Monday, March 29, 2010

Demigod Impressions

Demigod is an enjoyable arena based RTS combat game but it's unfortunate first impression is somewhat amateurish due to the lack of an in game tutorial. In the user manual they explain this omission by saying:
"Let’s face it, the two most annoying ways to learn how to play a game are the
user manual and an in-game tutorial."
Unfortunately Demigod is sufficiently different from other RTS games that just jumping in isn't going to suffice. You do actually need to read the manual if you want to have any idea what is going on. To be more precise you only really need to read the short "Quick Explanation" on page 16 of the manual but if like me you tend to start a book on page 1 you will have already read most of the manual before you stumble across that vital page of advice.

After having read the aforementioned Quick Advice and subsequently having played through two skirmish battles I can report that Demigod is an Arena based real time combat game where players control Hero characters (Demigods). Typical battles will have several Demigods on each side along with a multitude of lesser reinforcements that are continually spawned from portals scattered across the arena. You cannot actually control these reinforcements, they simply disgorge from the spawn point and head on a suicidal rush towards the nearest enemy position. They start as useless canon fodder but these reinforcements can be upgraded as the game progresses to powerful fortress storming giants.

Although I cannot claim any expertise after two quick skirmishes against computer opponents I did manage to pick up the basics and I certainly developed an appreciation of the tactical depth of the game. Each Demigod gains has access to a rich skills tree as they level up and more general bonuses can be purchased from each teams citadel. You won't be able to unlock everything so though you need to choose carefully.

While the combat can be fast and furious the game itself is not particularly fast paced. Each team starts with a network of defensive towers that are deadly to the basic starting units which mitigates against early rush tactics. Instead you must play a territorial game - each side jockeying for control of a few contested flags while slowly upgrading their own powers. Mid game sees upgraded units that are able to make inroads into opponents territory and slowly but surely dismantle the network of defence towers. End game sees powerful units that are capable of making a direct assault on the opponents citadel. A better tactic, it seems to me, is to first capture the opponents reinforcement spawn points. Not only does that deprive the enemy of re-enforcements but the newly captured spawn points will disgorge your soldiers right into the heart of enemy territory. This rigid structure of early / middle / late game may not be so apparent in other game modes but it does enforce an element of strategic thinking on the game. In both the skirmishes I have played I eventually ground out a victory depite having a much worse kill to death ratio than my computer opponents. I attribute this partly to the computer AI having a good grasp of tactics but a lesser understanding of strategy.

Of course this is a game that is really designed for multiplayer battles between human opponents. Given the many permutations of skills, upgrades and tactics it will be quite some time (if ever) before I feel confident enough to test my abilities against an online opponent but I am enthused enough to keep work my way through the single player campaign as a means of learning the ropes.

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