This review is from a copy of Demigod downloaded off of Stardock’s Impulse service. Impulse has a clean, interconnected interface, and is like Steam in many respects, except that it doesn’t require you to be online to play your purchased titles. The only problem I had getting Demigod through Impulse was the lack of a link to the manual in the game’s profile. Instead, I found a copy via the support forums off of the website – here. The manual does a good job of explaining the basics, but it unfortunately leaves a lot of the more in-depth material for you to figure out on your own.
Demigod is an interesting choice for Stardock’s second third-party release. Far from the massive naval conflicts of Sins of a Solar Empire or the empire building in Galactic Civilizations, this ethereal tournament-style hybrid real-time strategy and role-playing game is a refreshing change of pace.
Instead of navigating the stars, in Demigod you assume the role of one of eight offspring from a disgraced god. The pantheon of the Ancients have cast down your father, The Progenitor, for telling his underlings too much about the goings-on of his brethren. In an effort to secure their ranks, the Ancients need to fill the vacancy left by the recent banishment by replacing The Progenitor with one of his eight half-mortal children - the demigods.
Each of the eight demigods come from different worlds and realms, but they all must battle in Rokkur. A place that exists in a realm of its own, Rokkur is made up of a series of gorgeously imaginative arenas that allow for the combatants to resurrect for continuous battle for the favor of the gods. The demigods themselves are equally impressive, with angels, a stone giant with turrets (complete with archers) for shoulders, a rabid beast, a sorcerer that has mastered fire and water, a vampire lord and others that each sport some amazing designs. Everything about the game’s style and presentation is topnotch, with dynamic colors, smooth animation, and great sound effects – the little bit of music is pleasant too. Bouts are furious, exciting spectacles. Somehow fitting into a game of mythical creatures and magic is a booming announcer, reminiscent of the voices from Killer Instinct and Unreal Tournament, that gives updates throughout a bout and a brief call to the victorious faction.
A victory brings the demigod closer to ascension, as they gain favor with the Ancients. Favor points also allow your character to purchase persistent items during the next round, which can be anything from clothing that grants additional mana points to stronger healing potions. Victory is gained by going through a series of battles that have objectives ranging from destroying the opposing faction’s citadel to having the most kills. Ascension occurs whenever you finish eight rounds and having bested your half siblings in favor, with the result being a somewhat grainy victory movie of your character’s statue on a pedestal. Godhood isn’t what I expected.
While there is a single-player component, the tournament-style setup leaves nothing for story or character advancement. What you quickly realize is that, while the game is addictive enough to continue playing, the character design and presentation is so unique and gripping that you simply want to know more about the demigods. There is a bit of backstory, with the demigods being on the light or dark side and either a general or assassin – general controlling a handful of minions and assassins are powerful attackers – but there isn’t nearly enough to satisfying the level of curiosity the mythos manages to pique.
The multiplayer is peer-to-peer, in an attempt to reduce latency. Instead, it seems to have been the cause of a good bit of irritation for the publisher and players. By this point, the multiplayer kinks have largely been worked out, with the only hiccups being those commonly found during online play – lag bursts, uneven matches in rank, etc. One fault I did find with multiplayer is that there isn’t a ‘Surrender’ or ‘Concede’ button to allow defeated players the chance to bow out gracefully; instead, those who don’t want to sit around and get pummeled for 15 minutes have to quit, which leaves teammates with a hapless AI in charge of your demigod. Players left with AI partners during an online match will find themselves at a disadvantage, because the computer is not as aggressive or persistent as a human player and manages to teeter on so-so rather than satisfactory.
The AI will be nothing new to you by the time you go online. Since the single-player tournament is nothing but a series of matches against the AI, you will quickly come to learn its traits. Despite not being terribly good, with harder difficulties simply tossing more coin and hit points at the AI, it does an acceptable job of getting you acquainted with the game’s mechanics. The easy AI will definitely give you the time needed to browse your factions item shop, which will be required due to the manual’s lack of descriptions and the number of items for sale. You can outfit your demigod with helmets, gloves, pendants, and all sorts of peripherals that boost hit and mana point points and regeneration, speed, and strength. Similarly, the plethora of offensive, defensive, and faction upgrades for your demigod to choose from once they level up will also take some time to sift through. The range of abilities is impressive, and can go from boosting your faction’s minions to allowing the demigod Oak the ability to siphon life for him and his allies whenever he kills an opponent. There are even multiple citadel upgrades that increase gold inflow, building hit points and attack values, greater minion strength and armor, and additional unit types to teleport in. In short, there are a whole lot of upgrades and items to go through, and the lowly AI might not put the fear of the Ancients in you, but it will offer valuable time for you to get your bearings. The two hardest modes are really where you want to focus once you get your footing, because that additional challenge is more akin to what you will find online, but the handful of arenas limits just how long solo play remains an agreeable option.
The lack of control is off-putting at first. While there are soldiers teleporting in from both factions, running around attacking units and buildings, you do not control any of them. The general demigods can summon specific minions from items bought from the shop, but those will only be a handful – a total of six – and the vast majority of units on the field, the angels and priests and footsoldiers, will simply run around and do their own thing. On one hand, this doesn’t feel quite right, because it’s a strategy game and those are your troops; on the other hand, it allows for easier team play and emphasizes your role as a being above them, and there is an undeniable thrill when you’re towering over your troops and leading the charge. Each kill earns experience and cash, so there is always an incentive to get into the thick of things, and numerous contestable flags scattered throughout the arenas offer strategic points to gain additional health, gold, and mana, as well as portals for troops. These incentives to remain active offer great opportunities to see your demigod at work.
The biggest issue though is longevity. While the game has achievements for each demigod and persistent items to save up for and purchase, there are only a handful of arenas and units to choose from. The demigods are unique and each worth playing as, and it will take some time to try them out, but it will only be so long before you’ve gone through and burned out on your favorites. If the AI was cleverer in single-player, then the skirmish and tournaments might provide the extra kick, but instead you’re looking at an inevitable wall during multiplayer where you’ve had your fill of the handful of maps and burned out on your favorite demigod.
Overall: 8/10Gas Powered Games has something unique with Demigod. A hybrid title that mixes strategy and role-playing characteristics with eight demigods fighting in a series of arenas, complete with over-the-top presentation, Demigod has a lot to offer. From persistent items for on- and offline games, achievements for each demigod, and the multitude of upgrades to go through in each bout, a game lacking a campaign and extensive backstory is surprisingly stacked with things to do. The lackluster AI in single- and multiplayer might be a bit of a letdown, but the biggest drawback to the current state of Demigod is that there just isn’t more of it.