A First Look At Demigod

By Jim Rossignol on March 6th, 2008 at 9:49 am.


Recently I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Gas Powered Games’ John Comes, lead designer on Demigod, and have him show me what they’ve been up to. What is this game they call Demigod? Comes explained: “Demigod is a team based action game with RPG, RTS and fighting game elements. The story behind the game is that there’s an opening in the pantheon of Gods and you are a demigod fighting to take the spot. You’re fighting with your brothers and sisters, other demigods. It’s an action game at heart, so everything is fast-paced. A game lasts between twenty and forty minutes.” Sounds good, and looks good. Could it be “good”? Lots more heavenly information after the jump.

Comes explained that the game I was looking at was already fairly polished as a mechanism. “One of the big stories of the game is that we got to make it in the way that developers think they should do, but hardly ever get to do. We had two guys sitting in a room, playing the game for six months with white boxes. If we didn’t like something we could change it. And so now we’ve been playing the game for around nine months, and we’re at the stage where we’re just making all the art look pretty, making the interface work, and so on.”

As Comes explained this I watched as dozens of fantasy units marched out from portals atop a board that looked like it might be the top of the tower of Babel. “As a demigod you’ll play in these fantastic arenas,” said Comes. “Everyone has done Tolkienesque “ancient” fantasy to death, so we thought “what if you took magic, instead of technology, and accelerated it 3000 years”? So in the game you’ll see a look that we call ‘future fantasy’. Each arena is a huge spire to the Gods, it’s above the cloud layer – that’s one of the fighting game elements, that you play in these specific arenas. Also like fighting games, each demigod is different, so you’ll have a different experience each time.”

The game does look pretty impressive. It’s a kind of real-time boardgame of the gods, with the objective being to destroy the main tower of your opponent, or, in the case of team games, opponents. The showpiece units are the larger demigod characters and also their giants, which I watch clubbing each other with ponderous weight. “We’re using the SupComm engine so we have this strategic zoom ability, but we also have this size and scale. You can have “real” giants, with them towering over the human sized units.”

The demigod on this map is that dude with towers on his shoulders. In this instance he’s got a catapult on his back and his channeling pulses of energy from a grid of defense towers. “It’s a giant walking temple,” says Comes. “One of our marquee demigods.”

These minor deities can be buffed up as the game is played out, because you’re earning XP and money all the time that you’re fighting your opponent, and the battle rages continuously. “I can level up and I end up with a skill tree,” says Comes, “That’s the RPG element. As the fight goes on I also get money that I can spend on magical items and potions. Each demigod owns a castle and we can spend on that, upgrade the tech level of the castle.”

There are two different types of demigod, assassin and general. Assassin means that you’re worrying about this one guy all the time, he’s the most powerful thing on the field. Generals are more passive and can be used to augment the battle. The big tower-shoulder chap is an assassin. Not stealthy, but definitely a killer.

As the battle escalates the castles on both sides become larger and more defensive, while the battle in the mid sections of the board (I can’t easily call it a “map”) finds itself overrun by powerful units from both demigods: rock-lobbing giant lizards named “catapultasauruses”, dive-bombing angels, and the stomping, wandering giants.

Demigod does indeed look highly entertaining. It’s far more of a real-time boardgame than a traditional RTS, and the look of it is quite unique. What concerns me, however, is that it’ll just be too chaotic and difficult for most players to want to get to grips with. The downside of Comes’ story about the guys sat in the room playing this game is that they know all too well what’s going on with it. Even as a veteran gamer I was struggling a bit with what was going on and why who was killing who. Hopefully the interfaces and tutorials should make that all a little more digestible when the game arrives later this year. I quite fancy a place in the pantheon…

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22 Comments »

  1. matt says:

    It looks really interesting, i’d like to give it a try.
    Well, playing as a demi-god alone makes me want to play it; but it also has a nice “Shadow of the Colossus” look to it, well, the demi-gods do at least, and that’s pretty to me eyes :)

    Though i would maybe prefer to play that guy in a big blue armor stuff on the first picture, and be sending massive giants to stomp on my enemies while laughing like crazy, but it’ll probably be nice to play as the giants as well.
    I’d eagerly watch a trailer or in-game footage.

  2. surprise says:

    Anybody else thinking about DOTA going commercial?

    I wonder how many DOTA players would switch if this game would be a worthy alternative

  3. Thelps says:

    Why does this game make me think of Total Annihilation: Kingdoms? That was Cavedog’s post-TA flop of a waste of time. I’m sure this game will actually receive sufficient development and not just be a pointless creation, but I can’t help but wonder if this game would have a name that more resembled “Supreme Commander: Fantasy Gods” or something, if its predecessor hadn’t flopped.

    Anyway, that’s a massive digression since this is, apparently, a rather different game to SupCom while TA:K was basically just TA with fantasy units and worse gameplay. I share Jim’s concerns about the complexity of the gameplay though. That was arguably SupCom’s achille’s heel: the sheer commitment required to overcome the learning curve and become competent at the game. Personally, I like a deep, complex game, but I know that the world at large finds SupCom a little too extreme in that department. I hope the same isn’t the case with Demigod.

  4. Okami says:

    Everytime I see this game I have to think “Sacrifice”. And then I get all misty eyes and think about Shiny and Planet Moon games like Sacrifice or Giants and a what a great time for PC gaming that was, before it was Kill the Arab, Murder the Hooker, Beat the Nazi everywhere and a little tear starts rolling down my face and I wonder when it all started going wrong…

    *sigh*

  5. Optimaximal says:

    …then all of a sudden it clicks just how ‘one trick pony’ Giants and Armed & Dangerous really were!

