The Dark Eye: Demonicon Review

16 Nov 2013
Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Kalypso Media
Developer:Noumena Studios
Release Date:2013-10-25
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Introduction

The Dark Eye: Demonicon is an action RPG from Noumena Productions, a developer that had previously focused on iOS games.  As its name suggests, Demonicon takes place in the universe of the Dark Eye, which was also the setting for the Realms of Arkania trilogy and the Drakensang games (plus a couple of adventure games recently).  If you've never played a Dark Eye game before, then you don't have to worry.  It's a standard fantasy setting (at least so far as I've seen), where dwarves sound like they're from Scotland, female characters wear as little clothing as possible, and uncountable monsters try to kill you, and so if you're familiar with RPGs then you should be right at home.

Story

Demonicon takes place in and around the city of Warunk, which is one of the few bastions of safety in the demon-infested Shadowlands.  You play a young man named Cairon, and you've just come to the city along with your sister and father.  Since you're considered refugees by the local authorities, your father comes up with a scheme to marry off your sister to a city official, which will net you citizenship and get you out of the disease-ridden slums district, where refugees are forced to stay.

Of course, your father is hiding some things from you.  Not only is your sister not really your sister (which is a good thing considering that the game forces you to be in love with her), but your father has a dark past that's about to catch up with him, and which will quickly thrust you into a dangerous journey where you'll have to deal with demons and demon worshipers, not to mention bandits, zombies and spiders, oh my.

The story works pretty well.  It's mostly about you and your family (or "family" depending on your perspective), which gives you plenty of motivation to take part, and it also includes some twists and turns to keep things interesting.  Unfortunately, the writing isn't compelling.  I'm not sure if this is a translation issue, but the characters in the game have zero personality -- even the villains are kind of dull -- and so listening to their dialogue has all of the excitement of reading encyclopedia entries.  But if you wade through the codex entries and conversations, then there are enough layers to keep you wondering what's going on, and to drive you forward through the game.

Characters

When you start a new game, the only thing you have to do decide is which difficulty setting you're going to use, from easy to hard (with nether hellish becoming available once you've beaten hard).  That's because your character is always male and always named Cairon, and the game uses a classless system, where you only improve your attributes, talents, and spells once you start playing.

Each character has eight attributes.  Four of these -- agility, constitution, courage and strength -- are considered combat attributes, and they affect how much damage you do, how often you score critical hits, how much health, endurance (for combat moves), and essence (for spells) you have, and more.  Meanwhile, the other four attributes -- charisma, cleverness, dexterity and intuition -- are considered adventure attributes, and they affect your non-combat talents, including fast talk (for negotiating with people), perception (for discovering hidden objects), and blacksmith (for disarming traps and improving armor).

Characters also have a collection of combat moves and gift spells available to them.  The combat moves are organized in a tree, where you might have to unlock one or more moves in order to get to the one you want to use.  Spells on the other hand are available at once, but they come in a chain of four versions each, where you have to learn the weaker versions of the spell to get to the more powerful versions.  An example combat move is roundhouse, which hits all enemies around you.  An example spell is ice lance, which freezes targets in place.

Interestingly, Demonicon does not use experience points or levels.  Instead, as you defeat groups of enemies or complete quest objectives, you earn adventure points, which you can spend to improve your attributes or talents, or use to purchase new combat moves.  For spells, the game uses gift points, which you earn simply by casting spells during battle.  I like systems like this since they force you to make a lot of decisions as you build up your character, but unfortunately in Demonicon you end up earning so many adventure points and gift points by the end of the game that you can max out almost everything.  That makes your end-game character a little boring, and it also hurts the replay value of the game.

 
 

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