Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review: Demigod Collector's Edition

Demigod Collector's Edition (2009)
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Platform: Personal Computer
Purchase Date: 06/19/2009

Looks can be very deceiving. Queen of Thorns is both beautiful... and deadly.

My ongoing experience with Demigod may be filled with some of the most frustrating technical difficulties I have ever faced in a Personal Computer game - random but very frequent crashes, lack of customer service support due to XP 64-bit incompatibility - but in the end, nothing can stop me from wanting to continuously play this brilliant strategy role playing game. At one point, I even asked my tech guru friend to alter my PC to support a dual operating system - XP 32/XP 64 - but the game seems to be more stable with the most recent patch that I am going to put that thought on hold... for now!

The battles take place at the most imaginative and desolate places.

Many comparisons have been made between this game and the insanely popular Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients - which I have never played - so this review is solely based on Demigod's own merits. In the game, you play as one of 8 available Demigods - with "others" hinted in the game's manual that will hopefully be released as free contents in the game's future patches - and they each play very, very differently. Half are categorized as "Assassins" while the rest are categorized as "Generals" - the difference between the two groups is that the latter can amass their own controllable minions to follow them around. After selecting your character, you are placed in one of two opposing teams on one of 8 battle arenas with varied battle goals like conquest - destroy the enemy's citadel, and slaughter - victory via kill count, among others. Demigod has that strategy game feel to it with capturing resource points and upgrading your citadel/army but it has a heavy role playing stats management gameplay that involves leveling up your chosen Demigod. The Demigod levels up as you kill your enemy minions and Demigods and you have to assign your skill points on the fly. There are many branching skill trees and your character is maxed out at level 20 per battle, so you have to plan carefully on how you want to build up your Demigod.

Leveling up Regulus' snipe ability will result in guaranteed deaths to escaping Demigods.

The most brilliant part of the game is that you only control your Demigod and you don't have to worry about inputting instructions for your ally Demigods or the automatically generated army from captured portals - these guys work independently and the latter have their set paths towards the enemy citadel but it will help for you to upgrade their stats using your accumulated gold as well as adding new creature types into the fray. The game has no real story mode even though you get well-written descriptions of the often tragic origins of each of the Demigods. Basically, these Demigods are fighting each other to become the replacement to a recently fallen god. The closest you can find to a campaign here is the 8-round single player Tournament mode where you have to gain the highest amount of "favor points" that are rewarded with every positive actions you do in the battles: killing enemies, capturing flags, etc. The favor points can also be gained by unlocking the game's many Demigod-specific achievements and can be used to buy useful trinkets, items, and armors for your Demigod. If you win the Tournament, you do get a fancy little narrative that compliments you for being a new god. Talking about the narrative, the announcer in the game sounds exactly like Christopher Lee and after playing the game for the first time, I went straight to the manual to see if it was him and was amazed to find out that it wasn't. The narrator's evil voice announces important events that happen during the battle and this really creates an epic atmosphere, especially its placement on top of the game's powerful orchestral soundtrack that effectively intensifies towards the battle's climax.

With the right abilities, The Rook can mean bad news to enemy defensive structures.

Playing against the computer is fun even with the mostly incompetent companion AIs but a game like this cannot survive without its online offerings. There's your typical skirmishes that can be customized to support up to 10 players at a time and then there's the "Pantheon" mode: an official online tournament that pits the forces of light against the forces of darkness. You have to choose which side to support before being placed randomly into different games with other participants. The first group that reaches a set cumulative amount of favor points wins the whole tournament. The game has an official website as well that tracks all of the online players' rankings plus statistics and it contains detailed information like the number of play, disconnects, and tournament participations. Unfortunately, this game has one of the worst online communities I have ever encountered - almost as bad as the one for Culdcept Saga. There are many elitists that seem to think that everyone else other than themselves are nothing but dirt and will do whatever they can in their power to make that known. I have yet to make any friends here but hopefully, the "coming soon" Top Clan online feature will make it easy for everyone to find like-minded people to play with.

Best. Battleground. Map. Ever.

I love a game that focuses on fun and puts you right into the action from the get go. In Demigod's manual, the developer specifically stated that they want players to just jump in and experience the game to learn how to play it. Thus there is no tutorial to be found here. Everything will be quite overwhelming at first but once you understand the basics, Demigod is one of the deepest games you will ever play and I am barely scratching the surface with this review. With such simplistic gameplay alteration for the genres this game represents comes subtle nuances that can only be realized after many hours of playtime. This game actually feels like World of Warcraft's battlegrounds, only a lot more addicting and rewarding. The graphics are beautiful with maps that ranges from being spectacular to disturbing - there's one that is morbidly called "Brothers" where you see large skeletons stabbing each other with a sword on each end of the map - and the unique death animations for each Demigod are quite entertaining. It's also awe-aspiring to be able to completely fill up the map with a screen-filling number of minions. If not for the technical difficulties, the game would have easily been a masterpiece. I just cannot bring myself to reward the apparent laziness on the part of the developer, especially the fact that the game still contains a lot of bugs even on the officially supported operating systems.

RATING: 4 out of 5

*The "Collector's Edition" includes a soundtrack CD, an beautiful poster of The Rook wrecking serious havoc as shown on the regular edition box below and this cute little pewter figurine:

Update Note: 01/20/2015 - I have re-installed the game last night and with my current Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit setup, there are no more crashes while I was playing the game though when I first ran it and changed the screen resolution, the game did crash rather horribly in fact that it that turned the whole screen yellow. I really love this game and I plan to play it again every so often. It is also worth mentioning that you can now get this game on Steam.

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