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Review: Demigod

John Funk | 14 May 2009 13:00
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It's all too easy to imagine how the team at Gas Powered Games got the idea for Demigod. I can just envision one of the developers sitting at work, playing the popular Warcraft III custom map Defense of the Ancients (aka DotA), and thinking to himself: "Boy, this is really fun. You know what? Someone should make a full game out of this!"

And so they did.

Having played the hell out of DotA back in the day, I was half-tempted to write a review of Demigod that was essentially just comparing the two games - and really, to a point, comparisons are unavoidable given how similar DotA and Demigod are. But, while Demigod doesn't pretend to be anything other than, er, heavily inspired by DotA, the game does enough to stand on its own merits.

The premise of the game is this: One of the gods has died, or been exiled, or something like that - whatever the nitty-gritty, they're no longer around. To fill the void left by their absence, the other gods decide to hold a tournament between the god's children to see who would be the worthiest to ascend. Carnage ensues.

Demigod is a strange yet compelling hybrid of genres. The game looks and controls like an RTS - click, drag and drop to select, click to move and attack with an isometric, top-down camera. But the game plays like an action game - using well-timed items and skills to get the upper hand on your foes, and you'll never control more than one unit (with maybe a handful of little bodyguards) at any one time. Finally, your character levels up and purchases equipment and new skills like in an RPG. It might sound like a bizarre hybrid, but it's also a tried-and-true formula.

It's a team-based game, too: You choose your hero (from one of eight Demigods currently available), and fight on either the forces of Light or Darkness. Both sides will spawn constant waves of minor computer-controlled troops that clash midfield, and players must battle their hero through the enemy troops, defense structures, and - of course - enemy Demigods in order to win the day for their team.

Players will gradually earn gold over time that can be spent on items for their character - equipment for more health, armor and mana, potions and power scrolls, and so on - but Demigod offers an interesting twist. Not only can players spend their cash on upgrading their hero, but they can also pay money to upgrade their team. Buildings will have more health, defenses will do more damage, your troop waves will include extra healers - there's even upgrades that increase the gradual cash flow for your team, or boost the experience earned by allied Demigods. It's a really cool idea that, in a heated multiplayer match, forces players to make a choice. Sure, you could buy that new breastplate and boost your survivability ... but the other team just added healers to their troop waves, and you don't have any yet.

Another nifty spin on the concept is the flag system. There are flags scattered across the maps that give bonuses to the team that controls them, like 15% more mana or experience, or making your skill cooldowns shorter. Some even give your team access to powerful shops, or control portals that summon an extra wave of reinforcements. Controlling these key points is crucial to victory, and gives Demigod a slightly more strategic bent than just "kill everyone on the other team!" These two twists on the good ol' formula really make the game's multiplayer feel like more of a team effort, with everybody contributing to an overall goal, instead of just going it alone and trying not to drag the team down with you if you suck.

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