Dark Eye: Demonicon
Just to get it out of the way right off the bat: Demonicon is not a AAA game. It clearly doesn’t have the big money finance behind it of a game like Call Of Duty, and this does entail certain negatives. Summarily, the technical quality of the game is lower than you may have come to expect of a 2013 release. Both the graphics and the gameplay feel old, reminding me of nothing so much as the first Witcher game. However, that is not to say it should be written off. The Witcher series rocks and, similarly, Demonicon has a lot going for it.
Just not the name. I have no idea what I would have called it as an alternative and the name is appropriate given the story and whatnot, but something about it just rankles with me. But anyway, I suppose the first major positive of the game is the story and the writing behind it. At its broadest, Demonicon is guilty of falling into the stereotypes that are common to so many fantasy RPGs, with forbidden magic, ancient evils and civil unrest all playing their roles in the game. That said, these are stereotypes for a reason and the fact that the game uses them definitely isn’t a detraction. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The characters and story work well together, and while the story is definitely prone to tropes that weave their way throughout a hell of a lot of fantasy RPGs, the characters are interesting enough to make the game stand out. The protagonist, Cairon, is a brilliant bastard, and his strange relationship with his sister has got some unique dynamics to it that prevent Cairon’s single-minded anti-hero antics from becoming single-mindedly dull. Not that Cairon’s capacity for bastardry is dull, but the addition of his flirtations with incest and their effect on his life certainly takes the game in unexpected directions.
But, to focus on Cairon, you’re essentially playing as a well-trained fighter who discovers magic and is tied into a bigger plot because of his secret family history that has been kept hidden by his father. It’s a slight shame that this isn’t the kind of game where you get to more personally develop your character, but elements of choice do enter the game that influence the way certain groups will perceive Cairon. At the same time as all this magical mystery is occurring there’s a mildly incestuous relationship going on with his sister, Calandra, that seems to be motivating a lot of his angry encounters with people. The disturbing chemistry between the two keeps the story going in a fairly out there direction and, at times, you can almost forget that the very well-voiced characters are in fact siblings.
Setting this slightly odd detail aside, your adventures in the world of Demonicon prove to be fairly exciting. Though the sidequests are hardly riveting mini-narratives, serving instead to simply line your pockets by means of almost inanely simple tasks, the main storyline is well-written and has enough intrigue and action to maintain its momentum. It does suffer from slightly inconsistent pacing but, for the most part, it’s a strong statement of the dark and twisted world that Demonicon occupies.
The main problem I have with Demonicon is its technical capability. Despite all the excellent story elements, which are to be expected given that it stems from the Dark Eye series (the most successful role-playing game on the German market), it just does not work like a 2013 release should. I compared it earlier to the first Witcher game and I stand by that comparison. The problem is that while The Witcher was a great game, it came out in 2007. 5 years down the line, a game like Demonicon, even without the budget of a AAA game, really should be running better.
The game often feels slightly choppy and the combat mechanics aren’t really as fluid as I’d like. Strangely enough, work has gone into making the whores capable of actually jiggling their boobs at you but, for some reason, the same work hasn’t gone into allowing you to have a smooth fighting system. Plus, and it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I really felt that if you’re going to put the effort into making a prostitute jiggle at me, I really should be able to fully appreciate the hive of scum and villainy that I seem to have found myself in.
Many RPGs suffer from the problem of a static world, and while Demonicon is far from the worst for this, it does often feel that the world isn’t so much changed by you as completely dictated and revolving around your actions. While it’s great to give an RPG character importance, when you make it so they appear to be the sole interest of the world, the integrity and interest of that world is lessened. Playing through Demonicon, nice as it is to be the centre of attention, does feel worryingly like everybody else does the same thing all day, every day.
Ultimately, Demonicon makes you work for its love. It can be a bit of a bitch to play, with enemies often seeming vastly superior to you among other things, and at times I definitely felt frustrated by it, but if you stick with it, it’s definitely worth the play. There’s a fair amount that could be improved about the game, but once you’ve dealt with the fact that it was created on a smaller budget than mainstream titles, it’s easier to get on with simply enjoying the warped path you are led down. Demonicon may come with a bit of a learning curve but it’s one that, in the end, pays off in a wonderfully dark way.