Review: Demon's Rise 2: Lords of Chaos15 Nov 2016 13
Review: Demon's Rise 2: Lords of Chaos
Released 10 Nov 2016
Demon's Rise 2: Lords of Chaos is a turn-based role-playing game set in a dark fantasy setting. It focuses heavily on tactical combat encounters that factor in terrain and the morale of combatants. You choose and control a team of six elite warriors in a robust and lengthily single-player adventure.
You don't play the good guys in Demon's Rise 2, at least not from the perspective of your typical good-guy humanoids. You control a party of barbaric and inhuman demon worshippers. They follow the older, darker gods and make use of foul magic to serve their purposes.
In the campaign your team of elite fighters is backing Morkarn, the Demon Prince. His army is full of beastlike men and barbarians of all kinds, including your war band. Morkarn has attacked the kingdoms of the north—lands filled with humans, dwarves, and elves–and has cut his way through them. He and his army stand poised to claim complete victory soon.
Your team has been in the vanguard of every battle, striking fear into the hearts of these "civilized" races. Now only Baron Aedin the Proud remains. Aedin has foolishly brought forth his armies to face you in open battle. "Slaughter their warriors, crush their morale and bring me the heads of their champions," Morkarn asks of you, honoring you with the vanguard once more and the task of bringing this proud man and his force of fools to their knees. Things aren't as they seem, however, and what starts out black and white—an easy battle to defeat an already routed foe—fades to grey.
Demon's Rise 2 is like a well-prepared, well-run 4th edition D&D tabletop game with an emphasis on "roll" over "role" playing. The overall narrative is interesting and holds things together well, but the real strength of the game, and the main reason you should play it, is the combat encounters. They are very well constructed and appropriately challenging and often make use of terrain effects and create situations that force movement.
The game is played on a hex-based game board and each battle starts with your team in a clump on one side of it. On the other side, and sometimes not very far away, is the enemy. The action proceeds in turns and each of your characters can both move and attack each turn. Characters have a movement speed which dictates how many spaces they can move each turn. They also have a set number of action points to use in each turn. Action points are used to perform skills, special powers unique to each character. Skills cost a variable number of action points and dictate what you can do in a turn. Each character regains action points at the beginning of the next turn.
Your turn is rife with tactical decisions. You want to maneuver your characters into their best possible position to be able to both attack, and survive the enemy's counter strike. Learning what each character can do, their limitations, and how best to use them is part of the fun.
As mentioned, Demon's Rise 2 increases the realism and challenge of combat by making terrain a big factor. There is cover to be considered, both partial and full, with each providing scaling defensive modifiers. If you stand behind a tree or large rock it is harder to hit you. You'll also find encounters where certain squares confer special bonuses, like healing or additional action points, due to a magical waystone or something similar. In other situations there are choke points to exploit, if you can get there first. You need to take advantage of these terrain features because your AI enemy sure will if you do not.
The game also features a morale system. Both characters and enemies can panic or enter a berserker fury under certain conditions—watching an ally die or becoming surrounded by enemies for example. Maintaining tight formations helps with morale with the trade-off of increasing vulnerability to area-of-effect damage and spells.
Demon's Rise 2 has five difficulty settings to allow you to fine-tune how much of a challenge you really want. It can get quite difficult and I've had to restart more than one encounter because my tactics just didn't work out. You can't brute-force your way through most encounters and this is a thinking-player's game. Even when successful, you'll have characters fall in battle. Don't worry though, they will revive and be ready for the next level.
There are a lot of different character options. You get to pick six player characters out of ten options each with a different class, background, and set of powers. The options are pretty varied, including a Werebear, Blood Shaman, Demon Knight, Corsair, and Shadow Ghoul. You can even pick the same character multiple times if desired. I found them all tempting and had a tough time eliminating four as it was. That will get harder soon, the developer is already planning on adding more classes (Vampire Knight, Horse Archer, Chaos Ogre, Blade Dancer, & Squidman Sorcerer).
Who you choose and how you deploy them is as important as anything else in Demon's Rise 2 and once again it is a lot like Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft. The usual rules apply. You want your tanks out front to take a beating, your squishy ranged strikers in the back, and your mobile fighters darting in and out to deliver big hits at the right time to the enemy. You want magic casters who can buff and heal your team as well as deliver area-of-effect damage and debuffs to the enemy.
Like all role-playing games magic items and equipment play a part in Demon's Rise 2. Each character has thirteen equipment slots for weapons, armor or clothing, rings, boots, helms, and all of the other usual suspects. There are tons of different items which allows you to further customize your characters and optimize party effectiveness. Items can be found in encounters as well as through an in-game merchant who will also buy unwanted items.
The developer says there is 30-40 hours of gameplay and I believe it. One battle can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour in my experience, which is a good length for a relatively quick one-and-done game session. If you want to string together several encounters and progress through a good chunk of the campaign in a sitting you can easily play for hours. There's also a high replay value if you enjoy trying out different characters and equipment.
Demon's Rise 2 also features dozens of quick battles. Quick battles are extra levels you can play that aren't required to progress through the campaign. They offer opportunities to gain experience and find magical items to power up your team and improve their chances to defeat extra-challenging levels. It's a nice addition to the game and a nod to the challenge inherent in the base campaign.
The graphics in Demon's Rise 2 are good with nice attention to detail and the user interface is solid. You can line up pretty much any view of the battle you want via pinch controls (which can be adjusted for speed in the settings) or a compass rose interface. You double tap to attack a target, although doing so did not respond for me on occasion. The developer is reactive to bugs however so I'm sure that'll get sorted out and it isn't a deal breaker.
Demon's Rise 2 is one of the better role-playing games of the year. It's certainly the deepest in terms of tactical decision-making opportunities and challenging combat encounters. There is a lot of min-maxing potential and the game really rewards smart play. Fans of tactical RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, and MMO-style combat will really take to the campaign and won't regret adding this game to their collection.