It may seem like a long time ago but there was a time when multiplayer gaming purely meant having to physically go to an arcade or pop to a mate’s, especially when it came to dungeon crawling with a team of fantasy warriors. Nowadays, board gaming might still be alive and strong but there are plenty more options if you’re separated by hours of travelling (or a pandemic). In the field of virtual reality, Resolution Games has become somewhat of an expert, with all its most recent projects providing a multiplayer party vibe. Its latest is no different, yet it embraces those old board gaming sensibilities in Demeo.
Unlike a lot of VR party videogames, Demeo isn’t concerned with creating a ruckus, getting the blood pumping, or having players scream at each other to complete a task. What you have here is slow, methodical gaming, where you work as a team to overcome challenges and opponents with one focused goal, to fight through a monster-filled dungeon and defeat the boss at the end.
If you have ever played any sort of role-playing game (RPG), digital or otherwise, Demeo’s setup is about as standard as you could imagine. There are four character classes to choose from, each with its own traits so it’s always wise to have one of each if you’re playing a full roster of four people. You don’t need four as you can dive right in with you and one other mate, however, like any game of this ilk the more definitely is the merrier. From general friendly banter to working out a proper strategy, Demeo really comes alive when several mates are involved.
As for those characters, there’s an assassin who’s good at sneaking around, laying traps, and getting in close for some extra backstabbing damage. Also in the close-range camp is the Knight, with a big swinging blade for some major damage. This class also happens to be the only one with armour, great for leading from the front. If you prefer a little distance between you and whatever nasty creature happens to appear then the sorcerer has plenty of area-of-effect (AOE) attacks whilst the ranger has a trusty bow for the farthest reach. As mentioned, all quite standard when it comes to RPG gaming.
Dungeons are procedurally generated in Demeo, so their layouts and enemy locations always change for each run-through, the only consistency is that each dungeon contains three levels. The overall design and feel remain the same however, a drab selection of bricks and dour colours which you’d kind of expect. This being a VR title there’s more than just a static tabletop to look at, as Resolution Games has gone with a classic D&D gaming theme, hosting Demeo inside a virtual basement. It’s not something you appreciate right away until you’re a few turns in as players are getting into position and then you notice the attention to the background detail.
You’d be forgiven for ignoring the background though, as there’s plenty to keep your attention table side. You’ve got full control over how you view the action, freely able to spin the tabletop around, resize it for a lofty god-like viewpoint or get right in there and step into the dungeon – there’s some lovely model work to admire. You can even adjust the viewing angle should you so desire. And each player can do this independently, which means there are points in the game everyone’s avatar – made up of heads and hands – will be a variety of sizes as they adjust for each situation.
When it comes to your turn you have two action points that can be used for exploration or fighting. Each character has a set number of squares they can move, so teams can decide how methodical they want to be. Stepping onto a door can open the floodgates with a wave of enemies suddenly appearing, whilst others may appear from a flanking location. As you do with a physical board game you can pick up your character, move them to an open spot or drop them right on an enemy. All attacks are decided by a roll of the die, with three outcomes, a standard hit, a critical hit (for extra damage), or a miss. The latter also adds a random chance for you to hit a teammate which is never good – you almost feel guilty for doing it even though it was a random roll of the die.
Those are just your basic moves though, Demeo really comes into its own once you start to use all the magic cards. There are over 60, with some specific to each character, some are single-use whilst others recharge each turn. For example, the ranger can use two bow shots each turn whilst the knight can recharge their armour for an action point. The powerful spells use a chunk of mana that’s shared between the entire group. Hence where that teamwork becomes even more important, use all that mana on a shit move and suddenly there’s none for everyone else – until it’s replenished of course.
Thus, you have all these little strategic elements adding layer after layer of complexity to Demeo. There’s no difficulty per se, it all depends on the random enemy encounters, so a run could take 30 minutes, or you could be there an hour trying to wade through the hordes. It’s thoroughly engrossing and even after several dungeons didn’t feel repetitive, always offering something new to try.
A worry with any type of multiplayer-oriented videogame like Demeo is what happens if there’s no one else to join? Thankfully, Demeo does include a single-player skirmish mode where you take three characters into a dungeon. Admittedly you do lose that ambiance and energy that only playing with friends can bring but it does add a lot of value to Demeo. You can experiment with different characters, learn about the various spells and enemy specialties so you’re all clued up ready for the next online session. Or there’s always the quick match option to just jump in with some like-minded players and see if you can beat the boss.
Having just one boss to fight at the end does sound a little light which would be a concern to the longevity of Demeo. But Resolution Games has already confirmed the next expansion module, Realm of the Rat King for this summer. While that doesn’t affect this overall review, at least you know more content is on the way.
Demeo continues Resolution Games’ run of well-crafted VR titles, moving away from the frantic gameplay of Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale and Blaston into a far more laidback experience. As Demeo is entirely tabletop-based there are no comfort issues to worry about (best played seated), plus as you complete runs you level up and unlock new customisation options, encouraging repeat gameplay. Its slower style isn’t for everyone yet as an example of D&D in VR, Demeo excels.
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