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Demithoughts on Demigod

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Gas-Powered Games’ (with a little help from Stardock) Demigod enjoyed an unexpected early release yesterday, thanks to a silly snafu by Gamestop. Jim’s feverishly working on a full verdict on it to be posted in a few days’ time, but unfortunately it’s been held up by the release version suffering some pretty flaky netcode. It wouldn’t do to judge a game that’s almost entirely multiplayer only on the strength of its offline skirmishes, so while we wait and pray for an ultra-patch, Jim and Alec had a brief chat about their impressions so far… If they both seem a little surly, it’s because their clever brainwave to try and get the damn thing working in LAN mode over Hamachi had also just failed miserably…

Alec: So: Demigood or Demibad?

Jim: Hmm, well, I’ve spent the best part of the last hour looking at “connecting to” messages in Demigod multiplayer. I finally got into a lobby, and someone dropped. I could have cried

Alec: Aye, there are some ‘orrid netcode problems. But then it has been released early

Jim: Well it was due this week in the US even without the Gamestop randomo-release

Alec: I’m finding it’s a remarkably fun time played singleplayer, at least

Jim: This is one reason why the multiplayer problems are so frustrating: single-player has been a ball

Jim: Assassin or General?

Alec: Initially I was all about the Plague Dog Assassin, but I seem to have settled on the Oak general now

Jim: Yeah the Oak feels heroic to play

Alec: He seems a really good mix of crowd control and mega-biff. And about the closest analogue to the all-conquering Rook, in terms of being self-competent but also helping out the entire team

Jim: the sort of base-level presentation of everything from the menu onwards is really good

Alec: some of the UI and voicework falls a bit flat, I thought. Like that giant icon of your character, which doesn’t do anything. It’d be better to use all that wasted screen space for something like health bars for the other demigods on your team, or some comparison of your guy’s stats to whoever you’re fighting

Jim: yeah that’s a bit odd, a couple of the voices don’t ring true either

Alec: The Archer character is the worst for that. He sounds like an extra from a Saturday morning cartoon. I can’t stand playing as him, either. He needs more range, really.

Jim: I mean from a purely critical point of view, i want tear into the game for everything from the hands-off strategy to the lack of tutorial, and yet it’s really engaging, and beautifully /immediately/ playable. Going back to The Rook – icon of the game as a whole – it seems they missed a trick by only putting one giant god into the game. That said, i believe there are more gods coming as DLC

Alec: almost inevitably. Yes, it needs more giants and more building characters. I feel a bit too abstracted from the turrets when I’m playing as as any other Demigod. In fact, I wonder if those turrets are too key to the game generally. They’re really damaging and take a lot to pull down, which means a lot of the fight focuses around them – but they’re an element the player has essentially no control of

Jim: the towers are just a device of attrition aren’t they? They mean there can’t be an early rush – the game is essentially a slow back forth of massive assaults on the enemy front

Alec: True. It’s just not as much fun to spend five minutes hitting a tower as it is to tangle with a demigod. They’re necessary, but possibly a bit too fundamental

Jim: Yeah, you’re probably right – the architecture of the levels would have to be quite different without them. Anyway, we wanted to keep this brief, so any concluding thoughts?

Alec: As you say, there’s a lot of things to snipe at Demigod for, but crucially it works, it’s fast and it’s enormously entertaining. Though I’ve never played DOTA, its similarity to which is one of the key complaints

Jim: I was wondering about the DOTA thing. I mean – is the real issue that there’s nothing else to compare Demigod to? Much like any military mod for an FPS was compared to Counter-Strike a few years ago? Or perhaps, more accurately, any multiplayer FPS was compared to Counter-Strike…

Alec: Yes – if there was a commercial game along the lines of DOTA already, it wouldn’t be an issue. It’s the concept of a business profiting from something that’s free. And I can see why that rubs some people up the wrong way, but I think turning that great concept into something slicker is to be celebrated

Jim: Well some of the DOTA team are making a commercial game now. which makes for an interesting scrap between that and Demigod if/when it finally hits

Alec: Indeed – it’d be fascinating to hear what those guys think of Demigod. Hopefully, though, Demigod will open doors for other studios to take the concept further

Jim: yeah, absolutely – there’s no reason why the “one powerful being” strategy subgenre can’t expand enormously

Alec: I’d certainly rather someone rip off and riff off DOTA than get yet another C&C clone

Jim: Yeah, i mean people need to start copying things that haven’t been plagiarised properly

Alec: Historically, that’s led to stuff like Battlefield and Portal.

Jim: absolutely – commercialise those offbeat ideas

Alec: Anyway, hopefully we can play the damn multiplayer some time soon, as right now I have no idea if I’m any good at the game or not.

Jim: yeah, we’ll get some multiplayer under our belts and deliver a more comprehensive verdict

Alec: Okay. And your favourite Demigod?

Jim: Hmm. Actually I think I’ll go Oak too. The Rook is the standout idea, but he’s not quite right

Alec: He’s not quite powerful enough, is he? He was an odd choice to be the hybrid builder unit – really he should be all about the ultra-smash

Jim: I expected more of a tank

Alec: And on that note, shall we retreat back to our sadly solo Demigoddery?

Jim: I’ll keep trying on the multiplayer – you never know…

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