Gas Powered Games holds a special place in my heart. After revolutionizing the RTS arena with Supreme Commander, it was difficult to play any other RTS that didn’t allow me to zoom out so far I could see my name in turrets. So I was pretty excited to hear about DemiGod, a DOTA styled RTS that not only allowed me to zoom in classic GPG style, but control ridiculously powerful beings and dominate my opponents in a tournament style setting.
But what I’m sure a lot of you Ancients devotees are wondering: is it the killer app you have been waiting for? I guess you’ll have to follow myself, and Colin, as we took on this multiplayer only epic to see if it could take down a DemiGod of its own.
DemiGod is one of those titles that makes you sit up in your seat. Everything about the title sounds like fun: I mean, you’re a god. What more do you need? But then someone clarifies what a DemiGod actually is, and things seem to make a little more sense. It’s a little difficult to cover this one in terms of story, because, well, it doesn’t really have one. The single player element of this game is simply a tournament style version, witih bots, of the full experience. DemiGod was designed purely to be played with others, so I’ll skip talking about what the developers “invented” to place in the blank space for plot/story/relevance and just get into how it looks, sounds and plays.
If you have never played Defense of the Ancients, let me lay out how the game works. At the beginning of a round, you choose a “DemiGod”, which can be one of two (reasonably arbitrary) classes, Assassin or General. The only major difference I found in these classes related to powerups that you could purchase during the course of the game, which I’ll cover in a bit. Your DemiGod is then tasked to protect your base, and subsequently, your citadel. If it gets destroyed, its game over.
Your DG is upgradable with items and artifacts, such as armour or trinkets, to boost health/damage/mana, as well, you also have the ability to level, opening up new skills and traits. Holding parts of the map increases your gold mining ability, which is used to purchase gear. Buying items is relatively straightforward, heading to stores mid-battle allows you to quickly equip or sell your wares, and is absolutely essential if you want to have an edge in the battle.
During the course of a match, your portal will warp in soldiers who essentially, help shield you and take the fight to the enemy. Your mission is to fight your way through fortified towers, enemy soldiers and, of course, enemy DemiGods to destroy their citadel before they blow up yours. It’s a relatively straightforward slog, with few twists. Base defenses cannot be rebuilt, although some Gods can create temporary towers, and most battles tend to involve capturing flags to increase your rate of experience gain as well as trying not to die (which you will probably do a lot of in the beginning).
All in all, if you have played DOTA, you should have absolutely no problem in jumping straight into DemiGod. The interface is a hell of a lot better, there’s only a couple of stores that clearly stock all the available items, and the battle ground is wider and easier to navigate. The creeps (NPC soldiers) follow the same straight path to the opposing side and are able to be upgraded in power and variety at your citadel. Abilities tend to be much more varied and fun, and all of the ‘gods are completely abstract from one another in strengths, weaknesses and play style.
If you haven’t played DOTA, prepare for a hell of a ride. The game doesn’t feature a tutorial, so it’s worth crawling your way through the single player modes until you get a hang of proceedings, since most of the online inhabitants are Ex-DOTA players and will proceed to kill you mercilessly. The learning curve isn’t as steep, since maps are smaller you are able to bunker down a little in the beginning of a round to raise your level and build strength. Practice is really the virtue in a game like this, since the more you play, and the quicker you learn the mechanics of upgrading your DG, the faster your skill level will rise.
So what’s wrong with it? Not very much. Aside from some very annoying bugs we encountered in the beginning (crashes to desktop, blue screens, connection issues), most were co-incidentally fixed with some patches a day or so after we began playing. Some camera issues can be irritating, as its impossible to change the isometric view, and the game will occasionally change it for you. In hectic fights its very easy to lose control of your god and any minions you might have summoned, since other characters do not go transparent, at times you can’t select your own character.
One aspect that could use some work is the matchmaking. At time of print, the game makes it difficult to find players of the same skill level, or to join a tournament with a friend. There is also a lack of direct IP connection, although there is a LAN feature. Generally though, the system is fast and responsive. Connection information for P2P is clearly displayed and the game makes sure things are spot on before launching matches, avoiding a lot of the dropout and lag problems faced by other games using peer-to-peer.
All in all, DemiGod is everything that I’d expect as a fan of the original. Fast, brutal, and intense matches, fun gods, well designed maps and the promise of periodic content releases. Aside from a few problems with matchmaking and a couple of bugs, the experience is a good one, and addictive as all hell. I think I’ll be playing this for many weeks and months to come.
I’ve had a bit of love/hate relationship with Demigod. For the first week I hated it, as it was almost impossible to get into a match due to the poor P2P networking code. So originally, we were restricted the single player until the latest patch dropped down within the last few days, and my opinion on Demigod has flipped to the polar opposite, as it’s now, actually, playable!
Graphically, the game doesn’t do anything particularly outstanding, but fortunately for the style of game it doesn’t need to. The graphics are reasonably detailed and crisp, the demigods look great close up and so do the minions and mobs. Most of the arena’s aren’t particularly exciting to look at, but again they suit the game style. My favourite arena from a graphical view point would be the Prison, as you can see some sort of massive demon frozen underneath you, although it doesn’t do anything except add to the atmosphere.
When it comes to the aural elements, the game starts off well, but after about 3-4 hours of playtime the demigods who talk, really, really, really get on your nerves. Why? They tend to have a very select sound library of “responses” and have a habit of yelling the exact same quote when ever you click to move, which in demigod… is all the time. The “Unclean Beast” isn’t too bad as it’s only response is a grunt, but play as the Torch Bearer and it can drive you literally insane.
Leaving the technical side of the game behind, the Demigod themselves are pretty darn well balanced, as each has a specific playstyle that complements the others, from the slow and lumbering Rook, to the rapid Unclean Beast, to the healer Sedna, nearly everyone can find a character that suits how you want to play. Sadly you’ll find Demigods that don’t mesh well against your character, so you’ll frequently notice in game lobbies players changing their demigods depending what demigod you have picked, ideally at a later date they could make them invisible until game start.
The other insanely annoying problem is if you enter a game with anyone who has a ping above 400, expect the game to be totally unplayable. The frame rate drops to a crawl, the pacing gets all screwed up and it just leaves you frustrated. While GPG has managed to patch a lot of the original connection issues out, its brutally unforgiving to global players. This kind of thing was the norm 10 years ago, but we’ve come a long way when it comes to sorting out this sort of issue.
Ultimately though, aside from its small array of quirks, (and assuming you have a decent ping and team), Demigod is really enjoyable game to play, with many, many hours of fun to be had.
Presentation Beautiful graphics, simple menu system, intuitive UI.
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It's DOTA 2.0, which loses points for originality, but it does play extremely well.
It's obvious sound wasn't a focus, with nausiating voice overs and average soundtrack.
Addictive. I could play Demigod for days. And weeks. And months...
Overall Demigod was designed to improve on success, and it does. Aside from a few niggles, its just a hell of a lot of fun.