As a big fan of Black & White, Demigod was a game that always stuck with. Even though the reason behind that turned out to be little more than a misunderstanding. The premise of an RPG in which you could play colossal, divine creatures sounded amazing to me. Little did I know that, besides the poster character Rook, all the demigods are just normal dudes. Oops.
To call the game an RPG is also overselling it a bit. Demigod is actually a MOBA game which narrowly preceded the release of League of Legends. It came out in April 2009 to fairly optimistic reviews, but interested petered out quite fast. These days its amazing if the game has over 10 people playing at any given time. Quite a problem, since 10 is the recommended amount of players for any round. That’s either a tight-knit community or a dead one.
The game can be played solo against bots, though it doesn’t have any kind of story campaign. It also doesn’t have a tutorial, which is quite brave considering that the MOBA formula wasn’t as well-known in 2009.
For those still not in the know, the objective of Demigod (and most other MOBA games) is to pick a hero character and compete against a rival team for control of the map. There are multiple paths connecting your base to the enemy’s, which are dotted with towers that can make quick work of anyone trying to rush past. You defeat waves of enemies while to help your own dudes take down these towers, while also dealing with enemy heroes that are trying to achieve the same goal in the opposite direction.
There are different game modes available that change up the objectives a bit, but this core gameplay loop remains consistent across all of them. Demigod also adds in flags which can be captured to give your team (and waves) extra benefits. Some of these are even placed next to portals, so capturing them means you get even more troops to storm the enemy with. This can snowball disastrously if you can somehow get away with stealing the enemy’s own portals; denying them reinforcements while spawning your own literally inside their base.
Like other MOBA games, the RPG mechanics come down to gaining experience points to level up your character. Each level up lets you pick an upgrade from your tree, which usually improves one of your core abilities. You also gain money by defeating enemies, which can be exchanged for all kinds of equipment at a shop.
This can get quite complicated, though. The skill tree is difficult to read and there is no way to study it before you leap into a match. While League of Legends will just have you click the ability you want to upgrade, Demigod has branching skill trees that provide side-grades or passive bonuses on top of just stronger abilities.
The shop also has laundry list of different items spread across various categories, which often don’t abide by any kind of logic. You can wear multiple sets of armor, some items in the same category provide entirely different benefits, and some items are treated as consumables despite obviously being equipment.
While you can get used to this over the course of several rounds, it’s no surprise why the Demigod died so quickly after League happened. League is so much more efficient when it comes to managing equipment and level ups. MOBA’s aren’t games where you want your players to be standing around in indecision, trying to remember which gloves gave a bunch of armor and which ones give you “minion damage”.
Another setback for Demigod compared to League is its roster of characters. A mere 8 playable heroes makes the game seem malnourished, especially considering that a match supports 10 players. To its credit, these characters are very well-developed. Each one has a radically different playstyle with enough freedom for players to customize how they play. My favorite character is definitely Rook; a giant, wandering castle that can be upgraded with archers and siege engines that passively attack everything around you, but who can also learn a variety of useful skills or be turned into an unyielding tank. It all depends on what you prioritize while playing.
The lore, presentation, and maps to play one are all really cool. Demigod is certainly not without its merits, but its status as a dead game makes it fairly pointless to play it today. You’re unlikely to get much action in multiplayer and playing against bots has limited appeal. A real shame, though it can be fun for an hour or 2 if you can get the game on the cheap.