When I was a kid, I spent endless afternoons playing board games with a kid down the street. And while we sometimes played Risk, Monopoly, and The Game of Life by the rules, we also created our own “versions” of these games, adding and subtracting rules to reshape the experience to our liking. This went beyond the usual “Free Parking” jackpot rule changes – we would use the pieces and cards of the games to construct completely new mechanics, often resulting in something that – while it resembled the original game – would have likely either horrified or delighted the original game designers.
I imagine that lots of kids do this, repurposing game systems to create additional ways to play. As a former game remixer, I was particularly interested when Demeo developers Resolution Games announced Demeo Battles, a new PVP game based on the systems – now officially dubbed the “the Demeo Action Role Playing System” – that they created for the original Demeo VR co-op dungeon crawler.
Demeo Battles is a stand-alone release, rather than an add-on or DLC. And while it shares a lot of the assets and mechanics with the original Demeo, it is indeed different enough to distinguish itself from its parent game.
For those not familiar, Demeo is a co-op dungeon crawler, played online in VR (or on flat screens, for plebes). Players hunch around a living board game in a shared VR space, and with dice and cards, work together to try to survive one of the many devious scenarios Resolution Games has created. Characters and creatures come to life, spells zing through the air, and the edges of dungeons drip with darkness.
The mechanics of Demeo are easy to pick up. Player teams are essentially trying to work through a dungeon to find the exit, while a devious DM drops a variety of monsters into their path. Each turn consists of two action points, which can be used to move, attack, or use a card to cast a spell. But Demeo relies heavily upon fog-of-war, which means that teams must proceed carefully, as rushing blindly towards your goals will result in a dead party surrounded by monsters with full bellies. The base game is a ton of fun, combining D&D thrills with an easy to pick-up game system.
The clever folks at Resolution Games have clearly been listening to Demeo’s fan base, who immediately clamored for a way to fight each other in-game. Resolution has now adapted Demeo’s mechanics into something that allows players to beat each other up in something that resembles a turn-based battle royale, and while it could use a bit more meat on its bones, the core experience works splendidly.
Demeo Battles is basically a four-player (2v2) battle to the death, fought out in the game’s fun dungeons. While each round requires four characters to be in play, you can easily fill in any missing party members with CPU-controlled players. I played online with fellow Demeo fan John Yan (finding each other in-game is a breeze), and we quickly realized that we could play against each other by each controlling two characters, or we could co-op on one team against the computer. It seems like any way you want to mix things up, Demeo Battles will accommodate you.
Before each match, players are given a lump of cash to spend on each character. This money can be spent on either cards (which include attacks, buffs, heals, and traps) or CPU-controlled minions. This part of the game is vital to success. If you spend all your cash on cards, you might be left to fend off an enemy army on your own, but if you buy too many minions you might be left defenseless if they all decide to wander away. While you have direct control over your hero character, minions have a mind of their own. They are often useful to distract enemies, but they can also be somewhat dunderheaded, burning their attacks and spells on low-impact targets. Bottom line: choosing how to spend your cash can either make or break you when the action heats up.
While O.G. Demeo can be a slower experience, with lots of time for teams to discuss strategy, Demeo Battles keeps pushing things forward with a move timer, limiting matches to around 15 minutes or so. And after a few turns, “The Burn” starts closing in from the sides of the map, killing off minions willy-nilly and pushing players towards the middle of the dungeon. Even if you wanted to camp in the safety of the fog of war, Demeo Battles will eventually force you into battle or just kill you outright.
Matches are fast and fun, and the game is simple to pick up and learn. Though players only start with a few hero characters and maps to choose from, a few hours of play unlock enough in-game currency to build things out a bit, There are also plenty of skins and other cosmetics available for those that are so inclined (all purchased with in-game currency – no microtransaction nonsense to be seen). Progression is never really an overwhelming driving force, but unlocking stuff still remains a fun benefit of playing “just one more match”.
A wide selection of single-player challenges are also available, and while they are entertaining, I bailed on them after a few hours in order to focus on multiplayer. The only reward for winning a single-player challenge is unlocking the next single-player challenge. I discovered that I could play multiplayer matches by myself by simply assigning the CPU to the other three players, which allowed me to continue expanding my character roster even while playing by myself.
The only drawback to this approach is that winning matches against the computer is very, very easy. I handily won around 90% of the matches I played against the computer, and the few that I lost were as a result of my own lack of forward-thinking strategy (or the occasional missed roll of the die). Just as the minions can sometimes seem kinda dumb, the computer-controlled hero opponents spend a lot of time shooting themselves in the foot. They aren’t outright idiotic, but I did sometimes wonder what weird AI calculation led them to spend turn after turn attacking a nearby ballista when I was steadily blasting their faces with fireballs. No matter, once the game is released there should be a large enough player base that playing with the computer will be less common.
It’s fun to see a company take something already great and flip it around to make something both familiar and new. For fans of the original Demeo, the purchase of this game is an absolute no-brainer. I expect a lot of other fans of multiplayer strategy will find plenty to enjoy here, as well. Resolution Games has blessed Demeo fans with an endless flow of support and free content; that trend will likely continue here. As the game expands and grows, it will only get deeper and better. And frankly, I can’t wait to see what Resolution Games does next with the Demeo Action Role Playing System. Two winners in a row gives me confidence for whatever the third Demeo game will bring.
* 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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