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...