Warcraft fans will probably fondly remember a custom mod called ‘Defense of the Ancients’ which came out over five years ago. Instead of directing an entire legion, you control just a single meatball known as a ‘hero’ whose mission is to destroy the enemy’s stronghold. You’re still part of a team, but the other members are controlled by fellow humans or the AI. There’s no resource management to speak of. No digging for shiny crystals or messing around with generators. You take exhibit A, a big shiny axe, and introduce it to exhibit B, your enemy’s face. Simple. Messy. Enjoyable as hell.
Demigod follows the same style, mixing RTS with RPG to create RGF - Really Good Fun. Your character is the Demigod of the title, one of eight selectable units who are battling each other for ultimate power and supremacy. The plot is lighter than a Malteser, but the demigods themselves more than make up for that. They couldn’t be more varied, from your typical PVC-clad dominatrix, to a gigantic living castle known as the Rook. Each have their own special abilities and skills which are well balanced and provide unique challenges. There are two main types of Demigod; ‘generals’, who can summon up minions to help them out, and ‘assassins’, who rely on their own brute strength or finesse to finish off their enemies.
Like DOTA, there’s no mining for resources or buildings to construct. For the bulk of the game, you’ll just be out there kicking arse. The overall objective differs depending on the level - for example, defeat your demigod opponent(s) a set number of times, or destroy the enemy citadel. The further you progress, the more demigods there’ll be on the map. It’s not every man/dominatrix/castle for themself, though. There are two factions - the forces of light versus the forces of dark. Defeat all of the demigods in opposing faction, and you’re smiling.
The more experience you gain through defeating opponents and achieving objectives, the more you can build up your powers. These are presented in the form of a skills tree. It’s up to you which powers you go for, and the variety between the different Demigods is impressive. You can also improve your character’s armour and weapons at the shops within the levels, in exchange for gold. Yes, gold - but don’t worry, you don’t have to dig it out of the ground and store it in huge silos or anything like that. Gold supplies are controlled via a series of flags scattered around the levels. You capture them by touching them for a short period of time, but your opponents can steal them away just as easily so you’ll have to keep an eye out.
After playing so many RTS games, it can feel unusual at first to control only a single character. In a way you’re taking a step back from the likes of Command and Conquer. Your minions scamper about without paying you much attention, battling the enemy minions and generally doing what they please. There’s no defences to build or tactical army construction. Despite this, you quickly got used to the game’s mechanics. Even though your control is greatly simplified, there’s still sufficient depth and flexibility when tailoring your Demigod to suit most players. The best part is the balance of power. You’ll feel almighty as the immense Rook, smashing your way through crowds of tiny minions on your way to the enemy base. Don’t get too carried away though - all of the Demigods have their vulnerabilities, and it’s surprisingly easy to be killed, especially in battle with rival Demigods.
This is a multiplayer-focused game at heart. There is a single-player mode, but it’s basically the same as single-player in games such as Unreal Tournament - multiplayer but with AI. In both single and multiplayer, you’re thrown on one of eight maps where you battle against one or more opponents. In single player. you can set up everything prior to the match. Who you’re fighting against, how strong the AI is, how much starting gold you have. This is good practice for multiplayer, serving more as a tutorial mode more than anything else. As soon as you’re ready you should definitely jump into the multiplayer. You’re matched up online with similarly skilled opponents, and each victory takes you another step closer to godhood.
A major talking point in most other reviews is the issue with lag. Stardock recently reported that they had monitored online usage, and of 120,000 connections to their servers, only 18,000 were from legitimate, paying customers. The unexpected masses of pirate gamers have understandably caused some slowdown, but Stardock are insistent that they’re working on any remaining problems. A new patch just came out that slashed delays connecting to the lobby and fixed a number of other online issues. Some lag still remains, but I honestly never experienced anything that made me frustrated or want to quit the game. And remember what D:Ream taught us back in the day - things can only get better, my friend.
If you’re in the mood for something a little different to your normal, run-of-the-mill RTS titles, Demigod is well worth a look.