Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Gas Powered Games
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Release Date: Q3 2008
It seems to be an established notion that all RPGs for the PC must be set in some sort of mirror to J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle-earth. For some reason, magic may only be cast if it's coming from a priest, and arrows can only been loosed from Elven bows. The team at Gas Powered Games aims to change all of that with the release of Demigod, a title that infuses tried-and-true gameplay with some new environmental and design elements.
In the world of Demigod, there is an empty seat at the pantheon of gods and you, as the half-breed child of the gods, must fight and claim your rightful place on the throne. From the outset, you will select a specific demigod with his or her own special abilities and units. From towering monoliths to undead warlords, each hero unit presents a unique gameplay experience. One of my personal favorites is The Rook, a massive, living castle complete with trebuchet and archer towers.
As players progress through a level, they can pour skill points into either Assassin or General attributes. Assassins possess direct combat abilities, and when fully leveled, they act as a sort of one-man army by soaking up damage and dishing it back out in turn. Generals, on the other hand, all possess passive skills, which grant leadership bonuses and allow them to construct more units without waiting on the portal to spit them out. Both classes are balanced, though, so it's really just up to each player's individual style to choose the battle attributes that best suit them. Furthermore, skill points reset to zero at the end of each level, so if you decide you don't like fighting a certain way, it's no problem, as you can approach things differently the next time.
Of course, even a powerful, near-immortal creature is going to need a little help, and that assistance will come in the form of cleverly designed units. The guys at Gas Powered Games see their character designs as a sort of "future fantasy," where elements of technology interact with the magical arts. So, while you'll still be defending strongholds and flinging rocks, your armies will be emerging through portals, and those rocks will coming flying from the tails of what the developers are currently referring to as "catapaultasauruses." Perhaps one of the best elements of combat is watching a giant trundle into the midst of combat, swing his club, and send a horde of enemy soldiers flying in all directions and off the sides of the map. It's a satisfying experience every time, and watching those helpless little bodies fall off into the great unknown never gets old.
Speaking of maps, some majors kudos go out to the developers for their creations, as they are some of the most original and creative I've seen. While the scale of Demigod is quite massive, the maps themselves are rather small, almost cramped. This is just fine, though, as it leads to constant, fierce combat and makes it easier for players to fulfill their ultimate objective of driving the fight right into the enemy base. Watching the tide of battle ebb and flow is quite fun, and encouraging your units to press the charge and break through the line is an experience. The level designs themselves are quite cool, with battles taking place atop ancient Mayan-esque ruins or in the middle of a precipitously dangling sundial. These unique battlefields lend further credence to Gas Powered Games' firm belief that you don't need forests and mines to serve as RPG backdrops.
Demigod is meant to be a multiplayer experience, with up to 10 players joining in for five-versus-five matchups. All of the maps are scaled to fit the size of the skirmish, so you'll never have to worry about playing a two-on-two match on a five-on-five map. While the game is currently a PC exclusive, the developers have no qualms with a multiplatform release, and the potential for epic matches on Xbox Live is obvious. There are also plans for some sort of single-player campaign, though details are still under wraps. However, the focus of the game — and, by extension, most of the fun — will be found in multiplayer, so there's little reason to play this one by yourself.
As it stands, Demigod is poised to provide enough traditional action/strategy RPG fare for traditionalists, while still offering new concepts and ideas that will help the title stand out in a cluttered market. Also, with plenty of development time left, it's likely that an already impressive game could become a jaw-dropper. The team working on this project has a lot of ambition, but if anyone can deliver on superhuman expectations, it's a Demigod.
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