At this year's GDC, Kalypso Media showed us its multiplatform action-RPG, The Dark Eye: Demonicon, an action-RPG set for release this fall on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. On the surface, it might seem like "Yet Another Third-Person Action Game," but by hitching the title to a known (in Europe, at least) RPG license, the publisher is hoping that the game's story will make it much more.
The Dark Eye: Demonicon is based in the Shadowlands in the world of Aventuria, which are both elements from the lore of the tabletop RPG, The Dark Eye. By using this lore, the developer (Noumena Studios) and Kalypso are hoping to bring more depth to the game and immerse players in its dark world, where, as we were told, "Nothing is black nor white; it's all varying shades of gray."
The world of Aventuria has been demolished by a war of magic between demons and humans. In the end, there's not much left beyond the city of Warunk in the Shadowlands, where your character starts his adventure. You play as Cairon, a brash man who has entered the city with his sister and father. Pretty soon, things go south, as your sister, who was promised to a local Duke, disappeared. Your adventures begin as you explore the first "dungeon" to save your sister.
As you play, the story continues to unfold as your family struggles to survive, and you are forced to complete various quests throughout the Shadowlands. The story utilizes cut scenes and dialogue trees, with no dialogue choice being absolutely good or absolutely evil. You're not looking to become the next hero of the Shadowlands; you're just trying to keep your family alive.
We were told that this story will be core to the game, but what we saw was a limited early demo, so only time will tell.
For fans of the action component of the action-RPG genre, all the elements seem to come together in Demonicon. There's a standard melee combo system that builds up more power and flashier moves as you deliver more hits to your unfortunate foes, combined with a magic system that uses the four elements to boost your combat powers. None of it is new or unique, but it all seems to work together well enough to create some interesting and eye-catching combat.
While Demonicon is not meant to be an exhaustive re-creation of the tabletop RPG, it has a pretty substantial skill tree devoted to developing your adventuring, combat, magical and physical skills. Rather than play the game in a traditional RPG party, the skill tree makes it so you, as Cairon, can access a variety of skills that affect gameplay — right down to being charismatic enough to talk monsters out of eating the locals.
If the visuals are any indication, we were definitely being shown an early build, as collision detection, shading, texturing, and other visual effects seemed very incomplete. We were told this is all being worked on, so we'll just have to take the developer's word for it. Right now, you can see what they're going for stylistically; it just needs a good bit of polish.
Aiming for a fall 2013 release puts Demonicon square in the sights of the next-gen console releases, though it's planned to launch on the current gen. With that in mind, it will probably be a last gasp for the genre on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but it may be worth checking out before you upgrade to new hardware.
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