    Seriously… I never actually played as the eponimous Kabuto in Giants because the Reaper Jetski bit was just so frustratingly bad I just stopped playing – I hope someone got fired for that!

    Armed & Dangerous was also so badly plotted/paced, my brain hurt trying to understand exactly what was going on… Nice shark-gun though!

  6. AngrySpartan says:

    Demigod FTW

    This is going to be an awesome fast paces action RTS.
    Good night DOTA :)

  7. Chuper says:

    To me it looks like an attempt to make som money off of the Aeon of Strife concept from the Warcraft III customs maps (dota best known). I am, however, not sure how it will work, since dota’s strenght is that the heroes are relatively simple and it all comes down to individual skill and teamwork.

  8. Nick says:

    Giants and Armed and Dangerous were both works of unadulterated genius.

    LAN Giants was an absolute hoot in my student digs at uni. Seriously brilliant, if utterly unbalanced, multiplayer goodness.

  9. mrrobsa says:

    @Thelps:

    You find SupCom too complex? (EDIT: just re-read, sorry, YOU don’t find it too complex but you think the world at large might have done. Brother, you’re alright by me.) C’mon now, it’s classic RTS Rock, Paper, Scissors (Shotgun?) formula with not many units that deviate from the usual. Tank beats AA unit, AA unit beats Bomber, Bomber beats Tank etc.
    The sides are all fairly balanced roughly (Although I think Cybrans are worst personally) and the Super units aren’t much more than tanks/planes with x50 health. I think maybe TA is a bit more complex but it’s been a few years so TA memories are becoming a bit hazy.
    A difficult game was playing C&C Generals (I know it’s not the best game but I still enjoyed it) with the GLA on multiplayer. You had to use terrorist style hit and run tactics and escape tunnels because you had no armour or planes.
    Anyway, looking forward to another game from GPG, I was so impressed with SupCom I christened my latest PC ‘Supreme Commander’ (Hey, it makes me feel important!).

  10. Okami says:

    Giants and Sacrifice (and Armed and Dangerous as well) had their issues. I won’t argue that point. But I think their unique style, fresh ideas and hilarious storytelling more than made up for whatever shortcomings they had.

    It took me a few tries to complete Giants and Sacrifice, but it was totally worth it. Makes me wonder, what might have been, if some of the ideas had been taken a few steps further…

  11. squerl says:

    The GFW article of Demigod said that they’re not going to use a publisher and that they’ll be utilizing digital distribution like Steam and D2D. If they price it well ($40 or under) I can see it becoming popular. I’m always looking for fun games I can play with my friends on Steam (that aren’t fully priced). Can’t wait to see video of this.

  12. TacoCreature says:

    squerl, I read on the GPG forum there will be a boxed version available as well, GPG probably will get some form of publishing.

  13. SwiftRanger says:

    TA:K wasn’t that bad, had some really interesting stuff (Zhon race without any real buildings and such) and a superb art style. Only the engine and the pathfinding weren’t up to it.

    Looking forward to this one, if there’s a boxed version coming out that is. :)

  14. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    I’d play this in a heartbeat if I could run it.

    Come to think of it, I’d play DOTA all the time too if the people weren’t such jackasses all the time.

  15. Mr.Moon says:

    Sounds pretty cool. Though, are there going to be different types of game modes?

  16. Anonymousity says:

    I was just about to post a comment saying that sounds alot like DoTa but others got there first it appears. I think it would be good for a whirl, although I don’t like the size and look of the demigods. When does it come out?

  17. Phantom707 says:

    Demigods as huge creatures is FTW

    Thats what I hated about WAR3, the fake scale: a ship was usually only a little bit bigger then a hero/unit yet it could caryy 6, thats soo 1995

    Demigods are like Supreme Commanders of their field, and the Castle Creature is made of pure class. Even beats SupCom’s cybran destroyers that walk on land

    GO GPG!

  18. Jonathan says:

    Well as a fan of the two Xbox Kingdom Under Fire games I can see how this could work. But it needs character and drama within the battles, not just the briefings, to make the slashing exciting. This isn’t exactly GPGs strong point.

    Also, I’m pretty certain this will murder my PC.

  19. Thelps says:

    @Mrrobsa:
    My main example of SupCom’s complexity is really the resource system, where it’s far too easy to crash your economy if you don’t observe a fairly strict, well-timed build-order. I really like that aspect of the game but, in my experience, most ‘traditional’ RTSs put emphasis on control of resources as a finite quantity, so it’s a little harder to utterly cripple your side just by mucking a build-order up (not that I’m saying it’s impossible, happens in every RTS at the competitive level, at least).

    I wonder in what capacity the strategic zoom will feature in DemiGod? The maps don’t look nearly so large as SupCom’s and they have a board-game like quality, as Jim mentioned. Either way I hope I can zoom out to see the whole battlefield again. The strat zoom is the kind of thing that never crosses your mind as necessary until you use it, then it’s near impossible to go back to other RTSs that don’t have it.

  20. mrrobsa says:

    @Thelps
    Agreed, and a double agreed to the strategic zoom. Amazing feature which I hope spreads to all RTSs. Tried playing C&C3 in a LAN cafe the other day and was dismayed at my limited view of the world. I couldn’t even select all my units because I couldn’t pull the blasted view back to see them all!

  21. Kalash says:

    all sounds great but why is there no mention of DOTA in this review, almost gives a sense that gas powered is trying to take credit for the basic game play foundation instead of paying homage to its true creators, personally I cant help but feel disdain in this case seeing as a game company is basically stealing somebody else’s idea and using their resources to cash in on it i think the developers of DOTA deserve some compensation

  22. Brokenbroll says:

    Inspired by DoTA, not a clone of DoTA.

    And on the Demigod website and forums, and the GFW article, the DoTA inspiration is noted.