The Dark Eye: Demonicon – Preview



Title   The Dark Eye: Demonicon
Developer  Noumena Studios
Publisher  Kalypso Media
Platform  Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre  Role Playing Game
Release Date  October 25, 2013 (TBC)

To say that I was nervous about going in to see The Dark Eye: Demonicon would be an understatement. The Dark Eye, or Das Schwarze Auge to use the original German, is a pen-and-paper RPG from way back, and is more popular in Germany than even the behemoth that is Dungeons and Dragons. There have been a number of video game adaptations, both as traditional RPGs and, interestingly, as point-and-clicks such as the recent Memoria. Years of history and lore have gone into the series and, frankly, I didn’t know a thing about it.

Thankfully, you don’t really need to know anything about The Dark Eye to enjoy Demonicon. Set in the Shadowlands, which I’m told isn’t the usual realm for Dark Eye action to take place, Demonicon follows Cairon, an unfortunate soul whose life takes a turn for the worse in the opening part of the game (but more on that later) and just gets worse as he becomes embroiled in a war against the demons that inhabit the world. Story details are a little thin on the ground at the moment but, needless to say, it’s going to be your typical epic fantasy story, although with a darker, more mature edge.

The presentation kicked off in a vast monastery dedicated to one of the demons, where Cairon was busy hunting down flowers to offer up to the demon. This level was massive; the scale of the monastery was huge, and the gardens that contained the flowers stretched on further than the eye could see. After having gathered the flowers, Cairon was set upon by creatures who wanted nothing more than to see him dead, and I got a good look at the combat in action. It’s a fluid action-RPG system, and I watched as our hero dodge rolling around enemies to avoid their attacks before hammering away at them with his sword. Magic is of course involved, although here there’s a nice explanation behind the system. The magic in Demonicon is purely blood magic, and is here referred to as the Gift. To restore your “essence”, you attack enemies and absorb their blood, which then allows you to break out the magic attacks. It’s a neat bit of reasoning for magic point restoration, and one I welcome wholeheartedly.

Growing weary of the monastery, we jumped to a different level, set in an underground city. Here, the occupants were almost entirely mindless zombies under the control of a powerful wizard, who was using them to dig something mysterious up. Moral choices are present in this game, but I was informed that it was more a “lesser of two evils” decision than a straight-up black-and-white choice of good or evil. In the case of the wizard, after defeating him, you can choose to continue on his path and use the zombies as slaves, or set them free and let them be their own people. This may seem like a straightforward choice, but I was warned that revealing the wizard to be a fraud and to destroy the faith in their mission would have a devastating effect on the population. It’s a tough choice to make, and hopefully there’ll be plenty of these to get your brain around.

With all this exciting information being thrown my way, I was closing up my notebook and ready to leave when suddenly the controller was tossed my way and I was invited to play through the opening half hour of the game. Not being one to turn down such a golden opportunity, I sat down and took control of Cairon as he was running into an underground cave system to save his sister from the monsters that lay within. I was immediately ambushed by some giant rats, who were easily dispatched my mashing away at them with my sword, before Cairon’s father appeared at the entrance and started telling me to hurry up. Personal interactions are handled with a conversation wheel, made popular by the Mass Effect series, with options to simply progress the story or find out more information about my quest. I giggled slightly as I asked about my sister’s virginity, which is possibly a sign of my immaturity more than the game, which handled the topic very seriously and treated it as a key plot point. It was actually refreshing to be given that kind of dialogue option and have it taken so seriously; this is a game where the word “mature” is used exactly how it is meant.

After battling my way through some more giant rats, I was presented with a rather interesting conundrum. I had accrued enough experience points to level up one of my skills, and found myself in a room with eight objects. There are eight skills to level up, from being able to read, to blacksmithing, fast-talking and a knowledge of plants. Figuring literacy was kind of a key part of the game, I chose to put my points into that skill, and read a letter left on the floor that provided useful info on how to face off against my next set of enemies. You can’t reach the highest level on all of your skills, so you will have to think carefully about where you put your points. Some skills work together as well; a knowledge of blacksmithing and “lore” will allow you to make poisoned blades, for example.

