by Chris Priestman
previewed on X360
I Spy With My Dark Eye
Many pen and paper role-playing fans know that Dungeons & Dragons is by far the most successful game of its kind – at least, in the States. Another game reigns dominant in Germany: The Dark Eye. We got a chance to check out the first gameplay footage of the latest computer game adaptation of The Dark Eye, and spoke to the guys in charge of development at this year’s Gamescom.
The German produced role-playing game, The Dark Eye, has been around for over 25 years and is equal in size, scope and detail to Dungeons & Dragons. But whereas Dungeons & Dragons has been converted into a computer game a countless amount of times, The Dark Eye remains to be a fairly untouched source. This is where The Dark Eye: Demonicon comes into play, hoping to utilize the vast universe of The Dark Eye and convert it into a loyal, fantasy cRPG.
Eyeing Up The Competition
Noumena Studios made its big ambition very clear at Gamescom. Like any aspiring European studio making an RPG, it wants to match the surprise success of The Witcher series. That’s no easy task, especially when doing that will require the creation of a game that can rival the blockbuster series that American studios produce. While Noumena does not have the big budget needed to realistically compete with such games, it does have a good hand to play. The advantage of using a pre-existing universe such as The Dark Eye means that they have a solid base to work from and do not have to risk the dangers of starting completely fresh. Of course this comes with plenty of other risks, such as potentially upsetting the fans of the long-running RPG. In order to avoid this, Noumena has set out to ensure that every aspect of the game is as faithful to the Dark Eye universe as can be.
Following the Bioware-style of RPG, Noumena says that they have adopted a dual focus with Demonicon by hoping to deliver both an immersive story fleshed with interesting characters and events, and a deep combat system that stays true to the original pen and paper game. It is the classic RPG formula that we are all familiar with and one that has proven successful on many occasions. But simply re-using it with only the universe to make the game unique raises doubts as to whether this will be enough to reel in anyone sitting outside the Dark Eye fan base.
A Classic Formula
In order to draw players into the game, Demonicon adapts the style of story-driven, character interaction of games like Dragon Age. Working inside such a vast and established universe means that there is plenty of material to work with, and to fully grasp this by both handles the developers have brought in one of the respected writers of The Dark Eye to work on the story. That should hopefully alleviate any fears that fans will undoubtedly possess. As is expected of this breed of RPG, the player will be interacting with NPCs within the main city, which acts as the central hub of the whole game. From this city players can be issued quests, acquire and work on different skills such as lock picking, and make many game-changing moral decisions.
The general idea of Demonicon is to create a world that responds to the player in a visual manner. Depending on the decisions the player makes, the city could be an idyllic living space or a dismal criminal cesspool with graffiti on houses and other acts of vandalism. Similarly, interaction with NPC’s will cause relationships to prosper or spiral out of control as they react with anger or gratitude to your selection on the familiar radial wheel of dialogue choice. The ambition to create a living and breathing world is there, but a problem might crop up within the design of the game, as it seems that it is broken up into different sections. The capacity to explore does not seem to be available – instead, emphasis is placed on story and character interaction delivered within the city, and then breaking combat sections into separate locations outside of this. The result could be a game that does not gel together well and lacks flow, despite whether it delivers a strong suit in both categories. Being that the game is currently in alpha stage though, this could merely be the early workings of a game that delivers content in the same style as The Witcher.