Demeo for PC is the “on screen” variant of version of the same name, but in virtual reality, released last year. The game in its essence remains unchanged: we must enter a dungeon and make us strata with sword strokes and spells to get to the final boss, with the richest treasure of all; only, with one size less. So let’s see what changes in the PC version of Demeo in this review.
Demeo is a cross between a board game simulator and a dungeon crawler currently in early access on Steam. Inside the game we are seated at a table and we observe the model of a dungeon. We can move our thumbnails and change the view. L’interaction, strictly turn-based, it happens through the game director, Deb, so we really feel like we’re playing. On the playing field, the action is typical of the dungeon crawler: There are chambers to explore and hordes of enemies to kill with the aim of clean up everything to get to the bottom and win the game.
Despite mixing two genres, Demeo does a good job of keeping the game mechanics of its two levels separate. In this review, to better analyze the game, we therefore prefer to examine the two aspects separately.
The board game simulation
In the board game simulation, as we have already said, we are seated at a table with the model of the level in front of us and facing Deb. To be honest, on this aspect it must be observed that we are not faced with anything disruptive; the game table simulation has been used for quite some time also in other video games, on even more visible franchises, which do.
The innovation that we find in this aspect of Demeo concerns more than anything else theinterface and management of game elements. Each character’s special abilities and consumable items are represented with cards we have in hand. To activate a power we will have to take the card and deposit it on the table where we want it to act. Although the space is quite crowded, the use of cards is never too cumbersome or uncomfortable.
Attack actions involve an element of randomness which, in board games, punctually translates into the throwing of a dice. Also in Demeo attacking involves throwing a piece of data; in the sense that we have to take a dice with the mouse and launch it within the simulated 3D environment. The dice throwing operation, interesting at the beginning, it tends to lose charm rather quickly; partly because of the inconvenience of the gesture with the mouse and partly because the dice often ends up outside the playing area or stuck in some crevice. Fortunately, and this is the beauty of the simulations, the die, although very large, will not drop any miniature or destroy the walls of the dungeon.
Moving actions, on the other hand, are done by manipulating the miniatures. That is, it is necessary take the character and drag him to the new position (or over the enemy to be attacked). From a simulation point of view this is quite an interesting aspect; however, we found it a bit ‘in contrast with the mechanics we are all used to. We usually use two selection clicks: one for the character and one for the destination.
He dungeon crawler
The dungeon crawler part features a highly strategic gameplay. In fact, we will have a group of five characters to move in rather tight environments and in which several enemies will pop out. Therefore, group coordination is by far the most critical aspect to manage.
Each game consists of three levels of dungeons; in the first two we collect material and look for an object to access the next level, while in the third we will have to focus on fighting the final boss.
The group is built before each game drawing from classic fantasy archetypes: wizard, warrior, thief, archer (elf?) and cleric. Unlike other games duplicates are allowedso we may also want to tempt fate and break into the game board with a platoon of five wizards.
The game takes place in alternating turns and each character has at his disposal two actions per turn. We we will consume the actions of all our characters and then it’s up to the enemies. One thing to take into consideration is that with tight environments the view plays a very important role. For example, we may find ourselves in the last action of the last character and, around a corner, find that the group is at close range with six enemies that we did not know existed.
Dungeon crawlers, you know, are pretty challenging games because you have to make your way with difficulty. From this point of view, in fact, Demeo turns out to be quite challenging. The number of enemies is rather high to our sensitivity and it will often happen that you suddenly find yourself surrounded. Furthermore, we didn’t perceive a very sweet learning curve: you go directly from the tutorial with a single character and a few enemies ready to be shot down with a group of five characters in rooms infested with monsters.
Although crawling is very challenging, it must be admitted that the game comes to meet us enough: to put a character back into play without life points, it is enough for another character to position himself on it. Additionally, healing potions and fountains are relatively common.
An interface designed for virtual reality
The aspect of Demeo that we are most concerned about is the interface. Many aspects tend to make us think that there has not been a complete study of adaptation to the new mode without virtual reality. An example is the gestures of throwing the dice: in the original version of Demeo it works very well because we take it with one hand; with the mouse, as we have already said, the mechanism changes a bit. The same goes for the movement of the characters.
The change of perspective, to inspect the game board, works quite well even if for lateral movements it is preferable to use the mouse and not the keyboard. In small spaces, as many miniatures are close to each other, it is not always easy to pick the right character or place one in the exact spot we need. Of course, going to see the stats of individual units becomes a little test of patience.
In short, to sum up, we have the doubt that designers have underestimated the fact that the interaction system needed a slightly deeper overhaul. However, we are hopeful that, once the various feedbacks have been collected, a review will be made before exiting the early access state.
Demeo for PC review at a glance
Demeo is definitely an interesting product even if it caters to a very specific audience. The setting is something we have already seen elsewhere, but the mechanics manage to give a twist of novelty albeit with some limitations given by an interaction system designed for VR and not exactly agile to use without a 3D viewer.
The PC version is now in early access, so we’re pretty sure the final product will solve many of the current usability issues. At present, however, we would like to recommend it only to fans of the genre who do not yet have a VR viewer available.