Eventually I found Cairon’s sister, who was cut up from an encounter with some wandering undead. Attempting to bandage her up, Cairon accidentally forgot the one big rule – don’t mix blood. But far from getting any nasty diseases, the mixing of blood actually gave both characters magical powers, and now I was able to shoot balls of ice from my hands. In an interesting twist, levelling up your magical abilities is completely separate from standard levelling. As you use your Gift, you’ll earn Gift Points, which can be spent on a different skill tree that’s based purely on improving your magic abilities. This means that heavy magic users can still use their regular XP to level up non-magical abilities at no detriment to their magical abilities, which will prove valuable to the mages out there.

My new ice-throwing ability came into its own when I encountered the boss of the level – a giant, ugly cannibal who had trapped a number of people in his cavern. The only way to take him down was to freeze him with ice, and then attack him while he was vulnerable. At one point, he jumped up to a higher level and summoned a bunch of skeletons to deal with me, but this just meant I had plenty of enemies to draw essence from so I could use my magic on the boss. It was still a decent battle, and I was nearly defeated; health doesn’t regenerate during battles, so you’ll have to use potions to recover, although you do get a small amount of health back once you’ve finished off your foes.

With the cannibal defeated, I was given a pretty major decision to make – kill the cannibal, dooming his captives as he was the only one who knew how to get them out, or let him live, freeing the captives but also letting the cannibal off scot-free. Being young and naïve, I let the cannibal free, raising some eyebrows around the room as apparently I was in the minority of people who made that choice. But as a cutscene told me that not long after the cannibal had been set free, more people had disappeared and were presumed eaten, I realised my error. I was suitably impressed that what seemed like the obvious decision ended up being just as bad as the other, and cemented the idea that I really was just choosing between the lesser of two evils.

A little upset that I had caused more suffering, I packed up my things and left to go and have a long chat with myself about what I had done. Despite leaving me feeling more evil than a cannibal, The Dark Eye: Demonicon is a solid-looking action-RPG, which promises many more moral quandaries and fluid fights to appease fans of the genre. Keep a (dark) eye open for this when it comes out on PC on October 25th and consoles at some point next year.




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13 Comments

  1. Miss A Pointed says:

    Yet another game released with a male protagonist only. Might have been nice to have character creation allowing people to choose the sex of the main character (seeing as this is an rpg). I won’t bother with this game.

  2. Angry action RPG player says:

    Yeah I too wanted to play the sister more than the guy. So I will pass on this too. They obviously wont let female gamers play a female character, so it’s pointless to me. I mean for it to be a true rpg i should have had that choice at least. I’m sure the sequel will but because this one doesn’t have it, I’m checked out on this franchise regardless of how good it might be, but from what I heard, isn’t that great.

  3. Aurore says:

    As a female gamer, I too refuse to play a game that will not let me play as my own gender. This game in fact adds insult to injury by not only not letting you play the second character, the protagonists sister, but makes her yet again a helpless object only there to be rescued. No thanks. This is a step backwards. Hope you are proud of the way you insult women.

    The original add for this game in 2009 said you considered character customisation to be the most important feature and that you can play as any gender. Clearly you changed your mind.

  4. GG-Unity says:

    Another title which caters to the male gaming population.

    Seriously, why should I support game companies who could care less about the female players.

    No, I will not buy your “RPG”

  5. FranKi says:

    God. Are you seriously arguing about a game with no female protagonist? I Mean, they aren’t mentioning christians in this game are they? Should all christians be angry about that and whine all day? No. And neither should you . It’s just a game that gives you no choice about choosing your Sex. BIG DEAL.

  6. Raspina says:

    Oh how dramatic. Should all male gamers be upset that there’s no playable male in Tomb Raider or Metroid or Bayonetta or Portal or etc. etc.? Get the fuck over yourselves.

  7. Indian Man says:

    As an Indian homosexual man I refuse to play another game that discriminates against indians and homosexuals.

  8. Aurore says:

    Yes and clearly you are all men who have no idea whatsoever about what female gamers have to put up with and don’t give a damn about anyone’s game experiences but your own. If you had the ability or lack of selfishness to oput yourself in other peoples shoes for a moment you would see that it makes a huge difference instead of being the misogynists you clearly are.

    The number of games without female protagonists is huge. Tomb raider is one of a handful without a male one. Imagine being forced to play 90% of your games as a female without a male option?

    And the comments about homosexuals and christians are not the same. 52% of the worlds population is female. 48% of gamers are female. (See Entertainment Software Association stats if you dont believe me). It is pretty damn sexist to ignore us in the vast majority of games. This one included.

