by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
The Dark Eye is the most successful role playing game universe in the German speaking market, and has been around since the mid-80s. There have been several games set in the universe, but the latest one, Demonicon, is the first to be set in the Shadow Lands. I sat down for a short demonstration of the game’s core mechanics, given by Daniel, the lead writer on the project from Noumena Studios.
Dark and mature
Demonicon is a fantasy RPG with an emphasis on action oriented combat. I saw several areas from the near final version of the game. However the first thing I was treated to was a rather lovely looking cutscene, introducing the world and the story. It looked great, but the subject matter was dark, in fitting with the universe. The moment I saw babies being offered up as sacrifices to summon a demon, I knew this wasn’t going to be a standard light fantasy story.
You play as Cairon, and you will be fighting demons and zombies and questing in and around the mountain city of Warunk which has been plagued by the reign of necromancers for fifteen years. In addition to the mature storytelling on offer, you will also be facing difficult moral decisions throughout your playthrough. These will not only affect what goes on in the world around you, but there are various endings depending on player choice. Considering Cairon has a demonic ‘gift’, some of these choices are sure to be wonderfully gruesome as he experiences demonic temptation.
Attributes and talents
The first gameplay part of the demo took place just outside the walls of Warunk, in the refugee camp. Cairon is attempting to get inside the city, but first must help people in the plague and poverty stricken area outside. This is also the place where you meet Calandra, the buxom love interest, which is always needed in games of this type. The camp is also where you get your first taste of the trading system. Merchants will have all manner of items for you, at a price of course. Luckily there are ways of getting discounts.
In order to do this, the attribute and talent system need to be explored. Cleverness, Charisma, Dexterity and Intuition are your main attributes. In addition to these you have combat attributes such as Braveness, Agility, Constitution and Strength. Each of these has a number of talents associated with it. For example, upgrading the Haggle talent under the Charisma branch will enable you to get better prices for goods. Fast Talk will increase your abilities to lie to and persuade other characters. The medicine talent increases the regeneration of your health outside of combat, and is linked to potion brewing. Talents are upgraded using Attribute Points which are earned as you play and defeat enemies.
Gift Spells and weapons
You will also be earning Gift Points as you play. These will upgrade Cairon’s combat abilities, which as stated is the main focus of the game. When you enter into a fight, three bars appear at the bottom of the screen. The red bar indicates your health. The green bar is your stamina, and determines if you can use various special combat moves and hurl throwing knives at your enemies. The blue bar starts empty, and represents your Essence. Whenever you hit an enemy, the bar increases, and this acts as a sort of mana system, allowing you to cast Gift Spells. There are four branches of these demonic spells, each with four stages. You also have a combo meter to pay attention to. Strike enough enemies in a row and fill your essence bar, and you will begin to drain the life out of your foes. This combo system discourages button mashing and rewards careful and tactical play.
Of course you have standard weapons to fight with, and there will be plenty of loot to find. The blacksmithing talent allows you to upgrade your weapons. Combine this with collecting plants and learning recipes and you’ll be able to poison your weapons for short periods of time if your skill is high enough. Blacksmithing is also used for disarming traps, but to even see them in the first place you’ll need to have points in the Perception talent, which will give a slight audio cue when one is near. It will also alert you to any nearby secret places, holding even more loot for you. There are loads of gameplay systems at play here, and many of them neatly fit together.
Having never delved into the depths of The Dark Eye universe I was worried. However I was assured that knowledge of that universe is not needed to be able to enjoy the narrative here, and there is a codex which fills in all kinds of information as you play. There is plenty of content, with around 25-30 hours of main story, plus around 5-6 hours of side quests. If you want a new RPG world to play around in, then the world of Demonicon might be just what you are looking for when it releases later this month.