Demigod's Lead Designer John Conies, knows how to make a first impression: "You're one of the bastard children of a god that's no longer there.'' Conies wasn't questioning my parentage (although I am now), but giving me the lowdown on the game that has wrongly been described as "Chris Taylor's genre-smashing RTS." Taylor may be the main man at Gas Powered Games but as seven-year RTS veteran Comes clarified, "Chris has actually given me almost complete creative control over this. He likens it to when he was at Cavedog and given complete creative control to do Total Annihilation. Now lie's giving that back by giving me the opportunity to build this game. It's actually really cool, it's been a real pleasure to build my own game with his support."
The game revolves around a storyline that can politely be described as poppycock. An opening has become available in the Pantheon of the Gods, and as a demigod you're fighting to ascend to the position of a full god, despite being the bastard described in the opening sentence.
Built on top of the Supreme Commander engine, Demigod is something of a mishmash of genres, or as Comes described it, "a teambased action game with RTS, RPG and fighting game elements. It was inspired from team-based games like Team Fortress and Battlefield, and there's also a Warcraft Ill mod called Defence of the Ancients that heavily inspired it."
To put it more bluntly, Demigod involves great big fighting machines and their armies kicking the shit out of each other in a series of preposterous locations.
"Everyone's done Tolkienesque fantasy," explained Comes. "We wanted to do something different so we're doing fantasy-tech. We've kind of taken the fantasy world through 3,000 years. It looks tech, but because this world is 3,000 years in the future of fantasy it has empires that have come and gone, and it's ancient ruins built on top of ancient ruins built on top of ancient ruins. And all these spires to the gods."
The maps he showed largely lived up to their description, with one battle taking place on an oversized Mayan sundial hanging inside a superstructure in the clouds. As Comes said, "You're a demigod: it's got to be something special."
As for the meat and potatoes of the combat, it can involve one-to-one up to five-on-five scraps, with a territorial battle taking place over a symmetrical map as each demigod attempts to destroy the others' key buildings. Making kills earns you experience and money which enables you to buy equipment, hence the alleged RPG element. Thankfully, you won't have to spend hours levelling up, as you'll go from zero to hero over the course of a bite-sized battle.
"We've streamlined a lot of the aspects of hardcore RTS games to make it more action-y," said Comes. "So you're not spending time calculating your exact ratios and deciding when to build and where to build stuff. The game's over in 20 minutes so you don't want to spend a whole lot of time doing that"
Balls Of Fire
This sounds like aless hardcore experience than Supreme Commander but Comes, "there are some hardcore' elements where you can micromanage what your stats are, as .veil as what items you buy and in what order to get the most out of them. But a casual player could jump in and have a good time because there's guys being thrown up in the air, fireballs being thrown around and it looks great." While it's hard to gauge exactly how great Demigod looks on a laptop in a prefabricated box of air, there's a reason for our spartan surroundings: Gas Powered Games are publishing Demigod themselves.
"Because we're self-publishing, the amount of resources and budget we get fluctuates," said Conies. "So we've designed a game that's completely scaleable. So if somebody comes up and says 'Here's two big bags of money, and we want 20 demigods and 50 maps,' I'll lie, like, OK. Right now we're aiming for 10 maps, but it's in flux, as is the number of demigods." You'll be able to know the exact number - and indeed how god-like the game is - this autumn You godless bastards.
Assassins vs Generals
What kind of demigod are you?
Are you a loner, or do you run with the crowd? Do you prefer giving the orders, or looking after yourself? Demigod, unfeasibly, may provide the answers by featuring two distinct types of subdeity: Assassins and Generals. The former acts alone, spending his time casting spells and managing his individual abilities. Conversely, Generals have only passive skills, concentrating on building factories and armies. This is a rift that looks set to divide the world of PC gaming.
"People are very polarised. I have guys at work saying cut all the Generals because they're stupid, nobody'll play them," said Comes. "Then I have other guys saying why do we even have Assassins? Who wants to play with just one unit The argument looks set to rage...
