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Demigod - first look

Many games have tried to fuse RTS and RPG. It’s as noble a crusade as combining bacon and egg into a single, glorious foodstuff, yet no one’s been able to come up with anything that doesn’t just taste like gooey meat.

But the story’s a little different when you’re talking about a developer who’s already mastered the action RPG with Dungeon Siege and pushed RTS to its very limits with Supreme Commander. In fact, Gas Powered Games are so confident about their game that they’re self-publishing it.

Demigod is Chris Taylor and company’s most ambitious project to date. They’ve made games that function incredibly well before, but they weren’t exactly joyful. You’d be forgiven for thinking Demigod was the opposite. Just look at these screenshots. He’s got castles on his bloody shoulders. This is surely a game where the artists are calling the shots...

Except they’re not. Demigod is a functioning and fun game first and foremost. The steampunk-fantasy graphical approach (actually the boxy Supreme Commander engine jiggery-pokered into something new and beautiful) came later. So all concerns that this is a pretty-but-vacant game can evaporate now.

The key to how the game works is the distinction between its Demigods. The Assassin Demigods, one-man/thing armies that grow in strength and ability as they level up, bring the RPG. The Torch Bearer, for instance, is able to freeze swathes of enemies with an icy Area of Effect spell, then shatter the crystalline legion with a well-placed Fire Nova follow-up. The General Demigods bring the RTS - building and buffing troops rather than developing their own powers. The Oak, for example, can perform a spot of necromancy, calling up the spirits of the dead, while The Rook (he of the becastled shoulders) can construct a network of defense nodes, beaming deadly energy across the battlefield. Variety is key: it’s hard to think of a better riposte to complaints that Supreme Commander’s factions were too symmetrical.

It’s primarily a multiplayer game, and seeing this vast spectacle of fantasy excess in co-op teamplay should be incredible. Unlike the multi-hour brain-punishment of a Supreme Commander match, a bout of Demigod will take just 10 to 20 minutes, with the speed and immediacy of Battlefield and Team Fortress cited as influences. Most importantly, though, he’s got castles on his bloody shoulders!

Mar 3, 2008

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