Book of Demons Early Access Preview

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Book of Demons is part of the Return 2 Games project being developed by Thing Trunk. This project consists in a series of 7 different games that are inspired by classics from the “golden era” of gaming in the 90s. With that said, each one of these games (each represented by a book) is set to be unique on its own right and inspired by a certain specific genre. The only thing they’ll have in common, as far as I’m aware, is the fact that they’ll share the same aesthetic, which consists in this really good looking paper-cut style.

That said, there is an upcoming featured called the “Pop-up Sandbox”, which will allow you to create your own pop-up books with stories by using various different characters and props from any of the 7 books that will become available through the Return 2 Games project. That said, let’s talk about the game, shall we?

Book of Demons is inspired by the original Diablo but it approaches it in a more casual, fun and modern way. It combines elements such as real-time dungeon crawling with deck building and some other aspects from other games. It’s worth pointing out that even though the game is in Steam’s Early Access programme, the entire single player campaign is complete and available for everyone to play from start to finish with either the Mage or the Warrior class. I’d say that in terms of content, the only thing that is missing from the final version is the last playable character, the Rogue, and more enemy types for you to slay. Besides that the developers are constantly balancing the game, fixing any bugs that might surface and, overall, polishing the entire experience as a whole. There’s this very cool feature, which I’d wish more developers included in their games, which is the ability to send feedback regarding something specific about the game at any time, just by left clicking on the left side of the screen and bringing up a special widget suited for this purpose.

Now, the game begins with this really cool and good looking cutscene in order to give you a context, and provide some sort of background, about what’s going on and what’s this all about demons. You arrive back at your town and you find it completely different from what you remember but you quickly get up to speed by your old friend that is now the barmaid. The story is told mainly through pieces of dialogue between the 4 different characters that you can talk to in town, and some minor cutscenes whenever you encounter a boss. One thing that really surprised me was the fact that each line of dialogue of the various NPCs in town are fully voice acted and, their voices, along with the narrator, are really well done, which really surprised me.

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Despite the fact that the narrative is pretty well presented, both in terms of writing and voice acting, I’m afraid to say that this is not one of the strongest points of the game. The real essence of Book of Demons lies in the gameplay, and in the way it draws inspiration and combines different elements and mechanics from various other games into a nicely put and cohesive experience.

First of all you have the dungeon crawling element, which is where you’ll spend most of your time. The way dungeon crawling works in Book of Demons is that you have only one dungeon which is divided into 3 different zones. Each zone has multiple floors, each one progressively harder than the previous one. Each level has certain points of interest that you can find and they contain gold and loot which will help on your journey. However, the amount of floors you’ll play on a session will depend on something that will be explained later on (see Flexiscope). At the end of each zone you’ll encounter a boss and, after defeating the final boss, the Archdemon, you’ll unlock the Freeplay mode and 4 new difficulty modes.

One of the things that I find to be rather unique about the dungeon crawling in the game is the movement system. You can only move inside lanes, which are easily distinguishable from the rest of the environment because they look like roads, but you can interact with anything inside your sight radius. Your character will automatically stop at intersections and it will also automatically attack any enemy in sight. That said, auto-attacks are slower when compared to you actually clicking on the enemies. While this might seem simple at first, the game quickly varies things up by introducing new enemy types, such as zombies, which are one of the few special enemy types. Upon death zombies will explode, releasing a wave of poison around them which forces you to be careful in the way you move around the lane. There are also other types of enemies that require you to attack them in a specific way, such as shielded enemies and spell casters, which also help in adding some variety to the combat. That said, the combat is very simple and repetitive, which is to be expected from something that draws a lot of inspiration from ARPG’s. Still, I think it’s simple and fun enough for it to not become a chore and keep me playing.

Killing enemies will grant you experience points, which will eventually allow you to level up. Upon leveling up you have the choice to choose between spending a point to increase your health points or your mana points. The point referring to the one of these two that you didn’t choose goes into the barmaid cauldron in town. As you explore the dungeon you’ll also find ingredients which will convert to prizes by being thrown into the cauldron. You can then buy the cauldron for a certain amount of gold and get all the items that ended up inside it on previous runs. This makes it so that there is some sort of progression in the game that persists from your previous runs. Still, each time you purchase said cauldron, the price for the next one will increase.

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Considering that this game is inspired by ARPG’s and Hack & Slash games, there is a very fitting addition to the formula here and that is a card system. As you explore you’ll gain these cards which you can put on your deck and use or, if needed, take them to the Sage in order to learn what they do. In order to be used they require mana or charges, the latter being acquired either inside the dungeons or by talking to the Sage in the town. There is a fairly good amount of these in the game so far, each character has 16 specific cards for their class and there are 16 common cards shared between all the 3 different classes. All together, these help compensate the rather simplistic combat which might put some people off.

Finally you then have the Flexiscope system, which is one of the key features of the game and it will surely please a lot of people. Basically this system allows you to choose how long you want to play and, taking that into account, the game will generate a specific session for you to play during that period of time. The more you play the more the system will learn about the way you play, therefore making it more accurate. Of course, by taking into account the time of each session the game will try to make the rewards for these fair and square.

Honestly, I’m very pleased with the current state of Book of Demons and I can’t really see any future where the game doesn’t get any better. It has an exceptional presentation in terms of voice acting, visuals and writing and, despite featuring a rather simplistic combat system it has quite some focus on “micro-ing” which I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy (including myself). I’d say the game is worth your time and money but, if you’re in doubt, I recommend you check out the demo which allows you to play with the Warrior class. You can download it either from Steam or directly from the developer’s website. I’m really looking forward for the final release and the rest 6 books of Return 2 Games.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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