    They promissed us female characters for this game and renegged and made the only female character a pathetic whimp to be rescued. Why didn’t they do it the other way and let her rescue her brother then? Bet some guys would have been pissed off then. So there is no excuse.

    Men like you are part of the problem. Well done. Make sure the women in your life (no doubt only your mothers) know how you feel about women.

  9. CaptainObvious says:

    The Witcher game only has a male protagonist. They are heavily story driven games, which center around the main character and where an arbitrary gender selection would have required the game company to do almost double work. A ridiculous expectation on behalf of fans.

    I am guessing the same is the case here. Strong story – and thus less choices, but more roleplay. That is why it is called an RPG. Because you play a role. These games are not called gender simulators.

    Nobody is complaining that Lara Croft does not come in a male version. At least they would be fools to do so.

    The more significant choices of customization a player has up front, the more vague the story line must be with regards to the player character. Assuming there is a fixed amount of time and budget set aside to development of course.

  10. Edward says:

    Uuuuugh.

    Ugggggghh.

    UUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHH.

    Men can’t complain about unfair representation in games because even though women make up half of the gaming population, men are still the catered audience thanks to relentless focus-testing and executive meddling. Men can sometimes be idealised in their portrayals because they’re often hunka hunka burning men, but women are often objectified and given incredibly unfair portrayals where they’re often just damsels in distress or there for the men to ogle.

    Really, the issue is that there aren’t enough games that don’t feature a white straight dude as the lead protagonist, because it’s just he default accepted position, because of that relentless focus-testing where they deliberately pick a handful of people they want to appeal to (mostly young white straight teens) and ask how they could get them to buy the games. Remember OverStrike? That super colourful shooter from Insomniac? Focus testing turned that into Fuse. Remember Fuse? Fuse? Fuse? Bueller?

    Going “oh, but you wimminz gopt to be the lead in three games ever so shut up you’re catered for” is not only just so small-minded and stupid I don’t even know where to start (probably with the “three games versus the hundreds starring a man every year” part), but all of those games you’ve mentioned are well-loved and some of the best games of their generation. So really, it could be taken that having a female protagonist might cause the games to actually be any good, if Portal, the new Tomb Raider and the Metroid series are anything to go by. Way to validate your own argument.

    An RPG that allows you to customise your character but not your gender or sexual orientation does actually feel like a step backwards, especially in an age where we’re trying to make gaming feel less like the boys only treehouse in the back of the garden (plus if you’re upset at the thought of women being able to enjoy the same things as you, I’d argue you have issues that go far beyond representations in games). In a genre that champions choice and freedom of self-expression, not being able to play as an entire sex seems like a massive step backwards.

    Here’s a tip to the MRAs who’ve somehow taken it upon themselves to put women in their place: You’re absolutely in no way oppressed by gaming, allowing you to create a culture where being a white straight male is the default. Anyone else who wants to join your culture is looked down, ridiculed and made to feel like an outsider for the simple crime of wanting to play games as well. And it’s just that they want to enjoy games, because that’s the only reason I can think of for people wanting to be part of a culture goes out of its way to demonise women, anyone LGBT or simply not white, straight and male. You’re all cultural dinosaurs, but not the cool ones. You’re the terrible ones that can’t even open doors.

    Accept that not every attempt to make games more inclusive is not a personal attack on you or games, grow up, and stop treating women like they somehow need to be put in their place for the horrendous, heinous, unthinkable crime of wanting to enjoy games in the same way men can, you small-minded, bigoted wastes of space.

    (In before I’m accused of White-Knighting because I want to touch a woman once. Also I’m aware they’ve already all left because they just wanted to put women down to feel good about themselves.

    P.S: You actually did a great job on this article, Ric. Shame that the discussion has turned to this, but it was well-written and I enjoyed reading it :)

    P.P.S: Fedoras are awful)

  11. FranKi says:

    No one here said “WIMMIN BELONG TO KITCHENZ” I just find it stupid to argue on something that developers might or might not include. It’s their choice and they are not to be criticized for this. Sure having a different sex might have added more depth or maybe even something different to the game but i wouldn’t be in any way offended if the game was to include just a female protagonist. Was i offended when i was playing Samus in Metroid? No way. And i seriously love Metroid. What I hate is women constantly complaining about not being part of the “Gaming World” It is not true that you are not acknowledged as part of the Public and If some (Note that I wrote SOME.) Girls are hated in the gaming industry is because they keep on ranting and whining when there’s no need to. Hell, Even my girlfriend plays a lot of shooters and other games with me but has never complained about “WIMMIN BEIN’ UNDER RPRESNTD!!!1!” or “OBJCTIFIED AS SEX SYMBOLS/ BEING IN NEED TO BE SAVED AND NOT INDPENTDANT!!11one!”

