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Gas Powered Games



T (Teen)



April 14, 2009



- Lush details in main characters and environments

- Awesome soundtrack

- Fast paced gameplay is perfect for time constrained gamers



- "Cookie-cutter" feel to some aspects of the game

- Awkward Internet multiplayer setup



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Score: 7.0 / 10


The eternal struggle between good and evil.  It's still pretty virgin territory despite having been explored countless ways previously throughout the ages in literature, movies, and even video games.  But there's always new ways at looking at old scenarios and the folks at Gas Powered Games have given us a solid little title in the form of Demigod.  At it's core, the basics aren't too dissimilar to an FPS, though it plays out as an RTS with some RPG elements thrown in.  The result of all this fiddling about is a game that manages to fully entertain but falls short of unequivocal greatness.


demigod          demigod


Demigod delivers what is, without question, one of the more gorgeously rendered worlds in gaming today.  The details are exacting, the animations fluid, and the overall artistic style is incredible.  After the humdrum visuals on Space Siege, it's nice to be reminded that Gas Powered artists know how to create visual beauty.  It's the little details that simultaneously bring attention to both the strengths and weaknesses of the visuals, more in artistic style than anything else.  The titular characters themselves, eight in all, are very highly detailed and highly diverse and still manage to keep in harmony with the visual style.  This is the greatest visual




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strength of the game: as a would-be deity, you look damn good.  But while the demigods look fantastic, the minions which serve as your cannon fodder suffer a distinct sameness to them.  The minion models are diverse, but they only come in two flavors when it comes to their textures, and that feels like an opportunity missed.  Good creatures could have been more luminous and vital looking while evil


creatures could have been more twisted and corrupted.  That same sort of paradigm is in play when it comes to the maps.  Taken on the large zoomed out view, the maps are gorgeous, from what could easily pass for an Aztec courtyard to an arena supported by the skeletal remains of cthonian giants.  Get down close and there's very little to distinguish one side from the other beyond the slightly different texture maps and the style of flag that you capture.


The audio on Demigod ranges from pretty good to positively kickass.  There's not much in the way of voice work, an announcer who marks off who's doing what and a second announcer mentioning when flags are captured and defenses are being attacked, along with some short comments from each of the eight demigods when you click on them.  The voice actors play it straight and it works well.  Let's face it, hearing somebody say at the end of a campaign, "You are now a GOD!" is definitely the sort of ego boost people could stand to hear more often in these troubled times.  The sound effects are clean but nothing to write home about.  The soundtrack by Howard Mostrom, on the other hand, is phenomenal.  For me, the hallmark of a good game soundtrack is the desire to want to pop a CD version into my car and cruise down the highway with the volume cranked up.  This soundtrack delivers the goods, and I'm looking forward to hearing Mostrom's next work with the same sort of anticipation I get for music from Jeremy Soule and Robyn Miller.


Playing Demigod is in one sense about as simple as it gets.  You are primarily responsible for one unit, though some characters have the option to build a very small retinue of monsters around them to help in the killing.  You move, you capture flags which give your side bonuses in combat as well as power which slowly upgrades a citadel to give you even more bonuses.  There are only two resources you really have to worry about gathering: gold and experience points, and both can be obtained by throwing yourself into the fray and slaughtering the endless waves of cannon fodder that comes out to meet each other and you in battle.  Experience points level you up, which opens up your character's talent trees, which determines how your character will play out in the current round.  Gold gives you the opportunity to buy potions and arcane knickknacks to further help trick out your character.


demigod          demigod


Solo players can choose a skirmish or the campaign, playing through eight rounds on various maps with one of four mission objectives.  Talents are reset at the beginning of each round, so you're not having to worry about trying to respec in the middle of a battle, though it might have been nice to have the option to respec if you accidentally picked the wrong talent for the mission in question.  The missions are very fast paced, less than twenty minutes per round on average, and you've got all sorts of achievements that you can unlock during gameplay, along with earning favor points which allow you to obtain one-of-a-kind artifacts which might tip the balance in your favor.


Multiplayer is precisely the same, only you've got human opponents to deal with.  This game has the definite feel of an "easy to learn, hard to master" title.


But again, that dreadful sameness begins to creep in.  The characters who can build retinues (referred to as "Generals") only have the same three pools to build from, and the highest level monster from each pool can easily be obtained after a couple levels.  As diverse as each character is, you'd think that they could assemble a retinue equally diverse, or at least one that suited their particular character theme.  Alas, no.  The same goes for the minions that you can add as upgrades through the citadel.  Not only are their texture sets similar, but their powers and functions are similar as well.  Something more substantial to differentiate between the good and evil forces would have been great.


As for multiplayer, while the actual gameplay was fun, the process of getting a game together was ugly and completely unpleasant.  Rather than using a client/server setup like Stardock's runaway hit Sins Of A Solar Empire, Gas Powered went with a peer-to-peer setup, which means everybody has to be able to connect to each other in order to play.  The actual establishment of those connections takes a lot longer than a client/server scheme.  In a LAN party setting, this wouldn't really be much of an issue.  Over the Internet, it's a lot less fun.  The maps also suffer the curse of sameness in their gameplay.  You get the feeling somebody could map out a spreadsheet of which defenses to assault, what flags to capture, and what artifacts to buy, timing everything down to the exact second when it has to happen.  That sort of thing turned me off playing StarCraft in multiplayer, and it could very easily happen with this game, which would be a terrible shame.


In the end, Demigod does a lot of things right.  Its missteps are few but noticeable.  I think there's loads of potential here, not just for expansion packs and sequels, but spinoffs into the RPG genre.  It's the first entry in what could be the next big series.  The trick will be in giving players more goodies without the cookie-cutter feel to them.


- Axel Cushing

(June 9, 2009)


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