key review info
- Game: Demigod
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Demigod is a great game. Some say it does not have single player, but they are wrong. Just set up a skirmish and take on A.I.-controlled opponents, which are tough to defeat on Nightmare difficulty. Some say that the glitches in setting up over the Internet multiplayer are taking away from the game by denying players the possibility to play against other humans. Just jump into a LAN game, set up the various options and jump right in. It's a well designed experience, with balanced Demigods, cool objects to buy, interesting spell powers, and ever changing tactics. It's too bad that Stardock and Gas Powered Games experienced teething problems when it came to putting up the infrastructure for the title.
This is a real time strategy title where you only control one unit, or a handful of them, and where you level up your main guy and equip items in order to become more powerful. The re-invention of the genre is as courageous as that attempted by Relic's Dawn of War II (in fact, the description above can be safely applied to both games) but it moves in somewhat different directions. If in Dawn of War II, you change load outs and level up outside of missions, which are short and have one boss fight, in Demigod, you level up and buy items inside the missions and you can get to kill or be killed by another Demigod dozens of times in one match. Of course, there are other units on the map but they are cannon fodder that die rather easily and rarely influence the tide of the battle.
And it's very, very deep. There are two types of Demigods. Assassins are tough attacking and have no minions, while Generals are less powerful but can get some minions. Each of the Demigods levels up as he/she gains experience and you can invest points in various abilities, getting new spells, becoming more powerful on the attack or defensive or increasing mana and hit points. You rarely max out all the skills of one Demigod in one match, as the experience needed to reach the higher levels is enormous. So, the first tactical decision a player needs to make is what to develop. Of course, you don't know what the enemy Demigods are choosing to level up, so it's a blind choice, with only the direct engagements showing who is tougher and whether you have made the best choices.
In addition to leveling up your Demigod, you can buy items, which range from mana and health potions to armour, hats and boots. There are five slots for a character and, if you want, you can take five sets of boots into battles. Items can be invaluable in order to minimize the impact of the weaknesses of the Demigod that you play (like getting speed boots for the Rook) but they cost gold. So, buying them must be balanced with getting upgrades for your Fortress, which can turn the tide of battle but also depends on the level of the building itself, but also with getting Artifacts, which are even more powerful items that cost even more.
Are those enough choices for you? Consider the fact that, in bigger matches, different Demigods can combine their powers in order to increase their effects quite dramatically and that, in the options for each match, you can tweak things like the speed of the game, the strength of reinforcements and the durability of towers. These can dramatically influence both the length of the game and the relative power of the various Demigods. Personally, I prefer the Unclean Beast, as a Demigod killer, especially because of his speed, and the Oak, as a general, transferring some of the effects of the kills to his minions. The problem in general with the Demigods that can lead minions is that they need to make sure that they get the top tier underlings in order to extract the most use out of them.
Some reviewers have aptly described the role of the Demigods in the game as one of a “plumber” who needs to make sure that the attacks launched from the citadel reach the enemy’s main structure. Assassin or General, melee-focused or spell-oriented, it does not matter how you do it, as long as you keep the enemy characters at bay while also taking out the towers and structures that are protecting the main base.
Graphics and audio
If you turn all the options up to maximum, Demigod looks great, with effects attached to the movement of the characters, the fighting and especially to the various spells that the Demiogs can cast. You can zoom out as far as you want, checking out the whole battlefield and assessing the strategic situation or you can zoom in close to see your Rook swathing enemies left and right with every hit. On gripe I have with the interface is that you can't move around using the mini map in the upper left side. The developers probably thought that moving around the battlefield would be done while zoomed out but old real time strategy habits, like using the mini map to move around, die hard.
Sound-wise, Demigod does almost everything right, from the uplifting score of the menu screen to the fighters’ screaming in the matches and the sounds of the powers that are being deployed. Some issues are reported regarding sound card setups, but it's nothing generalized.
Some say that Demigod is too multiplayer-oriented and that only playing the single player content does not justify the (already reduced) price of the title. Their arguments are the lack of a single player campaign and the limited attraction generated by the Tournament mode. Well, that's just not true. Another Stardock hit, Sins of a Solar Empire, has no single player campaign and only a limited backstory. Still, players created their own narratives tied to the three factions and generated enough sales for the game to get developer Ironclad working on mini expansions for it. Consider the fact that there are eight Demigods, each with an extensive background, and that, by using your imagination, you can easily craft a narrative around their struggles to reach godhood. Single player is crucial to Demigod, as it allows people to see what each of the Demigods has to offer in terms of powers and tactics and permits strategies to be perfected before getting into LAN and online play.
As far as multiplayer goes, Demigod has had some issues on release, mostly due to the broken street date and to piracy, but most of them seem to be resolved. Matches are epic, with ten players joining in huge battles that require quick reflexes but also good team coordination. Because of the way powers from the various characters can complement each other, players need to communicate and work together to bring down enemies. The various customization options available between matches (be sure to check out how the game is set up to avoid any surprises related to death countdowns or tower strengths) are also available in multiplayer and can change the dynamics of each game. Apart from the connectivity issues, which are inherent to a multiplayer component and, apparently, exacerbated by the reliance on a peer to peer connection model, the big drawback for multiplayer matches is that the best ones are quite long. In today's time-starved world, you really have to clear a couple of hours in order to really get into a Demigod match.
The game is peer to peer and that's both a blessing and a curse. It's peer to peer because this is faster and means that you get to see how the Mist ability takes away health from the enemies instead of pushing the button and seeing that the enemy was somewhere else at the moment when they activated that. But because it is peer to peer, some players have reported issues regarding the way their network connections need to be set up in order to make Demigod work. The game is now moving to a hybrid architecture, which also supports a client server connection, so these issues should be solved (for more information, you can check out the official forums).
Demigod has had quite a rough time since release but it's a superb achievement, taking a concept from Defense of the Ancients and creating a deeper and more polished experience around it. As long as you have a good Internet connection, some buddies to battle with or against and wish to customize a Demigod in a myriad of ways, you can safely buy it. The big drawbacks are the rather steep learning curve, generated by the big array of options, accentuated by the lack of a tutorial and the connectivity issues that some players are still reporting, although Stardock has rolled out several patches and beefed up its network infrastructure.
But players who love choices, tactical combat and action tactics games can safely wait a bit and get the game, maybe with the help of Impulse sales, to play some of the single player content and get familiarized with the Demigods. If you do like what you see up to this point, then you can jump online or into LAN play and slay Demigods together with other people. By the time this review is out, most of the network problems should have been solved, so the experience will not be spoiled in any way.