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Here Are Few games officially endorsed by a Swedish pop star, but eagle-eyed fans out there may know that Basshunter wrote an entire song about playing Demigod. Well not this Demigod, but its father, the map/mod for Warcraft III Defence of the Ancients. In much the same way as DOTA, Demigod has you take control of a central hero (in this case a demigod) to do battle with the other demigods to seize control of the pantheon and take the place of the Allfather, who just died.
Sadly, that sentence of storyline came solely from the website, and Demigod itself is almost totally bereft of story or lore. This is even more disappointing when you take a look at some of the cooler characters - like The Rook, a gigantic walking castle with a hammer - and wonder where they came from. I hate to set the tone for Demigod so negatively, but it lacks a satisfying core -what you see, is what you get.
The demigod that you choose is tied to a specific (and generic) path. They range from the aforementioned Rook - a heavily armoured and deadly, but understandably slow melee diety - and others, like the Oak who can protect allies and raise dead units as spirits.
Each game is centred around a map with several different flags that must be held by your forces. As you fight through them you gain gold and experience, the latter of which can be spent in a Diablo-style skill tree, levelling up skills over the course of the map. Experience is earned by completing objectives which involve either killing rival demigods and their minions, destroying buildings, or capturing flags.
The crux is that you only control your demigod, and the Al-controlled minions spill forth from portals that are part of the map's objectives. Control these portals and you can effectively overwhelm the enemy, which is particularly good for winning fortress games. However, if you control a lot of gold mines, you can equip the demigods on your side with power artifacts that, by and large, give rather unfair advantages if used correctly. You can even control points that give large boons to your experience, which in part makes the game a great deal more exciting.
You see, one of the largest problems with Demigod is the pacing. The first five or so minutes of any match starting characters at level 1 are the dullest in gaming history. Until you reach level 10, your character isn't much more complex than Red Alerts Tanya. Past that, games become less about tactics and more about button-mashing abilities, a kind of low-fi version of World of Warcrafts PvP. While there's room for tactical play (for example, the Unclean Beast can blow up several minions at once, causing massive damage at later levels) too much of the game is either a giant bundle or trying to walk towards a giant bundle.
This counts for both online and the God-awful single-player campaign which is nothing but a selection of skirmish maps and a so-called tournament, which is just a series of skirmish maps in a row. Even once you become adept at the game, bad players on either side can make any match a bore. Too hard, and you'll find yourself steam-rolled in a maelstrom of clipped NPCs and spells, too easy and your game's over before you can pass level 8.
It's Not Tetley
This is where a core to the game would have helped. The big selling point has been The Pantheon - a "persistent online world" which boils down to playing the same maps again and again to gain favour points. These points carry over between games, and you can use them for somewhat dull and ineffectual rewards. The light or the darkness can win, and that's about it. There's no goal, no point, no story, no real thrust to keep going once you've exhausted all of the maps. They're not even big enough to have any real complexity, and by the time you round out your character through levelling, the game tends to be over.
This isn't to say Demigod is bad. It's a functional, relatively enjoyable RTS-RPG game, with a few hours of fun to squeeze out of it if you're willing to pass the growing pains. It's more akin to getting home to a lukewarm bath and the end of a pot of tea rather than an immensely satisfying conclusion. Those who enjoyed DOTA will like the graphical upgrades and some WOW PvPers may like that they have little or no control over the battle.
For the rest of us, there's at most a few hours of fun to be had before you get worn down by the endless monotony. Demigod needed more maps, an actual single-player campaign, and a greater degree of character persistence to even compete with any of the other online RTS games out there.
The differences between the Pantheon's avatars
While all the demigods are warriors they're split between Assassins, solo fighters who wade into the melee, and Generals who use troops or magic to attack while staying out of the fray. The Rook, an Assassin, summons groups of archers onto his mighty shoulders and has a big hammer, while the Queen of Thorns orders plant creatures to tear you apart. Meanwhile, Lord Erebus leaches life and causing damage from afar, and the Unclean Beast stuns, paralyzes and saps the life of any humanoid, up close, and has a primary attack that causes a staggering amount of damage. But without reliable people backing you, these intricacies are lost as you're run over by a rush of four other demigods.