There’s nothing quite like getting a good table-top adventure game and enjoying it with friends, right? Well, lockdown has kinda put a dampener on that over the last year, with players having to find virtual ways to enjoy these experiences with others. Whilst it looks like the end is in sight as far as playing away from our loved ones is concerned though, Demeo has given gamers a fresh way to experience the joys of table-top dungeon-crawling with both friends and strangers from around the world – all from the comfort of an Oculus Quest headset.
It makes for a really fun experience too, with the simplicity of the gameplay mechanics making it easy for anyone to play. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging though, with even the most seasoned of players having a tough time making it to safety in this dungeon-crawling escapade.
Demeo’s gameplay is pretty easy to grasp, with all of the action taking place over a procedurally generated tile-based dungeon. The goal is to move between floors by defeating the enemy holding the key, until you eventually face off against the dungeon boss on the third floor. Defeat them and you win… simple.
“I know what you’re thinking: cards, enemy units, dice rolls… there’s a lot going on in Demeo.”
Players are able to pick their hero from four different classes: the knight, the assassin, the wizard, and the ranger. Each class brings with them their own specific playstyles, so there’s enough variety to cater for different players. Per turn, players can complete two actions, whether that’s playing one of the ability cards they have in their hand or simply moving their character. If they land on an enemy they can perform an attack where a dice roll deems how successful it is, or if they land on an object in the environment they can interact with it – that could be a treasure chest containing an additional card, a door, or a fountain to heal all characters’ HP. Once a player has taken their turn, it’ll either move on to other players or to the enemy units that are scattered across the dungeon, until eventually it comes around full-circle.
I know what you’re thinking: cards, enemy units, dice rolls… there’s a lot going on in Demeo. Fortunately, none of it is ever complicated. Each player starts off with a set of cards, with each providing different actions. It could be an attacking card that allows them to unleash a vicious strike across multiple tiles, it could be a healing card to recover HP, it could be a trap card to help set up defences across the dungeon, or it could even be a teleport to allow players to zip themselves from one end of the map to the other. Demeo is very flexible in its cards, with over sixty available that offer a wide berth of capabilities for players. It is worth noting that some of these cards are class-specific though, so it’s worth playing around with each of the four until you find the one that suits you.
“Demeo is very flexible in its cards, with over sixty available that offer a wide berth of capabilities for players.”
The enemy units are constantly lurking throughout the dungeon, with how you handle them determining how successful your run through Demeo will be. Fortunately, they won’t necessarily pursue players until they’re aware of their presence, so it is possible to evade some – sometimes it’s not worth opening a locked room for example, especially since you might not know what is in there. Players have a determined line of sight that only allows them to see enemies that are ahead of them. Have a locked room or obstacle in your way? It’ll be covered by a shadow, with no way to determine what might be lurking there. It means you have to be careful and strategic when exploring the dungeon, with one wrong move bringing with it a horde of different enemies that can quickly wipe away your health.
Then there are the dice rolls, which basically determine just how successful your attacks will be. The attack cards I previously mentioned bring with them a value that determines how much damage they deal, so provided you roll the dice and get a sword, you’ll land a successful attack. Roll two swords? That’s a critical hit, which deals a lot more damage. Roll a skull? You’re going to miss and, if you’re really unlucky, might hit one of your allies too. It’s a random element that adds an air of unpredictability to your adventures. Believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying that rolling a critical hit in the midst of a deadly encounter. Get a skull, though? It can mean game over if you’re in a sticky situation…
“Believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying that rolling a critical hit in the midst of a deadly encounter.”
I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface as to what Demeo really offers, with the wide range of cards, the different enemy types, the environmental hazards, and the collecting of treasure to purchase new cards between floors all playing a big role in how the game plays out. You’ll even earn experience points when completing actions, though you don’t level up – instead, you’ll earn an additional card for your hand when you hit one-hundred experience points.
There’s a heck of a lot going on, but it really makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There’s something so satisfying about strategically working your way through a dungeon, whilst the element of luck and the random nature of their design means there are plenty of unpredictable moments. It all adds to the thrill though, with each success you achieve in the game always feeling better than the last. Table-top adventuring fans will definitely have a good time.
What makes it even better is its multiplayer focus, with up to three extra players able to join you on your deadly escapade. These can be friends or complete strangers, with Demeo allowing players to either share their room code to have other players join or open it up to the public. Naturally, the game is at its best when played with friends, especially since communication is so important. However, I’ve also had a few games with complete strangers and it has been a blast. Not only have we been able to share information and strategies as to how to approach different scenarios in the game, but we’ve also had fun simply chatting about its many chaotic scenarios. The first time I actually managed to beat the game was with a group of three strangers, and boy did we celebrate…
“Naturally, the game is at its best when played with friends, especially since communication is so important.”
Rather play alone? There’s also a single player option that allows you to control four characters yourself, but it’s not the same. Demeo is at its best when played with others, with the community proving to be an open and friendly bunch so far.
I’ve got a lot of love for Demeo, though I do recognise that it isn’t completely flawless. For one, it can be TOUGH, with the random nature of the game making some scenarios feel close to impossible to overcome. During one early game I found myself completely surrounded by enemies and getting absolutely pummelled, with none of my cards proving especially useful to get me out of the situation. It meant I just had to accept death, which was a little frustrating – especially since it occurred after going into the first room I came across.
It could be argued that it could do with more content too, with just the one dungeon module to work through at launch. The developers have confirmed that an additional module is coming this Summer and there will also be additional cards and enemies hitting the game along the way, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more variety to begin with – especially since the murky environment can begin to look a little samey over time. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t even got close to growing bored of it yet, but I would like to see more.
“It could be argued that it could do with more content too, with just the one dungeon module to work through at launch.”
One thing I haven’t really touched upon in this review is the fact that all of the action takes place in virtual reality on an interactive board that’s in front of you. You’re sitting in a basement playing, which isn’t only full of detail but feels VERY fitting for the adventure. I’m happy to report that this all looks great in-game, with the static pieces even pulling off neat animations when performing actions. It’s easy to control too, with players able to play cards from their hand by simply… well… looking at their hand to grab them, whilst moving your character just means grabbing the piece and moving it to a highlighted spot. It really is simple to grasp and feels JUST like playing a real table-top game.
Be warned, though: you’ll be doing a lot of looking down in the game, so you might feel your neck ache a little when playing. You can offset this by tilting the table a bit, but this felt a little disorientating when you look around and see the basement environment around you is at a different angle. If you want some advice, I’d definitely recommend playing the game sitting down and maybe zooming the board in quite close. But hey, it’s a player preference thing really, and I managed to put in a two-hour session at one point without feeling any aches. Just do what works for you.
Demeo offers virtual reality gamers a fantastic table-top dungeon-crawling escapade that’s both accessible and strategic in design. There’s a good time to be had learning the ins-and-outs of its character classes and the cards at their disposal, whilst there’s NOTHING more satisfying than a successful dungeon run – especially when playing with friends.
It does have some ups-and-downs, especially with the tough difficulty and the lack of content, but there’s no doubting that Demeo already feels a bit special. I’ve already spent close to twenty-hours with the game so far and can see me spending many, many more beating up baddies and gathering treasure with the community.
Developer: Resolution Games
Publisher: Resolution Games
Platform(s): Oculus Quest 2 (Reviewed), Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
Click here to visit the official website.