Did you love classic RPG’s for their slow battles, uneven difficulty and boring combat rules? As long as you said yes for those reasons and not for role playing choices, character progression, fun, loot, great magic or intricate rules, Demons Age is for you. Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this book has a grammar error in the title, unless it’s a game about demons getting bifocals and cheap movie tickets.
Should you buy it?
No. I’ve written reviews for games I didn’t like but even in the worst cases I could conceivably see someone enjoying themselves. They scored low because of design decisions, not because they were buggy and missing features. And they didn’t ask for $30 which is why I’m allowing myself to be snarky and disrespectful of someone’s work.
I thought I found another ATOM for the first hour of playing. The introduction is indie but surprisingly well done. An excellent gravelly narrator describes a typical but sufficiently interesting fantasy world using impactful low budget visuals. Once in-game it looks like a lovely update to Baldur’s Gate. The backgrounds are crisp and well drawn, the models quite good if poorly animated. Initial creatures were a bit strange but a welcome alternative to rats.
Combat is very slow and like early D&D games, too damaging and random without real tactical choice. I didn’t mind at first, assuming the people who put the intro and world together know what they’re doing. Elex took a long time to develop and in the end I enjoyed it more for it. Demons Age doesn’t develop. Going up in levels adds HP and combat skills but you have no choice at all and there are no abilities or powers. After slogging to level five I still had nothing to do in combat other than attack or move.
Dialogue, capably voiced at times, is entirely linear. It’s like they took a traditional RPG and made all the choices for you. Aside from being boring it’s completely at odds with my character. I pick races like Drow or Orc because I like them and to see if the game bothers to treat your character choice with any nuance. Regardless of what race you pick you sound like a cheerful human, happy to help everyone you meet in any way possible.
I’ve played early access games with placeholder graphics but never one with placeholder stats. Or maybe they meant for every weapon to be essentially identical. Shopping in Demons Age is actually a pretty good metaphor for the rest of the game – here are some things, it says, at first they look interesting and varied but then you see they are not, and then you are sad because it took longer than two hours to notice and you can’t get a refund and could have had a bucket of chicken with all the sides instead.
A Game is Afoot
The story of how this game came to exist is more interesting than the game. So I’m going to stop reviewing – it’s bad, don’t bother – and tell you about that instead.
In July of 2013 Coreplay stopped development of a very eagerly awaited old school, turn based RPG called Chaos Chronicles. Peter Ohlmann, the developer, claimed the publisher Bitcomposer engaged in typical evil publisher shenanigans, pressuring them to release an unfinished game early and withholding payments even when milestones were reached. The internet promptly renamed the publisher Shitcomposer and created a petition to resume production.
Sensing this might be bad for PR, Shitcomposer countered with a statement alleging that a Coreplay founder left abruptly and the lawyer and investor who ended up with the shares had strange interpretations of pre-existing contracts.
Peter called bullshit, describing a five hour meeting in which both parties agreed to continue with development only for Shitcomposer to ghost them like they were a date with bad breath.
In an unconvincing interview, Shitcomposer’s Wolfgang Duhr explained that they’re not evil, and the fact that their last game was released early in a messy state has no bearing what so ever on this incredibly similar situation.
Peter responded at length by providing more detail and ending with:
Their strategy is quite clear to us: bitComposer assumes that we will finish developing the game with large sums of borrowed money, whereas bitComposer incurs no further expense. BitComposer would then prevent the marketing of the completed game by Coreplay or a third party on the grounds that this would violate bitComposer’s alleged rights to the game. In this way bitComposer would be able to force us to sell them the game cheaply and under heavy losses. This is why we were not able to borrow further money in order to continue developing ‘Chaos Chronicles’.
Chaos Chronicles died with much lamentation by invested fans. Despite obvious business acumen and flawless PR, Shitcomposer dissolved soon after.
Then, like Bernie Lomax, Chaos Chronicles’ corpse was spotted, a bit worse for wear and now named Demons Age by Bigmoon Entertainment.
It gets a murkier but it seems like Bigmoon bought Shitcomposer’s IP when the company died. That included assets from Shitcomposer’s relationship with Coreplay which it’s not clear at all they had rights to sell, and which Peter expressly requested they not use. They also somehow made them worse despite working for an extra year.
The Score – 40
And I guess that is the story of how a game can have such good bits wrapped in a layer of shady turd. I wouldn’t care very much about the drama if they put out a good game. But it’s bad in every way except presentation and the balance issues border on being game-ending bugs in terms of severity.
I try to finish games whenever possible, even when I’m not enjoying myself. I decided not to considering the pedigree and initial state. I’d have to virtually restart anyway as the game placed me in an unwinnable situation that would take hours to undo. I’d rather share a womb with a badly drawn demon baby for another 10 minutes. My initial high hopes end with a score of 40.