Sure it's fun to play god, but what happens when a bunch of other gods are out to get you? Gas Powered Games lets you find out for yourself in Demigod, a hybrid of role-playing and strategy.
Some might complain that there's not much of a story to speak of, but with this type of game it's not really needed. Demigod is hard to pin down. It clearly draws its inspiration from Defense of the Ancients, a popular mod for WarCraft III, but it's definitely not a rip-off.
Players take control of one of eight Demigods and battle it out in one of eight beautifully rendered combat arenas. As the battle progresses, two teams of up to five Demigods per side attempt to infiltrate enemy territory and eventually take down the opposing side's citadel, which is the source of their power.
Each arena is filled with special territories which can be claimed for gameplay bonuses, and massive defensive structures which need to be destroyed in order to progress. There are also two other gameplay modes where you must hold certain parts of the map or kill as many enemy demigods as possible.
Demigod includes a single-player tournament mode where you play through a series of battles using the same character each time. There's also a full-featured skirmish mode, but the real action is online where two teams of up to five players square off in arena-style combat. There's also an online tournament mode called pantheon that tracks how well you and your side are doing over a series of battles.
No matter what mode you play, the gods aren't the only ones in the arena. Each team continually spawns groups of reinforcements--smaller, less powerful units that wage an attack on enemy creatures and fortifications. It requires a combination of reinforcements and powerful Demigod abilities to bring down the enemy. In this way, Demigod feels like a simple real-time strategy game with very limited unit control.
But there is more going on here. As you fight, your demigod gains experience levels that can be used to purchase additional skills and abilities from a skill tree. Each demigod possesses unique traits which can be used to compliment your teammates or directly hinder your enemies.
Gold, gained through territory ownership and battle, is used to purchase items and equipment which, given enough time and money, can make your demigod incredibly powerful. Players can also spend their gold purchasing special upgrades for their citadel which, when used wisely, can turn the tide of battle. So in this way, Demigod feels a lot like an RPG.
Unless you're already familiar with games like Defense of the Ancients, your first impression of Demigod will likely be one of frustration or confusion. Although on the surface it looks a lot like a real-time strategy game, it really doesn't play like one. The game also lacks a tutorial, which doesn't help matters. The instruction manual does include a guide to get you up and running with the basics, but it lacks sufficient detail on much of what the game has to offer.
However, once you have a match or two under your belt, Demigod comes across as a game that's very easy to pick up, but hard to master. The basics of how you control your characters, buy and use items and skills, and how you go about actually winning a game are simple. So simple, in fact, that you might think that there's not a lot of depth to Demigod. But there's a lot of interplay here between the individual powers each character may possess, the kinds of items and equipment you can use, and the way in which you upgrade your citadel. And that makes it very hard to come up with some kind of perfect build. There are just too many ways for a clever opponent to counter.
Take Rook for example. He's the big walking castle guy. He's slow and appears to be geared towards taking out enemy defenses. Against faster and more aggressive demigods, Rook would appear outmatched. But Rook can also focus on building additional structures on his body which are able to auto-target and attack multiple enemies. Compliment this with speed enhancing items and additional armor and suddenly you've got a Rook build that works as well as an assault class character. Each of Demigod's eight characters are multifaceted in this way.
So in the end, it comes down to adapting your build strategies on the fly based on what the enemy is doing and understanding how some seemingly weak powers can be devastating in the right situation. Add in a bunch of other players trying to do the same thing and you're in for one gloriously messy battle.
Unfortunately, there are still some problems getting connected to multiplayer games. Within the last week, things have improved dramatically and we're able to connect to games with greater ease, but it can still be spotty on occasion.
The graphics in Demigod are a real feast for the eyes, but at the same time, limited. Zoom in close and you witness each character slugging it out, unleashing a fury of magical attacks, or crumbling to dust under a well-placed shot from a rival. Zoom all the way out and you'll realize that the engine isn't exactly pushing a ton of geometry. Even the larger ones like "The Brothers" or "Exile" are exponentially smaller than levels from most games in the genre. Yet they're both simultaneously sinister and beautiful.
The soundtrack is a high point. The thunderously orchestral music perfectly compliments the ongoing tug-of-war-style gameplay. Demigod is good enough to work without all the window dressing, but we are certainly glad it's there.
Despite some of the multiplayer technical issues that are still ongoing, Demigod is an absolute blast to play. Anyone complaining about the lack of a single-player campaign is clearly missing the point. Demigod is a competitive strategy game through and through. It's a solid design that holds up well after numerous matches, and the more you play, the more you discover that the waters in Demigod run very deep. Yet, DOTA vets will find it mysteriously similar, and the lack of tutorials or documentation will keep many players from plumbing its depths.