Inside Pulse 12

Review: Demigod: Collector’s Edition (PC)

01_cover2Demigod Collector’s Edition
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Release Date: 04/14/2009


Once upon a time, some clever modder’s for Warcraft III created a mod called Defense of the Ancients that revitalized a dying RTS game and created a new genre that put some rather clever RPG elements into the strategy involved.

Demigod has been compared to this mod over and over again, and I’ve even seen some reviewers refer to it as a $40 version of the mod. I’d like to take the time to do a proper review seeing as this game may have a few elements in common with DotA, but takes this in a whole different direction. iI also may have just opened up a sub-genre of RTS that I can finally sink my teeth into.

Story/Modes
First and foremost, Demigod is really about the multi-player. That being said, the single player game plays and feels just like the multi-player version. More on that in a bit. There’s not much story to go on in this game. One of the big gods has kicked the proverbial bucket and there’s a group of demigods that think they have the cajones to fill their shoes. They decide to compete with each other to see who can gain the most favor and take that seat. Very basic, but this isn’t the game to play for story.

The single player gives you two options: a basic skirmish that lasts one arena and it’s done, and a tournament that pits you randomly against others based on your difficulty settings on your ascension to godhood. Skirmish is of course the quickest to play, and unlike the tournament mode you can completely customize it. From your opponent’s and team’s AI settings, to the arena and four other gameplay options, you can really have a blast here. Each of the arenas plays quite differently from each other. On top of that, each of the play modes really has a totally different feel. More on that in gameplay.

Multi-player is where the game shines. It automatically finds players for you to play against at your skill level in the game in the online skirmish mode. There’s also a custom game mode, and even a pantheon mode that allows you to compete in the tournament which tallies up favor points to see if good or evil is winning. Aside from playing this game online with people you randomly connect with, you’re also given a LAN option so you can be playing against a group of buddies and not have to deal with people online, if you so chose.

Story/Modes Rating: Great

02_citadel_upgradesGraphics
This game looks fantastic. I only had a few hiccups here and there, but it really is a feast for the eyes. A number of times I’ve pulled the camera as far back as it’ll let me just so I could get a better look at the waterways flowing below the ground where my character was walking. There is a lot of detail put into the demigods themselves, and the minions aren’t too shabby either. There are some nice visual effects, and the smashed ground where the hammer falls happen are a very nice touch.

Could it have been a little better? Sure. Some of the figures feel a bit cartoonish, but I wasn’t really expecting realism. Demigod offers a lot of great fantasy elements, and they’re presented here with a great visual style.

Graphics Rating: Very Good

Sound
Aside from some basic battle sounds, and an over-the-top announcer (Who I actually love, if only for the fact that it took me back to my Mortal Kombat 3 days.) I wasn’t expecting much for the assorted sounds in this game, but they’re actually pretty decent.

The Rook, a giant walking castle, has some great sounds when he moves, and the other demigods have other decent battle sounds. It goes along well with what’s on the screen. Some of the music is very forgettable, but every once in awhile I found myself really getting into it. At one point, I was screwing around just to hear the music and then realized that this version came with the soundtrack and popped that in. There are several tracks a few of my friends would consider throw-aways; ambient background music that doesn’t really catch your ear but is good for that background buzz.

Then there are the other tracks that got me hyped or gave me that ethereal feel. At first, I could have sworn the score was done up by Bear McCreary, the excellent composer that handled the music from the new Battlestar Galactica series. But it’s not. It’s Howard Mostrom, who I can honestly say I hadn’t heard music from before I played this game. Now I hope to hear more from him in the future. Epic stuff.

Sound Rating: Very Good

03_the_rook_in_actionControl and Gameplay
The controls in this game are very, very simple. Simple but effective. 95% of the game you will just use the mouse and point and click where you want your demigod to go, attack, etc. The other 5% of the time you’re using some keys to move the camera around or fire off your special attacks. I like simple. Simple is good. For this game, simple works amazingly well.

Gameplay has some great things going for it. You’re given a choice of eight demigods to play, each with differing abilities, strengths and weaknesses. One of the more unique aspects of this is that some are grouped as assassins and work alone, and the other group are generals who work more with minions in the game. You walk around with these demigods engaging in combat with minions or other demigods, taking flags that are worth experience or gold, and assaulting the enemy strongholds and defenses. You gain experience through all of this and can build up your demigod as you level, picking various enhancements to yourself as you go. So you can really build your character up the same way every time, or you can customize it a bit more for who you’re playing against as you level.

The gold you gain in the game can be used to buy things for yourself, such as potions or other add-ons like artifacts. You can also dump it into your fortress to pay for upgrades to your units and defense. Again, this goes with your preferred play style. If your group is already dumping a ton of gold into the fortress , then you have more for yourself.

One of the bigger options that affects how your game plays out is the mode you’re playing in. There are four of these: conquest, dominate, slaughter, and fortress. Conquest can generally take the longest as the objective is to destroy the enemy’s Citadel on the map. Depending how well they’ve fortified their base while you were trying to get across the map, this can get to be pretty difficult. Dominate gives you points by controlling the flags on the map. It defaults to 10,000, but it can be customized. Slaughter is what it sounds like. You have to kill so many of the demigods to win. Fortress is a bit different. Instead of taking the enemy Citadel, there are several fortresses scattered in strategic points around the map and you have to destroy the enemies’ to win.

