Peter: Let’s mention the fighting, since that’s obviously a bit of a focus. We saw a bit of monster-bashing in a Monastery.
Tim: It certainly looks a lot more hack-and-slashy than, say, The Witcher; there was a lot of rolling back-and-forth to evade attacks. Bashing enemies with your basic attacks nets you Essence, which lets you use your demonic gifts to full effect – poison enemies, freeze them in place, let loose huge flaming novas, whatever.
There are four branches of gifts, each of which contains four spells, and each of these have various sub-points that affect that spell. Your fiery nova, for instance, can be further upgraded so that it does more damage or costs less Essence. So yeah, it looks like you can customise the way you fight.
Tim: Essence isn’t the only mechanic that affects how you fight, though. You’ve also got a stamina bar used for various combat moves, or to throw knives at your enemies, and while you can just button mash away it’s not exactly encouraged. As with every hack-and-slash action game ever made you build up a combo as you hit enemies; get this high enough and Cairon can enter DEMONIC WRATH mode, which makes him ridiculously powerful. I can’t say the combat looks magnificent (it won’t be vying with Devil May Cry or anything) but there’s nothing particularly offensive about it, and it’s kinda hard to judge a combat system like this without both playing it for myself, and playing it with my own character. I suspect it’d mean a lot more if I was using my own hard-earned skills and gifts to fight off demons.
Have I missed anything?
Peter: Well, to quote our host “So much for the combat system.” That … sounds a bit reductive, sorry. You’re right, it looks engaging enough, but you make another good point (damn you!) that the true test will be playing with a character, or a Cairon at least, of your own design. I guess that’s the other reason we tend to avoid hands-off events.
Actually there was a bit more fighting. We got to see half of a boss fight against a Cult leader/plague demon thingie. In the first section he seemed pretty impervious to harm, so the player needed to blow up some zombies near to various tentacles that were squirming out of the ground. That was the only way to cause damage. Our stream ended during the second segment, so no spoilers how to finish the guy off.
This was also a neat way of explaining how dialogue skills and choices can affect the game. The clue to killing off the tentacles was gleaned in an earlier conversation, thanks to the character having enough of a buff in that area (we checked with the developers, these dialogue skill-checks are hard locked – so if you need a ‘5’ and have that, you will always pass it.) Our Cultist pal is a chap who has been lying to villagers about the route to paradise (‘paradise’ it turns out is forced zombie labour,) and you can either kill him for this or let him go. Presumably if you let him go, you may be able to dodge that boss fight.
Peter: We saw a couple of other bits in this sequence too, like traps that need to be disarmed and the ability to brew potions with the right skills (more Witcher call-backs, there.)
So Tim, based on the highly accurate metric of watching 30 minutes of The Dark Eye: Demonicon, would you say it’s set to be the RPG sensation of the year?
Tim: I wouldn’t go that far. So that I can be annoyingly correct again, I’ll also point out that it’s very difficult to judge anything based on hands-off time, even if it’s a (fairly lengthy, by most event standards) 30 minutes. I have no idea whether it’ll clamber up the cliffs of “alright” to get to “pretty good”, or even the lofty peak of “fantastic”, but I don’t think it’ll be bad. It looks like a fairly well-assembled action-RPG; it’s got all the right ingredients in terms of levelling, dialogue, combat, and choice, but it’s about how good those individual elements are and how well they combine. I predict a fairly decent game, though not one that’s likely to set the world alight.
Peter: That was an easy thing to be right about, it doesn’t count!
Anyway, I think I’ve reached roughly the same conclusions as you. The combat looks fine, although as with all of these 25-30 RPGs could get pretty repetitive unless it keeps feeding you a whole new bunch of challenges and skills to use. If there are more quirky characters akin to the zombie lady and fewer who speak in monotone like the main chap, then that’ll be a big plus. I am really worried about the main voice acting, as it’s presumably what you’ll hear the most of. Since I know nothing about The Dark Eye as a tabletop game I can’t really say how accurately it’s being recreated here.
So, yes, cautious about it at the moment. The Dark Eye: Demonicon is out on 25 October, so if our compact review team isn’t busy reviewing everything else in the world of PC one of us may get the chance to critique it properly.