Of all of the titles on Kalypso Media’s decidedly impressive forthcoming line-up it’s Noumena Studios’ The Dark Eye – Demonicon that appears to be the most traditional presentation. A third-person role-playing game (RPG) adventure, The Dark Eye – Demonicon is presented as a ‘traditional’ experience by way of its genre-induced mechanics: character improvement, dungeon crawling and boss fights are the foundations that are to be expected. However, the ways in which Noumena Studios have chosen to build from this humble groundwork are more interesting than might be expected.
The Dark Eye – Demonicon’s tale is a twisted story of betrayal and revenge. ‘Twisted’ being the operative word, as there’s a lot of suggestive content that could end up dividing audiences’ opinions of certain characters. Telling the tale of a brother and sister journeying together through a world of cruelty and depravity, both are constantly threatened by mortal danger and demonic temptation. Many videogames assert their ideals of player choice affecting the outcome of the experience, but in The Dark Eye – Demonicon it’s not a simple case of being good or bad; you have to decide where the lines are drawn.
During the preview build Electronic Theatre witnessed, this argument was put forth with the finale of a boss fight. Having been tasked with defeating the giant cannibal that had been kidnapping and eating the local townsfolk, he falls at our feet with the decision off whether to kill him resting squarely upon our shoulders. However, finishing him will also mean the death of all those with which he has taken hostage. Neither result will be perfect of course, but choosing to save the many rather than the few the cannibal’s head hits the floor separated from his body. The townsfolk are thankful for our efforts, except those for whom we also condemned their lovers. The majority understand we had a difficult decision to make, the few swear to gain their vengeance against us.
In this one instance we already see that The Dark Eye – Demonicon proposes some genuinely challenging moral dilemmas, but this facet of the videogame runs even deeper. A number of other instances were discussed with Electronic Theatre during our time with the videogame, but most notable was the mention of yet further resulting actions of the above circumstance: should the cannibal survive you will meet him again further down the line, however those who follow our path will instead come face-to-face with his mentor.
As stated in the introduction, The Dark Eye – Demonicon does feature a character development system. However, it’s likely to be very different to that which you might expect of an RPG: rather than levelling-up in the traditional manner, players earn XP to improve existing abilities. New skills can be purchases with AP and spells with GP, and this three toll system works in a similar fashion to Fable’s ‘use it or lose it’ technique, where the more you use an ability the better you will become at it. The combat is real-time, with spells accessible via a menu wheel on the right trigger, allowing for players to specialise if they so wish, but using all of the assets in your arsenal is undoubtedly the better plan.
The Dark Eye – Demonicon is a dark adventure set in a wartorn land ruled over by the Dark Overlords. To suggest that this an accessible high fantasy videogame would be missing the point: The Dark Eye – Demonicon is designed to capitalise on the return to favour brought on by The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Thankfully, Electronic Theatre sees very little reason as to why it won’t be able to command such attention as it approaches release on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this year, as The Dark Eye – Demonicon is looking nothing short of an exciting new RPG adventure.