Daemonica looked and sounded to me like some Diablo type hack and slash action game. It is, in fact, a medieval murder mystery game with a hefty and compelling story to it. Set in the fictitious English town of Cavorn, the game’s protagonist, Nicholas Farepoynt possesses powers in alchemy that enable him to converse with the dead. This kind of ability can come in handy when the local Cavorn mayor hangs and sentences people to death willy nilly and so you must get to the bottom of this for the sake of the townspeople.
Graphically, Daemonica is an isometric game. You can rotate the camera around the protagonist but there is very little need to do so. Unlike an action game or real time strategy title, Daemonica proceeds at a deliberately slow pace. Much of the real action takes place in the conversations you’ll have with the denizens of Cavorn and the spirits in the afterlife.
Characters in Daemonica will converse with you using the classic conversation tree. Conversations are presented in text and some lengthy ones can go on for pages. Most of the time, you’ll have to repeatedly talk to a character until you get all the information out of them. That involves navigating all the trees until the character has nothing else meaningful to say. Unlike the BioWare titles, there is no strong system of reward and punishment for choosing different branches. You can’t really say the wrong thing to someone nor are there attributes that Farepoynt develops that enable him to be better at the dialogue part.
For the most part, I found the story to be enjoyable. Coming to Cavorn is somewhat of a rite of passage for Farepoynt and he undergoes a search for self-identity. Anybody can mix some herbs and roots to make potions but when you can do so that enables you to commune with the dead, there has to be some back story to your life. Farepoynt also has some voiceover monologues but I was disappointed voiceovers couldn’t be spread to all the characters in the game.
Some of the puzzle part comes when you use the SoulGreep potion that takes you to the Temple of Sacrifices. The game will challenge in finding the right doors and incantations to say to summon the right spirit. This is where paying attention to the game’s clues about the deceased comes in handy. A diary function is also included so you don’t have to take notes by hand.
Combat is a small part of the game and merely involves clicking on the opponent until it keels over. There are only a handful of battle sequences and they will hardly be a challenge to anyone remotely familiar with games like Diablo or Neverwinter Nights.
Daemonica is unforgiving in other areas though. For example, getting things wrong at the Temple of Sacrifices can end your game permanently and cause you to reload. I would have thought by this day and age this aspect of adventure gaming has ceased to exist but Daemonica is a throwback to days where you have to save often. Luckily, there are no restrictions on when and where you can save your game.
Will Daemonica single handedly revive the adventure game genre? It won’t. Because Daemonica is set in a single town, it doesn’t have enough real estate (literally and figuratively speaking) to really expand into an epic adventure. As with most adventure titles, replaying the game is more of an exercise of repetition than anything else. However, in this quiet period at the beginning of the year, gamers looking for some passive entertainment may find Daemonica to be enjoyable. There are a few neat ideas in the game that make it a cut above the rest.