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It is said that a great game is easy to learn but difficult to master. Demigod has the latter part down—the former, not so much. Veterans of the Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients, from which this game draws much of its inspiration, will have an easy time grasping the excellent concept, but to most other players it’s a very new form of multiplayer role-playing game, and the lack of tutorials makes learning the ropes a challenge.
To make a long, superfluous story short, portals on both sides of a symmetrical map spew out waves of AI-controlled troops that clash in the middle. Controlling a single powerful character, your goal is to push the tide of battle back at the enemy and topple their citadel. It sounds fairly simple, but thanks to a blizzard of game elements such as eight character classes, structure and minion upgrades, item purchasing, and flag capturing, Demigod becomes extremely complex.
The demigod characters, all of which have loads of personality and detailed fighting animations, are divided into high-damage assassins and supporting generals (teams can mix classes freely), and each has a unique skill tree. Assassins, like the enormous Rook, specialize in dealing damage directly, while generals, like the spirit-rising Oak, outsource some of that duty to summoned minions. Neither type has a clear upper hand, but generals tend to be more demanding to master and are more vulnerable to the game’s subpar pathfinding, which strands minions on every corner.
Battle is extremely tactical, and victory depends on knowing when to give up pursuit of a wounded enemy, when to retreat behind defenses yourself, when to seize a window of opportunity as the enemy waits to respawn, how to best use your demigod’s powers to complement your allies, and finding a balance between spending your money on improving your demigod with items or your team with citadel upgrades to buff up minions and tower defenses. After both teams have gotten the hang of things, it’s a very suspenseful and fluid sort of war where the tides of battle can swing wildly back and forth, and victory is seldom certain. The only thing that’s difficult to overcome is if you allow the other team to gain experience and level up significantly faster than you do—then your godly goose is cooked.
But for what is primarily a multiplayer game (single-player skirmish and tournament options are identical to multiplayer, except against bots), Demigod has some extremely finicky online matchmaking. Stardock and Gas Powered Games have been very aggressive in issuing patches to resolve the maddening problems, but as of this review, it takes a lot of gentle coaxing and crossed fingers to get everyone connected properly for a custom six-player game. The reward for suffering through the connectivity issues is great, but spending 20 minutes setting up a game only to be dropped moments from victory has a way of dampening enthusiasm.
Great tactical RPG combat; visually amazing maps; interesting demigod characters.
Poor documentation; weak pathfinding AI; connectivity problems.