Flying into the thick of battle with my conjured minions following behind me I move past my ally, a demonic beast, as he battles a large group of enemy soldiers. The little ones are of no interest to me. Pushing forward yet more I finally find my prey; a gigantic walking fortress battling a demonic looking magician. All around the fortress are enemy reinforcements and I grin as my plan forms. Sweeping in my vampire lord deftly slays the reinforcements, raising most of them as necromantic vampires. With the tides turning against it the giant begins to attempt a slow retreat to his base. Before he can get too far however my minions and the magician tear him apart mortar by mortar. That'll teach him for being on the front cover of the game case instead of me.
If there's one thing in the world of video games that this reviewer had never expected to come across it was a seriously different sort of real-time strategy game. There are some really good games in the genre out there but most of them follow the "build base-skirmish-build bigger base-skirmish-big final battle" routine that has gotten fairly droll after all of these years.
Demigod moves about as far away from being a "true" RTS game as one could get while still being labeled part of this genre. Instead of controlling an entire army or building a base you will control a single demigod. While there are soldiers running around the battlefield for both sides they fight independently of you or your actions. There is a base but it's comprised of defenses and a single citadel. This citadel grows as you spend money to improve bonuses to yourself and your allies and as your war rank increases. More on this later.
Each of the eight characters has a very different play style but it's not the best balanced. There are two different types of demigods to choose from; four generals and four assassins. Assassins are independently powerful, able to wreck havoc on the battlefield all by themselves. Their skills are more often focused on damage or self-buffs to improve their combat effectiveness. Generals on the other hand are individually weaker with abilities that focus on support abilities like healing or buffing allies. They can also summon troops by purchasing special idols or using special abilities like the nightwalkers the vampire lord can make.
This gives the game an interesting dynamic depending on the sides you end up with in a battle. It's possible to end up with several generals on one team and no assassins which means that the generals need to be very careful. Loosely speaking generals are very weak early in the game since they die easy and their abilities are of little help against demigods. Late game however they can be quite dominating if played right. Thus online games are often a chaotic mess of everyone leveling up, brawls happening all over the map and are a whole lot of fun to play.
There is a bit of an imbalance here in that assassins are really hard to use until you're very good at them while even a total newbie can pick up a general and experience some measure of success. It's not a real issue in the offline game of course but when going online it can be a pretty big issue and lends itself to a sometimes steep learning curve. While nothing too terrible the constant dying, waiting to respawn at base and then dying again can take its toll on some gamers.
General gameplay is broken up into efforts to seize control of various flags around the map and complete whatever the requirements are to win the battle you're in. Flags are pretty interesting, and important, since they are what allow you to increase your war effort. In addition to whatever abilities they provide, ranging from bonus experience or calling in more reinforcements, the longer you hold them the more points you get towards increasing your war effort. As this increases you gain access to upgrades, stronger reinforcements and the buildings become harder for your foes to destroy.
The goals to complete a round aren't too different from other games but they work fairly differently in Demigod. Conquest and Dominate are simple, and fairly bland, modes that consist of destroying your enemies' home base or controlling the flags for a set amount of time respectively. However Slaughter is a blast, tasking you with destroying a set number of enemy demigods. A mode like this gets especially harrowing depending on what sort of teams you have -generals will fare pretty well in this mode due to their support troops.
Graphic and sound design is surprisingly excellent. You can really zoom in on the action and see the little details like the arrows shooting out of the arrow slits on Rooks shoulder or the Torch Bearers' burned skin. However when you go online you will want to turn those graphics down for the sake of gameplay. Offline the game doesn't have any problems running so long as you're careful not to put it over your computers ability, ridiculously long load times not included. However once you go online it's a different matter entirely. There's a whole bunch of lag and lots of connectivity issues to deal with so you don't want to give it any excuses to run slower.
While the sound is generally good there are a number of bugs that have been encountered while playing. When the demigods speak you will sometimes find them stuttering or having lines of dialogue looping constantly. The worst part is when you start getting static or other noises instead of voiced dialogue. These aren't common but they've been encountered enough to be an issue.
Demigod suffers from many of the same problems as Stardocks' last offering, Sins of a Solar Empire. There's no true single player mode to really provide an interactive tutorial on the finer points of the online game and the game can be very daunting for a new player. However with time, and a lot of patience, you can excel past these problems and find a really enjoyable experience just waiting to be uncovered.