Summary: With its interesting gameplay Tom finds a lot to like in Gas Powered Games latest RTS, Demigod, but all isn't perfect with this title. Check out this review for all the details!
Gas Powered Games has a decent history of developing RTS games that are huge in both size and scope. Founded by former Cave Dog members, the same team behind the classic Total Annihilation series, Gas Powered Games has since been responsible for both the Dungeon Siege series and 2007ís Supreme Commander. Now Chris Taylor and company have released their latest RTS game, Demigod, which features distinctly different playable characters, a persistent online tournament mode, and takes a few cues from the Defense of the Ancients mod from Warcraft III.
In Demigod, you play the role of one of 8 potential candidates for godhood who are competing in a tournament held by the Ancients to see who will ascend to role of omnipotent being. The story in Demigod is pretty light on material; one of the current gods has committed a sin in way of sharing too much knowledge with a mortal, therefore forfeiting his role in the world. Cast down, and all his worshippers and kin destroyed, the Ancients have begun seeking a new god to fill the hole left behind. As this predates monster.com by a few hundred thousand years, the next logical step is to pit Demigods in a tournament of succession, where the winner will be granted power over men and animals and take their rightful place next to the all powerful Ancients.
The story in Demigod is pretty much an excuse to get these all powerful beings into combat with each other. There are no cutscenes or exposition, other than a small background description for each character in the demigod selection screen. Single player consists of skirmish mode and tournament mode, where you can try to earn enough favor points to gain ascension. Skirmish mode features a huge selection of options for playing a single match and customizing it to your tastes, from starting gold and XP levels, to how quickly NPC units spawn.
The single player campaign is best represented in the tournament mode however, where you pick a Demigod to start with and play through 8 rounds of team-based matches with the ultimate goal of destroying your enemies. As we said previously, thereís no real story progression between rounds and once youíve ascended, youíre only real reward is a final tally count while a narration describes the type of god you will represent. We were kind of hoping for some plotline or development though, as each of the Demigods is interesting in their own right and a proper story mightíve pulled us into the game a little more. But Demigod, for the most part, is almost entirely focused on the multiplayer aspect of the game.
There are 3 different types of multiplayer games users can setup in Demigod: skirmish, pantheon, and custom games. Skirmish mode is similar to the single player variant, where the host can modify a large selection of game options to alter how the match plays out. If you choose, the game will also automatically balance the teams by adding in bots to assist any less-skilled players. It wasnít uncommon for us to play a game with unbalanced teams through our testing; however, we never felt the teams were unbalanced. For the most part, we still had to work hard to achieve victory, whether it was us or the opposing team who had the extra player.
Demigodís matches are played in one of 4 different modes: Slaughter, Fortress, Conquest, and Domination. Each mode is varied and different, and facilitates different play styles depending on the composition of your team. For instance, Slaughter is all about killing the opposing teams Demigods, while Fortress requires you destroy a set number of the enemies predetermined fortresses to succeed. Demigod ships with only 8 maps, all sporting the same flat, 2D plane as the others. While map design is still interesting in some ways, its shame the maps are so two dimensional. They do make up for it a bit in terms of strategic variety, i.e., defensive tower placement and paths you can traverse.
In Dominate games, players must control as many scattered flags around the maps to wear down the opponentsí ticker, similar to games like Battlefield 2. Flags also function as a strategic asset in all game modes, as they usually grant the team that controls them small benefits such as XP bonuses or access to artifact shops.
Conquest mode asks the player to destroy the enemyís citadel, the seat of power for each team. Citadelís are the key to the game, as they are where you access team-based upgrades such as more powerful weapons and armor for your base troops, as well as permanent bonuses to buildings and structures. Upgrades are purchased through gold which is accumulated by killing enemies and holding onto captured flags. Destroying an enemyís citadel in any game will also end the game in victory for the attacking team, so they are critical to defend.
While each Demigod appears to be designed with a certain play style in mind, the ability to level up and select new powers based on the current situation keeps them relevant to ongoing battle. For instance, Oak is a general whose has powers are designed to aid those around him, however he is still a formidable melee fighter who can be upgraded to be stronger against other demigods. We really enjoyed customizing our characters mid-battle to tackle the situation at hand. And since you level fairly frequently, you never feel like you have ďbuyerís remorseĒ on any powers, as each one remains fairly relevant throughout combat.
Demigods for the most part feel pretty well balanced and useful overall. Best of all, there is a Demigod that will suite just about every gamersí particular play style. Whether itís Regulusí ability to pick off enemies from afar with his crossbow or the Rookís power that allows him to pull a defensive tower from the ground, each demigod is unique in their own way. However, they remain customizable to how you want to play thanks to the RPG-based leveling system.
Combat has a nice ebb and flow to it that never gives you the impression you are dominating the other team. Battles also have a really good balance that draws you into the combat, without allowing you much downtime, but is also never exhausting. Combat is exciting and pretty fast paced, but itís never so quick that you feel overwhelmed. Players can quickly and easily identify strategic points that will help their side win, whether itís the additional portal that spawns troops or a strategic capture point and its associated bonuses.
Little touches like this make each character unique and interesting to look out at, although I wonder what OSHA would think of those workers running the trebuchet from the hump of the Rook. Just because they are locked in mortal combat doesnít mean safety canít come first.
Lighting effects are impressive and add a great deal of depth to objects, showing excellent relief amongst the battlegrounds and battle participants.
Audio is pretty good too, as excellent music works well to get the pulse pounding and ready for combat. Sound effects are nice and effectual, whether itís the twang from the firing of a crossbow of thump of a hammer saying hello across an enemy combatants face. Each character displays a lot of personality through excellent voice work. Demigods speak in requisite catch phrases and even makes some pretty humorous pop culture references, such as the Torch Bearer who channels Mr. Freeze ala Batman and Robin.
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