Peter Parrish: We don’t tend to do many ‘hands-off’ previews here at IncGamers. Primarily that’s down to the costs and wasted travel time involved in going to distant events where you’re not even able to touch an actual game, as well as the ethical issues surrounding being put up in hotels by public relations teams and the like.
But for The Dark Eye: Demonicon Kalypso were pragmatic enough to just set up a half hour Twitch.tv based stream for the media to watch. No costs, no dodgy PR people trying to ply us with drinks and stupid activities, just Tim and I sat in front of our PCs, watching narrated footage of the forthcoming RPG. Full disclosure though: I did bribe myself with some toast.
Tim McDonald: Toast counts as a bribe? Wow. If that’s all it takes to bribe you then you have even less moral integrity than I thought. What did you bribe yourself into?
Peter’s problems with ethics aside, though, he’s quite correct: 30 minutes of us watching a developer play Demonicon. For the uninitiated, it’s an action RPG based around the pen-and-paper RPG The Dark Eye, which is sort of like Germany’s answer to Dungeons & Dragons. It’s far from the first game to be based on that license, though not too many of the rest are that well known over here – there’s Realms of Arkania, and Drakensang, and Chains of Satinav, and Memoria, which you may have heard of. This is set in the same universe.
Peter: I … bribed myself into consuming some fiber, I guess? Most people just refer to that as ‘eating’ I suppose.
Anyway, I’m glad you did a summary of all of those Dark Eye titles because I’d forgotten about most of them. I’m not sure I’ve even played any of them. Our narrator from Noumena Studios was definitely keen to say how popular it was as an RPG system in Germany though.
Tim: I don’t think I’ve played much of any of them. Obviously, though, I own most of them. And yes – as far as I know, it is hugely popular over there!
Peter: From what I gleaned from the livestream, this is the first one to be based in the Shadowlands (which may be exciting if you’re familiar with the universe,) and the first to take a more action-based direction with combat. More on that later, because the second segment we were shown was pretty stab-n-magic heavy.
After a cut-scene that looked quite a bit like the main battle from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and some exposition about a nasty demon who may or may not be named Barbara, we were shown a couple of seconds of the tutorial and then whisked quickly away to the city of Waruck. According to a Q&A session after the stream, this city will be pretty sizeable with five different areas. Aside from a decent looking central cathedral, the area seemed rather run-down with wooden shacks and walkways all over the place.
Peter: In fact it looked a bit like the poorer areas of Vizima from The Witcher, which may not be a coincidence given how often the references to a “dark fantasy,” “mature themes” and “moral decisions” were flowing forth. Not that this is a problem; those are good things to put in your upcoming fantasy RPG game!
And then there were the horrifying staring eyes.
Tim: Which led to us typing – in all caps – “THE EYES” in the chat window we had open, every time a conversation happened. Say what you will about the rest of the production values (and what I’ll say is that they’re mostly okay, barring one thing which we’ll get to in a moment) but… the characters don’t blink. It’s a little thing. A very minor thing. But when they’re lip-synced reasonably well, and conversation inevitably focuses on their faces, there’s something very weird about having two people staring at each other for the duration of an entire conversation. This one thing makes the characters trip and fall headfirst into the uncanny valley.
As for that one thing… well, the voice acting of the main character is very bland. He sounds entirely bored by what’s going. He makes JC Denton sound like a hyperactive child. At one point he mentions that he’s going to kill somebody with all the boundless enthusiasm of someone describing paint samples. Everyone else we heard were at worst fine, and at best genuinely entertaining, so right now I’m mostly just hoping the main character doesn’t talk very much.
Peter: It’s a shame, because the people he was bouncing conversation off (including at one point a sassy and saucy zombie lady) were absolutely fine. Good, even. Aside from THE EYES, obviously. Although in the case of the zombie lady that was perhaps thematically appropriate. Maybe there’ll still be time for another recording session and a quick fund-raiser to get the characters some eyelids?
Peter: As you say, the rest looks fine. I was getting a bit worried when our host decided to introduce the game’s skill system by explaining there was a “haggle” ability you can dump points into (maaaybe open with something a little more compelling than beating a humble trader down on the price of a necklace,) but things got more interesting when he hinted at a trade-off between spending “gift points” and, well, staying human.
You see, our main fellow Cairon (Karen?) has a slight demon problem. The demon is happy to help him out with some super-amazing skills (and haggling) but in return will want bits of Cairon’s soul. There was a bit towards the end of the presentation where his face started to warp on certain dialogue choices, because he was going a bit too demon-ey. In fact … maybe that will perk up his voice acting, when he goes full demon?