Over the last ten years, RPG elements have invaded every facet of video gaming; from the more refined, focused examples of fantasy and sci-fi RPG’s, to just throwing rampant progression into first-person shooters. This idea of playing and improving your characters based on your own choices, to your own specification has always been popular, and is a direct evolution from the tabletop role-playing games of Lore. Whilst in English-speaking regions the main market leader of such games has always been Dungeons and Dragons, in other countries there are big competitors.
“An action RPG published by Kalypso Media”
In Germany, this more popular alternative is The Dark Eye, and just like D&D the game has spawned a variety of digital spin-offs.
Demonicon is the latest title in said franchise, an action RPG published by Kalypso Media. Can it stand strong against similar titles spawned by the advent of the Digital RPG?
You start the game as Cairon, a young man travelling with his father and sister as they flee from the demonic Borbaradians. Following a relatively long intro cinematic, you’re thrown into a dark cave on a mission to retrieve your sister, on the run from an arranged marriage.
“Relatively long intro cinematic”
Whilst the intro sequence is nicely crafted, it isn’t exactly easy to understand for newbies to The Dark Eye. As someone who knew nothing of the lore beforehand, I gathered that many years before, someone (the Borbaradians) sacrificed a load of babies in order to summon demons and undead hordes, which then proceeded to rage across the land causing death and destruction.
Now, whilst this admittedly generic fantasy setting develops throughout the experience, it would have been useful to really understand the initial setting. Understanding seems to be assumed. However, taking it on face value is relatively easy, and so it doesn’t suffer too much for it.
Like in most RP systems, actual gameplay shuffles between two key aspects; talking and fighting. Conversation is done through an all-too-familiar wheel interface, in which you select topics and responses. This seems to borrow heavily from Bioware’s successful series’, Mass Effect and Dragon Age, in terms of its execution. Whilst mechanically sound, its suffers due to its scripting, which pales in comparison to the formerly described, and the conversations, whilst voiced nicely, mostly seem to go back to a single path regardless of which “choices” you make. Personally I’d prefer to either have actual choices, or linearity, rather than having the illusion of choice.
“The illusion of choice.”
However, when choice is more than just an illusion, it’s surprisingly well done. Rather than the black and white choices found in most similar titles, things are refreshingly a much more smudged shade of grey.
The second aspect, the combat, is arguably average. With a standard hack and slash system and a few spells thrown into the mix, it feels clunky at times and is nothing to really be shouted about. There are a couple of different weapon types, but these are mainly arbitrary. On the bright side, hits feel pretty considerable and satisfying, but despite having decent enemy variety it never gives you that strong feeling of power.
With The Dark Eye’s license comes its Roleplaying system, and what a system it is. You progress through earning levels and AP points, which are distributed throughout a variety of different stats, talents and abilities, from your strength and HP to your ability to disarm and spot traps. Now, the problem with this is that it’s difficult to decide how to allocate them. Like anyone who has ever visited a gastro-pub could testify, too much choice can be a massive burden, especially when each choice is so crucial. There never seems to be enough points in this respect, and when this is combined with a variety of intractable objects requiring the evolution of certain, less useful skills, it can sometimes feel a little frustrating, especially earlier on. The consequences of not levelling things like your trap finding ability can often feel harsh, and in a cheap way, but this is potentially down to the actually RP system rather than Demonicon itself.
“Too much choice can be a massive burden”
The aesthetic design of the game is similar to that of a host of other Fantasy experience. It feels a little raw, yet not wholly unattractive, with some good visual elements to boot. Enemy design is particularly impressive, especially in battles with the larger creatures. A few issues also stem from character design choices which are obviously linked to story arcs later in the plot, including a lovely, over sexualised pair not really befitting one’s sister.
All in all, The Dark Eye: Demonicon isn’t bad, but neither is it particularly good. Whilst it has a lot of promise, it falls flat in comparison to the slew of other dark fantasy experiences. When there are so many great games to play, including Dragon Age, The Witcher, the many Dungeons and Dragons games and so many more it’s incredibly difficult to recommend Demonicon at all. It does everything decently enough, but nothing well enough to stand out, and that’s what makes it average, pure and simple.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.