    Stop with this Goddamn Over-zealous Feminism. SERIOUSLY

    P.S I’m sure most of you girls are just hopping on the bandwagon that has been going on for years now revolving around the “I’M A NERD!/GAMER!/GAMERGURL!” thing. You probably don’t even know OR played castlevania on the NES and know jackshit about gaming

  12. Miss A Pointed says:

    Aurore and Edward I really enjoyed reading your comments, wow some great points made! I didn’t realise that 48% of gamers are female. I am the only one I know in my small country area! Go Girls!! :D
    For me personally I feel any game that calls itself an rpg in this day and age should have character customisation. (Or at least a female option) After having the experience of being able to make and customise and truly play through a story as a female character I just find myself so reluctant to play any game that doesn’t have that option. Gosh and its been a long time since a really good rpg has been released! I would really have loved to play the Dark Eye Demonicon, I played the whole Drakensang series, they were pretty cool games!

  13. MarkuzR says:

    Here’s my take as someone who is male and, much to the surprise of some people I’m sure, has actually touched a girl… is an adult, and doesn’t look upon ANYTHING with prejudice (I hate all things equally).

    It’s not women who need to shut the fuck up, or men who need to shut the fuck up… everyone does. It’s not your right to moan if there are no playable female characters in game, or that you weren’t able to play Tomb Raider by giving Lara Croft a penis. The only people who have a right to say what does and doesn’t happen in a game is the creator and/or writer. That’s it. The amount of self-entitlement that appears to be thrust upon the media these days is absolutely ridiculous: complaints about who dies in Game of Thrones, complaints about how they were cheated by Dexter’s ending, or about how Japanese games either portray women as over-the-top busty Amazonians or helpless idiots that need rescued by the male lead.

    Why the hell does anyone give a shit? It’s a game. Or a movie. Or a book. You don’t like it, don’t buy it. It really is THAT simple. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy these things or saying that you absolutely must play them. It’s your choice. If it bothers you that an RPG (role playing game… not “play as whomever you want game”) then accept that you either suck it up and play it how it was intended, or just don’t play it at all and move on to whatever nonsensical game some miracle-working developer is producing which caters to every single person of every single age, gender, race, religious leaning and whether they’re brunette or ginger.

    Get real. It’s a game. Use your imagination if you really care that much about it. If you want to play it, but can’t get over the fact that the protagonist has a penis, then just imagine that they were born a woman and went through gender-reassignment surgery if need be.

    The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what you want. You’re just the consumer. You have no right as to what is and isn’t included in a game. You DO, however, have the right to abstain from buying or to switch if off if something offends you. Case in point: I loved Borderlands. I loved playing as Mordecai and used his character on no fewer than twelve separate playthroughs. I then played Borderlands 2 at E3 and couldn’t find a character who had the same sort of play-style as Mordecai. I was a bit hacked off, as I longed for that familiarity, so I went with Salvador to see how I got on. He was okay, but he was no Mordecai.

    By the time the game came out, I’d played it a handful of times at various events and tried all the characters. Zero was too boring, Axton was too easy, Maya was too blah and Salvador was too… well, he wasn’t Mordecai. None had the sort of play style that I was hoping for. I COULD have sought out any number of reviews and started to complain about how my particular way of playing wasn’t being fairly represented by Gearbox, or vowed to never buy the game because the developers were being assholes by excluding me… or I could just decide between playing the game and living with it the way it was, or not playing it at all. I chose to play it. I don’t enjoy ANY of the characters anywhere near as much as I did those from the first game, and it DOES somewhat affect my enjoyment of it as I long to let loose a Bloodwing and watch him jump from enemy to enemy… but it’s just a game. It’s JUST a game.

    People get far too caught up in the minutiae and can sometimes miss out on something great, just because of their own stubbornness. Sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s NOT that important. It’s entertainment, not a political statement. It’s not someone trying to be oppressive or deliberately alienate a large portion of their audience… they’re just telling a story, in THEIR way, because it’s their right to do so. I’ll leave you with the words of a very smart man…

    The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

    It’s just a game.

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