A Highly Enjoyable Hack’N’Slash
Book Of Demons is an action hack’n’slash RPG that gets almost everything right. Inspired by the original Diablo, Indie company Thing Trunk have put together the perfect love letter to that game, mixing a range of challenging enemies to boot with a well-implemented card deck system. Unfortunately, the game is let down by some clunky gameplay and an awkwardly convoluted UI that’ll likely make or break the experience for you.
A loose story ties the whole thing together, seeing you take to the catacombs beneath a church to vanquish the evil spirits that are currently plaguing the land. Taking place entirely within a pop-up book, aptly named Book Of Demons, this quirky art style carries over to every aspect of the game – most of which taking place in procedurally generated dungeons presented in an isometric view. The general aesthetic of the game looks great though, with the monsters and dungeons suitably detailed and boasting some pretty impressive lighting and spell effects.
The general aesthetic and isometic design is really well implemented
For the most part, the game sees you fight through dungeons on a single path, eliminating enemies and uncovering treasure as you go. A bar on the left hand side of the screen shows your progress as you descend through the levels to reach the final boss, broken up by two unique stages that are easily the highlight of the game next to the interesting inclusion of the Flexiscope.
The Flexiscope is a clever mechanic and something I wish more games of its kind included. With most of the action taking place in dungeons, at the start of every journey into the catacombs you choose how long you want your experience to last for via a slider. This then feeds back an accurate timer for the next run based on your play style and how thorough you are in going through the dungeons. It works perfectly too and shows the intent to accommodate every type of gamer, from a quick 10 minute burst of action to a methodically paced hour slaying demons in the foul depths of hell.
The gameplay is almost exclusively geared toward using a mouse with a few keyboard shortcuts for good measure. You hold or click the left mouse button to move in the direction you want to go and either hover or click over an enemy to deal damage, presented with a series of hearts that whittle down over time. This starts off simple enough, with slow-moving skeletons and weak archer,s before becoming ever-more varied with poison, ice and fire elemental creatures joining the fray.
Being surrounded by enemies who block your path can result in a cheap death
Adding an element of unpredictability here is the inclusion of mini-bosses. These monsters boast multiple stages to eliminate, ranging from destroying all monsters in its radius or just hacking away at its health repeatedly. These do help add to the variety of monsters you encounter, although after a while the same 4 or 5 types of boss crop up and it all starts to become a little repetitive. Thankfully, the rewards you garner from completing these tasks make the grind worthwhile and usually sees you bask in a wealth of gold and special items to pick up.
This leads nicely to the main draw of the game, and the more unique element of Book Of Demons; the card deck system. As you explore the dungeons and find more cards to add to your collection, the game’s strategic edge opens up. These cards can be applied to your hand, which in turn can be expanded with gold found inside the dungeons, encouraging you to explore and loot.
The cards themselves vary wildly from healing potions and curing status impairments, through to dealing massive damage to enemies in a small radius. Finding the right cards that suit your play style and the challenge each dungeon presents is something the game becomes ever more dependent on the further into the game you get and ties into the strategic elements of the game.
Between dungeon crawling the main hub area has a few different options you can choose from
If you go into Book Of Demons with the intent of smashing your way through enemies and paying little attention to the card system, you’re sure to be punished for it. While the opening few hours can be completed with little trouble, the later sections of the game are nigh on impossible unless you have the right deck in place. This will likely make or break your experience with Book Of Demons as you find yourself micromanaging your hand and using trial and error to find the right combination that works for each given situation.
The problem with this all comes back to the solitary path this all plays out on. There are constant issues with dodging and blocking attacks, rendering ranged enemies more of a pain than they should be. Dodging projectiles is tricky, especially when you find yourself surrounded by enemies, unable to move in any direction as they’re blocking your route of escape. It’s moments like this that blemish an otherwise very impressive and polished action game.
The Card Deck system is deep enough to add strategy but can require a lot of micro-management
After completing the final boss, the game opens up for some post end-game looting but unless you’re a real die-hard fan of these games its unlikely you’ll stick around for the long haul. With another 6 games planned by the studio I’ll be watching this series with a keen eye as Book Of Demons certainly has a real charm and endearing quality to it. The bosses themselves are fantastic, the enemy design is very imaginative and all of this ties in with a visual style that oozes charisma.
Given this is only Version 1.0, with a bit of tweaking and a more robust movement system Book Of Demons could be an extremely impressive hack’n’slash game going forward but pressing issues hold this back from being a better game. It’s a title worth checking out though and if you can take to the unique card deck system and look past some of the movement issues, Book Of Demons is a lot of fun and a game I’m sure to be playing a lot of in the cold months ahead.
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Verdict - 7.5/10