play at 320 by 240, while having 16mb of memory will allow you to play at 640 by 480 with high resolution animations. Notice that choosing the SVGA mode on a low computer will definitely ruin the game play, making this mode best suited for fast Pentium configurations only. However, even at the lowest resolution (20% better than standard 320 x 200), "CyberMage" features outstanding graphics with realistic textures that faithfully reproduce the various environments you will explore. From the laboratory to high-tech installations of the SARCorp through the inextricable Dead Man's Zone, "CyberMage" is a true fest for the eyes. Not only does the 3D environment look real, but also the variety of characters with citizens, Necrom troops and other hideous creatures lurking in the dark. From memory, I could at least count over 20 different characters ranging from innocent citizens to giant spiders and Necrom himself, your worst enemy. One example to give you an idea of how "CyberMage" is detailed, concerns the dead bodies. Unlike other games of the same kind where an enemy's corpse was reduced to a bloody pile of bones and flesh, the corpses in "CyberMage" are as well rendered as the living characters. Some were even sometimes hard to differentiate, especially the giant spiders in the caves where the darkness made things even worse, giving me a frightening chill every time I bumped into one of them.

The game's interface is very similar to traditional first person perspective games, except for the inventory in which you will store keys and various devices. There are no limits regarding the number of items you can carry and it is not possible to drop any as the program will automatically remove those you don't need anymore. Among the items you can find are jumpjets, life and power sensors, a great diversity of keys ranging from skeleton keys to electronic keys, several ID cards to facilitate your access to restricted areas, regen packs to restore your health, armorseals to repair your armor, money, etc.

Picture of the Bio-Gen device
In the Bio-Gen
When you will awake in the laboratory, you won't have any weapons and the only way to defend yourself will be to use your magic powers. Starting with one, the Star Bolt, you will gain new powers as you progress in the game. In the same way, your personal power will increase from time to time, as a mark of experience. Each power requires a certain number of energy between 5 and 50 units, and if you don't have enough personal power, you will have to wait before using it. Unlike health, your personal power restores itself with time, but although the process is quick, it is not instantaneous. Fortunately, you can always rely on the dozen of weapons you find or buy in the game. Some are hand-to-hand weapons for a close range combat and others, such as fusion and heavy blaster guns, are perfect for eliminating your enemies from a distant position. What is rather unusual for this type of game is to buy your weapons like you would in a role-playing game. In "Doom" for example, the weapons are usually found in heavily guarded or secret rooms, but there is no way to buy a weapon. In "CyberMage", weapons and ammunitions can be acquired at a shop in the big city or can be found throughout the game. It is the same for armor pieces and health recovery packs, with the only difference that they are sold in different places.

Without being as important as your health or personal power, money plays an important role in "CyberMage" as explained above and it exists several ways to win some in the game. At the Arena, you can bet money on gladiators or on the champion, and watch the spectacle by the same occasion. If you prefer to gamble, there is a slot machine in one of the numerous clubs in town. Finally, if you are really desperate, you can sell your blood at the hospital for $250, but you will permanently loose 5 points of life every time.

Besides moving in every direction as usual, you can look up and down, crouch, side step to left and right, swim, jump and climb ladders. Because of your physical improvements, you can also fall without being wounded allowing you to get down easily from one level to another, but it really shouldn't be considered as a particular type of movement. Oddly, your normal movement is a run, and if you wish to slow down, you must press the Shift key at the same time which is the opposite of what is done in "Doom". Whenever you find jumpjets, you will have limited flying possibilities compared to the flying vehicle which can easily increase or decrease its altitude. With the jumpjets, you will only be able to fly over from a low altitude and cross distances that are impossible to jump.

The vehicles you drive in "CyberMage" are the aircars and tanks. Only in certain occasions will you be given the possibility of using them. While the tanks are truly helpful whenever you will face other tanks, the aircars will be necessary when you must reach a specific location not accessible from the ground. To enter the vehicle, move close and press the 'Enter' key, then press the 'Tab' key to exit. Both vehicles have specific weapons and armor that can be damaged by enemy fire. If the armor receives too many hits, the vehicle will become inoperative and you will get back on your feet.

Picture of you
Back alive
As mentionned earlier, "CyberMage" features numerous characters, and you will be able to interact with some of them through limited dialogs. Limited because they are talking, and you can only listen to them. There is even a personal log in your inventory where you can again listen to what they said. Don't neglict the dialog part often as important information will be given out. The different places you will explore are complex, made of several levels with elevators, secret passages and hidden rooms. Only when you talk to the right person, you will get the proper ID card, and if you don't, you could waste hours desperately looking for it. However, don't imagine that you can talk to anybody because your enemies know you well and they won't give you the time to approach them for a quick chat! The only time when you can do it is when you kill them. As every living being posseses a life-energy called Mara, it is released when it dies, and floats over the body for a few seconds. If you happen to move through it, you will absorb this life-energy, hence gaining extra-health points. When you accidentally or willingly kill an innocent, the energy will be brown instead of blue, and will decrease your health if you go through.

One important aspect of "CyberMage" is the soundtrack and the many sound effects. One of the best examples I could give you is when you hear people talking. In the big city, there are several large TV panels where news and information are continuously diffused. If you move close to the panel, you will hear the voice as if you were in front of it, and when you move away the voice will become faint. There are plenty of other sound effects in "CyberMage" that each contribute to make the game as realistic as possible. The music also enhances the gameplay, often changing and providing the player with a "Blade Runner" style-soundtrack.


After playing three days straight with "CyberMage", I can finally rest from the outrageous action packed in the game. All in one, "CyberMage" is a good alternative to "Doom" clones with new features that make the game considerably better.

Written by Frederick Claude



Click here for screen shots.

System Requirements:

486 DX2-66 MHz or higher,
Min 8MB memory,
Hard disk with 5Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
320x240 256-color VGA, 640x480 256-color SVGA video graphic card (VESA Local Bus or PCI recommended),
Microsoft mouse or 100% compatibles.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro/16/AWE-32; MPU-401 General Midi interface, or 100% compatible sound cards supported.

Joysticks supported.


Origin Inc.,
12940 Research Blvd.,
Austin, TX 78750.

Technical Support:512-434-4357
Fax Support:512-795-8014
BBS Support:512-346-2227

Web site: Origin


In North America:

Electronic Arts
1450 Fashion Island Blvd.,
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Web site: Electronic Arts

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In UK:

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Technical Support: +44-(0)1753-546465

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Electronic Arts,
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194 81 Upplandsvasby.

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Electronic Arts Software S.A.,
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28037 Madrid.


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