Demeo, like so many games, wants to create a digital Dungeons and Dragons experience that allows players to feel the camaraderie and excitement of a tabletop RPG battle without the need for a DM’s planning ahead of time and the complex number-crunching that can bog down the experience and make it inaccessible to new players. The game originally released in 2021 for VR devices, but this year’s Demeo: PC Edition brings the experience to all players (with a Windows PC). As the DND format filtered its way through digital mediums though, it loses much of what makes tabletop RPG campaigns so unique, making Demeo: PC Edition feel like a somewhat incomplete game.
Demeo has you take control of different figurines in a randomly generated dungeon, as you move through three floors, finding the door that will allow you to move to the next level and the key that will open it. The game, as you would expect, has a turn-based system where each player has two actions per turn. An action can involve moving, interacting with an object, attacking an enemy, or playing a skill card, which can have many different functions, depending on the class and the card.
The game focuses almost entirely on combat, so you will attack at least one enemy on basically every turn. Combat can happen in two ways: melee combat or with a card ability. To engage in melee combat, you just need to move your figurine onto an enemy in range, and you will need to roll a die to determine the result. Each figurine has a base melee attack of 3, and you can either hit, miss, or get a critical hit, which hits for double(ish) damage. If you play an attack card, the rolling works the same way, though the damage can be different, and it may have a larger area of effect or hit multiple enemies.
Each class has its own unique cards, as well as some cards that exist for all classes, like healing potions or barricades. Each player begins with a hand of cards but can gain more through treasure chests, a shop screen in-between floors, and a meter which will give each player a new card after a certain amount of cards has been used. At first, it can be tempting to not use cards and focus more on melee combat, in order to keep your cards for hard battles, but the game does a pretty nice job of incentivizing you to use cards, as well as making it clear that you will not be able to succeed without using them.
The core gameplay of Demeo is really fun. Maybe I just have a soft stop for turn-based games as well as tabletop games, but the game has an addictive loop that can easily engage you for an hour or more straight. The gameplay isn’t terribly complex, but the decisions require just enough thought to make it feel like you really are making unique decisions that will impact your ability to make it through the dungeon.
Unfortunately for Demeo, though, it lacks much beyond its core gameplay loop. The “campaigns” are really more just visual themes for the dungeon, as none of them have much narrative outside of the story that develops from the minute-to-minute gameplay, and the different classes hardly have any variation in them. Some of the most basic aspects of RPG character design involve giving the classes different amounts of health and attack, but all the classes in Demeo have the same base health and attack, and similar enough movement stats to not really make a noticeable difference. Why the Hunter and Guardian have the same health and attack just makes no sense and I don’t see a reason why they couldn’t play with the numbers to make the classes more unique.
Some class cards create decent distinctions, like the Arrow skill for the Hunter, one of the only consistent ranged skills, and the Assassin’s Sneak ability that lets them move around undetected, but most abilities all have such similar damages and ranges that they often don’t feel satisfying to use, as you never feel like you’re doing something that only you can do.
The last hiccup that got in the way of my experience with Demeo is the sheer difficulty. My first attempt at a dungeon did not go well, but that was mostly because I was still adjusting to the system, but once I got the hang of it I started to feel pretty good, making it cleanly through the first floor on my second attempt. Once I got to the second floor though, the game seemed to lose all sense of pacing and structure, as it just began a barrage of never-ending enemies, at one point crowding me with more enemies than I even cared to count. I understand the desire to complicate the gameplay with some more difficulty, but because you, as a player, have a very limited amount actions and health, adding too many enemies just makes it impossible to get through the level, as you will just receive never-ending damage, slowly breaking you down.
Demeo: PC Edition has a great concept and manages to almost create a solid digital DND experience, but just falls short. Demeo feels distinctly early access which, to its credit, it is. The VR edition of the game does not have the early access tag, but the PC edition does. The game is fun, but it’s just hard to see myself playing it more. I definitely want to play it more, but the game just doesn’t have enough to offer right now. If nothing else, Demeo: PC Edition is definitely a game to keep your eye on, even if it might not be worth the $30 price tag just yet.
Score: 6 out of 10
Reviewed on PC