PREVIEW: Demons Age

At sea, you and your fellow prisoners slowly and morosely row your ship to what you believe will be your eventual prison, the place where you will likely suffer out the rest of your life. Ironically, it turns out you and your fellow prisoners were rowing to a far different and unexpected final destination. You are actually working yourself toward a watery grave. Washing ashore on Moragon you join the fray in order to regain your freedom!

Status: In Development

Developer: Bigmoon Interactive

Publisher: Bigmoon Interactive

Genre:  cRPG/Turn Based

Release date: TBA

Type: Single-player

Harking back to bygone days of the isometric viewed Classic Role Playing Game (cRPG), Demons Age feels cut from the same cloth as the classic Baldur’s Gate. There is also some Diablo and King’s Bounty mixed in for good measure. You start out your quest by selecting your race, gender, class and game difficulty. Depending on which race you feel deserves a hero like you, your starting statistics might be modified slightly. The classes are all the ones you would typically find in a game of this style. The classic Warrior/Tanky damage dealer, the Wizard/Mage/Magical damage class, the Cleric/Priest/Healer, Rogue/Thief, and the Ranger/Distance damage dealer/Archer all come to mind. While both a blessing and a curse, one thing that some players may find disappointing is that once you select your race and class that’s it! You can’t make any further modifications to your character. I know for a fact that I often hate starting out in these sorts of games because I tend to spend so much time in the character builder. I stress over all the starts and abilities for my hero to the point that I sometimes never even end up playing the game. I consult build strategies online to try to help fine tune my character until I either feel accomplished and strong enough to play the game, or quit out of petty annoyance and confused frustration. Even worse is when I have a complicated character appearance system to go through. Trying to figure out what combination looks best to me while adjusting all the various facial element sliders… regardless, as it stands love it or hate it, Demons Age has no character fine tuning options at this time. You play as a prerolled character or you don’t play at all. Also not all gender/class combinations are available for each race. Some players might possibly be a little put off by that if their choice is not offered. As far as I could tell each class can be played as whichever gender you prefer so long as you don’t care which race you are.

I sampled each of the classes available and found that while they played similarly at the start, they begin showing their differences once they obtain their proper equipment and get a few levels under their belt. My Ranger didn’t even acquire her first bow until just before I began writing this preview. The Wizard was probably the more interesting of my starting characters although I found his spells a bit weak. I did like the fact that range to target made a difference for the spells. If you right click on any one of the spells it gives you the tool tip that tells you all about what the spell does and its “effective at” range. The Cleric kind of seemed a wee bit on the useless side at the start. Sure, she had the ability to heal me (thank goodness!) but it was only 1 HP at a time… which is pretty much useless when I am taking a lot more hurt than that per turn. Eventually she learned something that gave a whopping 5 HP… which was still pretty much useless, just not quite as useless. The Warrior seemed a little on the broken side, but in a good way. The Warrior seemed to be able to clear just about anything that he looked at by hitting the enemy more or less every time he tried. He was typically able to take away more than half their HP in one swing (unlike the rest which barely scratched the enemy). The Rogue was also kind of broken, but unfortunately, he was broken in a bad way. The Rogue seemed to miss just about every time or did very little damage. On the flip side, he tended to dodge almost any attack thrown at him. This led to the first battle in the game amounting to my character walking up to the pair of enemies, flicking their noses and avoiding attacks until they died of old age. I would have liked to have spent more time with each of the characters but time limits and an unfortunate game breaking bug prevented me from doing that.

If you have played a cRPG before, you will know what to expect. You point at the screen someplace you want your character to go, and if they can, the character runs to where you clicked. If you see a treasure chest or really anything not bolted down too tightly, you can grab it and stuff the contents of it into your Gallifreyan technology inspired pockets no matter how big or heavy the objects may be. If you see an exclamation point over a non-playable character (NPC) you will be able to talk to them and probably find yourself doing a quest for them as a result. One thing that is really nice about this game that quite a few cRPGs are missing is that pretty much every NPC actually talks to you out loud rather than just magically popping a dialogue box over their head. There is still plenty of reading to do though as you will find lore books scattered around to help fill in the story.

