Demeo is one of those great games that just keeps getting better. Originally released as a VR tabletop dungeon crawler with a few fun adventures to enjoy with friends, the game has steadily expanded to the point where a dedicated group of gamers spending one night a week playing could easily commit six months to getting through its content, particularly since Demeo makes no bones about handing even the most experienced adventuring party their asses once in a while.
For those outside of the VR arena, or those readers that may have recently picked up a PS VR 2 and are wondering what the fuss is about, Demeo is tabletop gaming simulator, where the game takes care of all of the rules and just lets the players focus on the good stuff. Most casual observers might take a look at the gameplay and say “Oh, it’s VR D&D”, but Demeo isn’t quite that complex. The game at the core of Demeo is much more streamlined and accessible, almost akin to the old Dungeon board game that served as many 1980’s kids’ introduction to the tabletop RPG genre.
The basics can be learned in under ten minutes via the game’s quick and easy tutorial. Players pick from a number of different characters (Assassin, Sorcerer, Bard, you’ve got all the standards here), and find themselves in a basement huddled around a very elaborate board, with their pawns just entering at the edge of a darkened dungeon. Rooms and corridors stretch out in every direction, all obscured by the fog of boardgame war. Playing in teams of up to four, players must work together to try to escape the dungeons’ three levels and defeat a final boss – a task much more easily said than done.
In VR, you move by actually reaching over and picking up your pawn and moving it on the game board. Attacks are managed with an actual roll of a die, with some pretty good odds that you’ll succeed (80% Success, 10% Crit, 10% Fail). Each player gets two action points each turn, which can be used for movement, attacks, spells, or to resurrect other players (woe be it to anyone that goes Leroy Jenkins in this game). Spells are handled through a card-based system, with the player earning occasional card through play, and able to purchase additional cards between dungeon levels with any loot found along the way.
If your friends are anything like mine, expect a bunch of screaming and howling as you progress deeper into the dungeon. Almost every battle in Demeo devolves into a bareknuckle scrap for survival. The DM in Demeo is relentless, hiding gigantic groups of enemies behind doorways and around corners, allowing unsuspecting and gullible parties to go staggering into the middle of a scorpion party with no warning whatsoever. Demeo will quickly teach players valuable lessons, like “Don’t run ahead by yourself”, and “Retreating from enemies is not only not shameful, it is often the only way to survive”.
The game at the core of Demeo is a ton of fun, particularly when you get in with a good group. The game features full crossplay between all platforms, so it’s never tough to find people to play with. Multiplayer is handled via a simple four digit room code, or you can just hop into a quick play session.
The real charm of Demeo is in how tactile the whole thing feels. The game is fun enough on flat screen – and can be played that way on PS5 – but it is absolute magic the way it comes to life in VR. I love playing with toys in VR, and Demeo comes very close to fulfilling that age-old “board game come to life” fantasy (Battle Chess! Harry Potter Chess! Chewbacca Chess!). You can keep yourself at a distance from your characters if you wish and just watch them slinging fireballs and hacking at slimes from afar, or you can drag yourself right down to board level and watch their labors all up-close-and-personal, if you wish.
So yes, Demeo aptly delivers that board game feeling in VR (minus the pretzels), and it looks fantastic on Sony’s new headset. But there are a few things that new players should be aware of, just to temper their expectations. As this is a board game and not a D&D campaign, you will not be creating any characters. Nor will your characters be gaining strength or abilities as they move from module to module. You get to the end of an adventure, and then it’s back to square one for the next one.
There isn’t much in the way of overall progression, either, though a basic XP mechanic awards the player some points for finishing levels and eventually unlocks some fun cosmetics to be used in-game. There also isn’t a way to create adventures for your friends. As awesome as it would be to DM some Demeo for your buddies, for now everyone will be playing through the game’s five adventure modules and some randomized dungeons.
The PlayStation implementation of Demeo is very similar to those found on other platforms, though the boardgame shop/lobby that allows players to hang out and paint miniatures seems to be missing from this version. But beyond that, everything seems to be here, along with possibly the best current visual representation of the game. This is a game that absolutely shines with PlayStation VR 2’s super-black blacks and brilliant, shining colors. You might not think that a board game is a great way to demonstrate the power and visuals of a VR headset, but you would be wrong.
There is a certain audience for Demeo, and they know exactly who they are. If you read this and thought “That sounds awesome”, then rest assured, it is, and this is a game you will enjoy. I’ve been playing Demeo for quite a while on a number of platforms, from running solo games on my PC monitor on quiet afternoons to jumping into VR multiplayer on my Quest 2, and always find it to be fun and engaging. I was pretty excited when I learned that Demeo was coming to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation VR 2, as I expect the player pool to increase substantially with the game’s arrival on Sony’s fancy new platform.
Demeo has been, and likely will continue to be, the very best tabletop RPG simulator in video games. Imagine being a kid in the 1980s that stumbled on a magical board game and dragged your buddies down into the basement to play it; that’s what this game is. There aren’t many games like this on the market, and if you feel it, you feel it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
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