Going into Demonicon with a sense of curiosity and eagerness, something in the back of my mind kept telling me this was just another hack and slash with failed RPG mechanics. How wrong was I? Right from the start of the game you’re immediately hit with an opening scene providing background information and story points, to the game’s universe. Not long after you’re thrown directly into gameplay continuing on from the game’s initial introduction. It was right there and then how much I realised that this was going to be a game with an enormous focus on giving the player a deep and well invested story.
After being promised a marriage to the Lok of Duke in order to secure peace across the lands, Cairon discovers his sister Calandra has gone disappearing in a cave, and presumes it to be an escape route out of the fear of marriage. However this is far from the case, as Calandra’s real reason for leaving is in the hunt for a cannibalistic monster that has been terrorizing a village.
Little to their knowledge the real threat is the resurrection of a great and ancient evil as seen in the game introduction,that’s set about bringing darkness and chaos to the entire world. Demonicon is a dark world with an incredibly grim and moody atmosphere. This is present within all the game’s content with everything from the in-game music and combat, to the visuals and the lack of hope that’s heard in the character dialogue.
Playing as Cairon with Calandra being alongside you for the majority of the game. Her presence provides the character with a feeling of progression aswell as being motivated to press onwards. Unlike the majority of games where a female companion is nothing more than an escort mission, or an object of protection, Cairon’s relationship and interaction towards his sister is more in-depth as opposed to how most games treat women. Being just as skilled as Cairon when taking part in combat not to mention more outspoken and visually dangerous.
Calandra’s aggressive outlook coupled with the caring nature she has for her brother adds depth, emotion, and a real sense of humanity to the game. Cairon’s mentality is mostly neutral to his sister but as Demonicon is a decision-based game your personality is largely reflected through Cairon. Depending on how you choose to interact with the other characters of the world will have a visual impact seen through their reactions and hand drawn animated cut-scenes. The game wants to make you aware of the consequences of your actions and the method in which it chooses to do so is effective.
The conversation topics that take place within the cut-scenes and the scroll-wheel choices are something of a controversial nature. The discussion of Calandra’s marriage for instance, along with her deep and repressed feelings that she has for her brother, is something which the game is not afraid to present. It’s this kind of deep and direct form of storytelling that although some may find repelling, is actually quite genius in the way that the game deals with it.
Alot of games in the past few years have been venturing into controversial topics. Be they racism or feminism, the story-telling used to back them up is something that gives these games a great deal of weight to stand on. It’s also what has made them quite memorable and a step in the right direction, regardless of what genre the game is coming from.
The game’s visuals aren’t any of the sort that will break boundaries or catch your immediate eye, but it does show-off some fairly rich textures within its levels and environmental assets. The detail within the game’s levels such as the skeleton littered walls and smoke simulation within its swamps and caves, demonstrate the effort taken to fully immerse you within its world. Demonicon’s visual style manages to nail medieval fantasy in an authentic and accurate way, and it’s this attention to detail that makes the game stand out to you once you’ve spent a fair amount of time within its world.
Despite the game’s overall dark setting there are some finer parts to the world. The peaceful music of these more tranquil and pleasant surroundings add a certain level of harmony to the madness of its world. It lessens the overall feeling of everything being doomed and falling into darkness, and delivers a sense of hope.Th e darker moments of the game such as battling the undead and other supernatural creatures, are also complimented by the appropriate music that it adds to its tortured backgrounds. The use of sound within this game is very effective in that it gives the right level of immersion towards the player.
Exploration is something of a semi-open world, meaning it works in sectioned of sand boxes. As you explore you’ll find more things will become available for you to take advantage of. Side quests that feel like they’re part of the main game bring enjoyment, and market stalls and traders help to advance your ranking and stats.
The game leaves the outcome of character dialogue and character interactions up to the player. The Mass Effect like scroll wheel that gives you the option to control the outcome of certain events effects the characters attitudes towards each other. This gives the game some depth to it and requires you to think before proceeding. Some choices require you to have a certain rank before being able to make it. Without this added touch of choice I feel the game would have weakened and taken away one of the things that gives it importance and strength.
Combat works in a slow-paced hack ‘n’ slash method that required precise attacking and dodging. Your main arsenal consist of swords, clubs, and axes, with plenty more to unlock. You’re also equipped with magic attacks that provide different strategies and options for battles. A comprehensive crafting system allows for creation of potions, poisoned blades and enchanted armour. It’s once you start levelling up and creating your own alchemy and customising Cairon to your own liking, that the game really starts to get exciting.
Assigning your own spells to your own button arrangement is satisfying, when you find yourself engaged in combat. As you fight with the undead, necromancers and the like, you earn magic essence from dealing damage. This is what allows you to wield your magic but the option to buy and scavenge items allows different character traits to kick in, such as faster healing and restoration.The game also gives the player the option to upgrade character abilities through the use of item looting and experience gained in battle.
Things such as magic, damage points, clothing, and character endurance can all be upgraded to improve your chance in battle. Although the game offers you these choices constant levelling up and making sure you’re making the most out of your ranking and character progression isn’t necessary. You can always beast your way through enemy encounters and upgrade your skills now and then.
With that being said the game doesn’t do well to explain itself in using skill points, and there’s no tutorial to these fairly detailed menus. It’s upto the player to spend time here and figure things out for themselves. Some may naturally adjust to this independent form of navigation and some may find it tedious. It’s really down to preference and your own self patience in learning how these things work. Because of the enjoyment of combat and the game’s deep storyline this little flaw doesn’t discourage you from continuing on with the game. You’ll find that the more time you invest into the game the easier things will become to understand.
While the game gives a sense of life within its environments thanks to the decent number of NPC’s populating the streets and such, their non-interactive nature makes you feel like a ghost in their presence. This is a real shame because the detailed environments and atmospheric sound effects breathe life into its apparent busy world.
Rats run the dying streets, civilians moan, pots of food brew and boil, and posters hang the streets. The inability to communicate with anyone in this world outside of the game’s main characters inevitably tell you for what it appears to be, which is dead. Despite their stiff animations and lack of depth within their facial expressions, characters involved in the main story have plenty of personality and it’s their attitudes that drive the story forward and keep you engaged.
In earlier section of the game I did run into some collision problems when moving through the environment. Not being able to walk over small cracks or stones or drop down from minor ledges become a common nuisance. This makes the game feel slightly unfinished and could do with a quick polish. It’s not a game breaking bug but knowing in advance to swerve to the left. Because you’re already aware that your character won’t be able to traverse something is an annoyance.
Regardless if you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse or a controller, the game suits well to both methods of play. With the option to remap your keys and the controller friendly form of menu navigation, scrolling and flicking through different options is a breeze. Because of the game’s emphasis on upgrading and its crafting system, PC gamers will most likely feel more adapt to the traditional method rather than siding with a controller. Force of habit but it’s optional.
Overall, The Dark Eye: Demonicon is a game of choice, consequence, and emotional attachment all wrapped up in a blanket of darkness, violence and grim. Invest your time and money into it but only if you are a big fan of the genre.
This game was reviewed on the PC.