Another thing about Demons Age that I actually very much enjoyed is a little bit of realism that they sprinkled in. In most games, if you want to hire someone to help you on your quests, you visit the local tavern or other recruitment centers, pick the characters you want and hire them. Like a trusty dog, they will serve you unwaveringly until they die, all while helping you lug around your hoard of “borrowed goods” you found along your travels. This isn’t quite the case in Demons Age. The new characters share the same inventory as your main character. There is no need to hunt through all the hired help to find that rare jewel encrusted tissue you stole from that sickly family. While that may seem a bit unfortunate, there is a very good reason why you still don’t trust your hired help to carry your precious cargo. To misquote the Spy from Team Fortress 2 “They never really were on your side”. That is to say, they can turn on you when you least expect it! As you travel along, showing them and bragging about the collection of golden spoons you stole, the hired goon might think to himself that he is tired of spilling his soup when he tries to drink it from the bowl and may try to kill you to steal your spoons. Perhaps they find you tacky for never letting them forget a favour you did for them or for wearing socks with your sandals. Who knows their reason or motives? Your best friend, who was just patting you on your back, might be just softening a spot to stick their knife in. Now yes, other games have the whole, bad character joins your team then the sudden shocking reveal that they were secretly the end boss of the game or something quirky like that. In this case, these are just random folks you hired from the tavern. You didn’t have to hire them. You could have easily have hired someone else or just not hired anyone if you are happy roughing it on your own. No, these are honest-to-goodness decisions you made. You thought that shifty looking Rogue fellow looked like a fine chap to have on your team. Maybe you fell for the charms of the Cleric. That green clad, hooded Loxley fellow looked like a good Ranger to you. Then suddenly when you least expected it, BAM they turn on you and you never seen it coming. That kind of realism in a game can be incredibly frustrating, but also quite interesting for the gameplay.

Combat in Demons Age is laid out on a hexagonal movement grid. You have a limited number of action points, and you can do whatever you want to do on your turn so long as you have the points to support it. You can move yourself into an advantageous position to strike a blow, or you could attack them and retreat with the hopes they will expend all their own action points chasing you and being unable to attack you back. You can see who is going to get the next turn so you can try to set yourself up accordingly. Either try to smash the enemy or move a stronger character between the enemy and a weakened character in an attempt to stave off their death for at least another turn. The battle is quite strategic in that regard. As mentioned earlier, the Wizard for example, has effective ranges for their spells. Some work better at close range, others from long distance and others still ad mid-range. Since my Wizard (came with his own name, but I called him Brave Sir Robin in my mind) was kind of squishy and had sort of weak spells. I tended to fire my long range spells and then run as far away from the enemies as I could. They would chase me and run out of points. I would strike again and run again until I no longer had the magic power to cast that spell anymore, then I would fall to mid-range and continue to do my cowardly dance. For my warrior, I would charge into the thick of things and just start smashing whatever got in my way indiscriminately. My ranger never did get to use her bow so I can’t really comment on how well that worked, but the enemy rangers were very effective so I am thinking she would have made a fine attacker.

While the game lacks the ability to customize your character in the character creation screen, it sort of makes up for it in the inventory and equipment screen.  Each weapon and armor you equip has its own appearance that shows up on your character both in the inventory screen and on the character itself. Much like other cRPG games, the class determines what weapons and armors you can use effectively. While the game will mostly let you wear what you want, you will see penalties come up when you are wearing something that your class doesn’t really support. The game does a very good job showing you the effects each bit of armor will have on you to help you decide if your new shiny bit of armor is actually better or not than what you have now. It also marks each item you pick up if it is actually a rare artifact that you should hold on to until the end of the game and then never actually use due to how rare and precious it was. Maybe it really was just inventory space wasting trash you should have sold to some unsuspecting merchant for some quick gold.

The interface for this game is currently a bit of mixed bag but I believe this is purely caused by the fact that this is a pre-release early version that I am previewing. You are not able to rebind the controls at all right now as far as I can tell, and there is nothing to tell you what hot keys do what and if there are any hot keys at all. Randomly hunting and pecking on the keyboard did let me find a few, but a screen with them listed, preferably with the option to rebind them would be nice. Plus another issue is the fact that when it does prompt you to press a button it shows the gamepad buttons even if you are playing with just a keyboard and mouse. By chance, I stumbled upon the fact that right click brings up the tooltips for things on the action bar. This made playing the Wizard easier since it taught me about the range differences of the spells. Also when I first booted the game, it wouldn’t let me change any of the meager settings it allowed to be changed. The drop down menus would not drop down. After exiting the game a few times, it let me change the resolution to something more comfortable and tweak a couple other settings. From a pure visuals perspective, the game itself looks quite nice. Enough detail has gone into it that your character looks interesting with its various armor pieces and weapons looking different after each change. The scenery all is easy on the eyes. The audio is also quite decent as well. The music is suitable and faint enough that it doesn’t drown out the spoken dialogue. I really enjoyed the fact the characters actually spoke to you rather than just doing the text boxes. Even your character speaks, unlike a certain green clad youngster who just grunts at everybody he meets.

I was enjoying this trial version of the game until sadly after restarting the game to play a different class, the game crashed while I was playing my Ranger (just after she got her bow!) and now the game will not run at all no matter what I do. It will crash to desktop without an error message after the fully voiced opening video plays. I tried verifying the Steam files, deleted and reinstalled the game to a different folder but nothing helped. That’s the reason I was unable to go into more details on the classes. I was not able to properly experience them all as much as I had my Wizard, Rogue and Warrior. All of these issues will likely be addressed in future patches to the game before it is released for the general public to enjoy. Assuming those bugs don’t slip through the cracks and a nice coat of polish is applied, especially to the battle damage mechanics and some of the labeling issues repair to the game, I would definitely suggest this game to anyone looking for a classic cRPG.

Psygineer preview

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