Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Demigod

Gas Powered Games, creators of the Supreme Commander franchise and other heavyweight strategy games, has released Demigod. The premise is that it is a hybrid action/strategy/rpg type game.

Graphics
The graphics are really well done here. The levels are lovingly detailed, the individual models are well textured and modeled. Usually teensy tiny minion type sprites suffer from a lack of polygons, but not here. There's also lots of little touches and beautiful artistry that make the game a joy to look at.

Sound
The sound is well done. The voices serve their purpose, the sound effects do their job admirably, and the musical score is thematic and immersive. All in all, a well done auditory experience. There's even a tiny touch of humor buried in there from time to time... for instance, once when choosing a character to play as, I heard him say "This armor itches."

Gameplay
Demigod is a hard animal to classify. You're on a map with a bases, defenses, and control points, but you can't control any unit other than your own character. You have armies that spawn regularly from portals and rush in a half-thought-out manner toward the enemy lines to take objectives and fight until they die. Your avatar "levels up" and you choose new abilities (or upgrades to existing abilities) as you do, making your Demigod stronger in the fight. Your ability to take and hold flags determines things like how strong your armies are, how often you can use special abilities, and how fast you accrue gold. Said gold can be spent at "shops" on the map for a variety of things ranging from straightforward potions (drink this for more health/mana) to unique artifacts, and can also be spent at your "citadel" for upgrades to your army or defenses.

What this leads to is a semi-strategic tussle that lasts about 20 to 30 minutes and is all decided in the first 3 to 5 minutes of play. It can be fun to stretch yourself against CPU enemies, but multiplayer can often be an excercise in frustration... for somebody it ALWAYS will be. Because once you start losing in the beginning to a player, there's often very little you can do to turn the tide since base defenses cannot be rebuilt in any way, shape or form.

There are 8 different demigod characters to chose from, each with their own methodology of play. That helps with replayability some, but I was a little surprised at the low number of maps to play on. That hurts replayability quite a bit.

The inevitable comparison to the custom map "Defense of the Ancients" for Warcraft 3 must be made. This game borrows heavily from the DOTA paradigm, perhaps leaving many to wonder why they need to "buy DOTA again." But if you never played DOTA or never really were able to get into it (like me), this may make a good introduction (or re-introduction) to that type of gameplay experience.

There's also a bit of a stumbling block in that there's no tutorial, so at first the learning curve seems steep. However, a try or two through a short game on easy will very quickly have the player learning the ropes... and since the matches are short, learning the game is not a long and painful process.

Verdict
Demigod looks complicated but is actually a very quick and simple game. Such a game is fine so long as replayability is there, and Demigod has aspects that encourage that replayability such as multiple diverse player characters and an achievement system. A narrow selection of available playfields hurts it some. The game is pretty and sounds good, but it's very much on the casual side of the spectrum. I'd pay 20 bucks for it and not feel out of sorts. Maybe not so for $40+ however.

Grade: B.