With so many options, each of which are distinct from one another, there is a ton of content to play and master here. Even if you’re not really a master of the game, the multi-player takes that into account and keeps you paired up with people who are roughly the same skill level.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic

04_camera_outReplayability
The name of this game could be replayability. You’ve got achievements, eight different demigods to master, the ability to build each one up differently each time, various maps and several play options. There is a lot of replayability packed into this game. This is especially true for the OCD freaks like Robert Capra and myself who like to try for just about everything in a game. Some of the achievements may take awhile, and building up favor points for those artifacts. The best part about it is that it doesn’t feel tacked on to make you play longer. You get to keep all the artifacts you unlock, from single player to multi-player, which is entirely too awesome.

Just by changing up the options on the game, the AI, the mode you’re playing in on a given arena, or who you’re playing against in single player, really keeps the game from feeling stale.

Replayability Rating: Classic

Balance
This game is one of the most balanced titles I’ve played in quite some time. The learning curve is pretty good, and you can jump right into multi-player without being stomped on by totally experienced players looking to own a newb. Even when you’re playing single player and dropping in your AI team-mates or opponents, you’re not too outclassed. They’ve done an outstanding job with the AI controlled opponents and options. Easy gets you weaker opponents with less gold and hit points, on normal you’re more or less on equal footing, with hard you’re on totally equal footing, and with nightmare you’re definitely playing the underdog.

Adding to both a great AI and online balance, is that the game looks and plays like one of those $60 titles out there, only without the bugs. The regular version goes for around $40 and the collector’s edition is about $50. I have to say the pricing on this is fantastic and well worth it. You’re not getting just one little trinket for the collector’s edition. Even if you’re not into extras or swag, the regular version is more than fairly priced.

Balance Rating: Incredible

05_conquestOriginality
I’ve played a ton of RTS and turn-based games, and this has some elements from others, including the affore-mentioned mod. However, rather than play like that mod, this game has taken a bunch of the great ideas from other games and run with them to create something unique and new. The only real thing in common with Demigod and Defense of the Ancients are the characters you can build up. Everything else about it runs and behaves differently.

There’s a bit of tower defense, some role-playing elements, strategy behind your movement and building choices and then to top it off it has a new way to connect with other people playing multi-player that won’t leave you as a smoking crater the first few times you play.

Originality Rating: Good

Addictiveness
Some games I’ve had to review and played in the past, especially RTS games, turn into a click-fest over who can get their stuff on the field first as opposed to any real strategy. I’m one of those people that bores easily and looks to the next big thing to keep him entertained. I recieved a brand new PS3 a day or two before I got this game, and to be honest, I haven’t turned that thing on maybe once to play. Why, may you ask?

I was busy playing this game.

Oh yeah. Usually I can’t stand RTS even with the role-play elements. They tend to drive me nuts. I’m not always fastest on the draw and tend to get my butt handed to me. This game is different though. It’s got elements of RTS, and there’s a bunch to keep track of, but other than leveling or buying new gear, this game keeps you more interested with where you are and what’s going on. It kept my interest for hours on end. Even my wife couldn’t believe it as I usually have to take a break. Very few games suck me in for long stretches, and this one does beautifully.

Addictiveness Rating: Incredible

06_fortressAppeal Factor
A gorgeous game with some moderate hardware requirements, a balanced multi-player system, and a nicely executed mash of RTS, tower defense and RPG elements make this one I’d recommend to just about anyone. It’s not the most expensive game in town, and it is going to have some regular updates over the next year (balancing if needed and more demigods to mess with) and a really well done single player that runs just like you’re playing against people depending on how you set it up. This game has a lot going for it. I think most people will overlook it though, just because of the mod comparison which I think really doesn’t apply.

Appeal Factor Rating: Good

Miscellaneous
Let’s talk bugs, which is usually what I do in this section. I didn’t have one. There were no crashes to desktop, no graphics glitches, nothing. My only game-related thing I have to complain about is that sometimes it takes it awhile to connect me to someone else playing online. Depending on the time of day, it can drag on forever.

Updates are coming. There’s already one patch out there and there is more free content coming. This will probably in the form of more demigods, and from the literature I’ve recieved with the review copy, more tournament options. Sounds great to me. I like free.

Last but not least, there is the swag you get in the collector’s edition. In this wonderful box, you get the soundtrack to the game (which is mostly awesome), a nice large (albeit folded) poster of The Rook (my favorite of the demigods), and a pewter figurine (mine was of The Rook I’m not sure if there are others) that is really well done. Not bad for an extra ten bucks really. This is better than some of the other collector’s editions out there where you get a ruler or something equally ridiculous.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story/Mode: Great
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Incredible
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Incredible
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Gaming Rexes are sad! Demigod is an amazing looking RTS that breaks new ground with some RPG and tower defense elements that is easy to learn for people new to the genre. It has enough complexity to it that the hardcore RTS fans will enjoy it too. Although this game may get overlooked due to unfair comparisons with Defense of the Ancients, I am going to be recommending all year long to anyone with a PC that can run it. It has a 50 ft. Man Castle, complete with archers, a magical tower, and a trebuchet that you can play. How can you beat that?

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