I've had Demeo for months and can never find the time for its multiplayer-focused experience… thankfully it's got something to offer for solo play too!
- Title: Demeo
- Release Date: May 6, 2021
- Price: $39.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB
- Availability: Quest 2, Steam, and Coming Soon to PlayStation 5
- Recommended for fans of: Cheetos, Mountain Dew, and Hot Pockets
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
These thoughts are way overdue.
Demeo caught my eye when I saw their booth set up at PAX West, nearly half a year ago. I didn't get a chance to play the game there, but I chatted with one of the team members about it and they sent me a copy of the Quest 2 version of the game to check out shortly after. I've poked around with the game several times since then, but never got a chance to play enough to put any thoughts together on it.
As I write this, I finally just spent a nice long chunk of time with the game all in one sitting. I finally feel like I have a grasp on how I feel about Demeo, and it's that Demeo makes me wish that I had a lot more free time to spend on it.
A Basement Adventure
Demeo is a digital tabletop role-playing game, with a focus on dungeon delving. The story is broken up into multiple adventures, and each adventure is broken up into multiple levels. Each level is laid out as an incredibly detailed floor plan on a table, with player tokens entering at a random point.
From there, the adventurers explore the level, fight bad guys and monsters, and loot everything they can. The actual layout of each floor is static, but the points of interest are randomized between rooms. In other words, the structure of a specific floor will be the same each time you play, but key locations in it will be shuffled around. That means you don't know where to look to find healing fountains, treasure chests, miniboss-level enemies, or the exit. There's a great line-of-sight system that means players can only see what a player character token would have visibility on, which can make opening a door or moving around a new corner very tense.
Ultimately, clearing each floor means finding an enemy with a key and then finding an exit to use that key on. Spreading out can help that go quicker, but keeping the party together means a slower, safer journey.
It's a familiar gameplay loop, but it works well.
Up to four player characters can participate in a Demeo adventure, and it is built around the idea that each of them is held by an individual player. This game was built natively for Quest 2, and is designed to help distant friends sink into that familiar feeling of gathering around a table in someone's basement to go on an epic adventure. That works even better after the release of last year's Steam version of the game, which can be played either on a monitor or in PC VR with other players on either platform or experience. Later this year the game lands on PlayStation 5 with both TV and PSVR2 support and full crossplay, so the player base should only grow.
Each player chooses a character class when they enter the dungeon, which determines how they will play as they explore. On a turn, you only have two action points at your disposal. All classes can move and attack by standing next to an enemy, but the root of the game is in using spells and abilities, many of which are specific to a class. In VR, you access these by rotating your left wrist, which lays out a deck of cards that you can play. Some cards regenerate when they are used, like a simple ranged attack, while others are single-use abilities, like creating a poisonous cloud around a group of foes. Knowing when to deploy these more powerful abilities is essential, and using them well means communicating with your allies to coordinate your attacks.
You'll have chances to earn, find, or buy new cards throughout an adventure, but squandering abilities is the surest way to find yourself in a bad situation. With that in mind, Demeo really is a game built around community and cooperation.
Single Player Experience
Now that sounds awesome, but unfortunately, I've barely been able to touch the multiplayer side of this game. I manage to play a lot of video games in my life, but between work, family, and everything else, I rarely have long stretches to play. My gaming is often in bursts, and playing a game for a whole solid hour straight feels incredible. Sitting down for a multi-hour-long session in order to play through just one of the multiple adventures in Demeo just… isn't something that fits in my life. Fortunately, the “Skirmish” mode allows me to play through those same adventures in control of all of the characters myself.
There is an overarching story across the four adventures in the game, but I haven't really scratched the surface of that. Instead, I have been focusing on the mechanical side of things and found a very satisfying tactical combat experience. Each of the characters has a unique feel, and figuring out how to use them together is really satisfying. I'm a big fan of using the Warlock, who comes with her own summoned pet, as crowd control while an Assassin zips around stabbing enemies from behind for a backstab bonus to damage.
Unfortunately, losing the social aspect of the game also means I lose the ability to either celebrate or commiserate with anyone during the game. When I cleared a level for the first time, I didn't feel like the game did much to punctuate the moment. Where most single-player games would give you a big victory screen of some sort to ensure a dopamine punch at the end of the level, Demeo just loaded up the between-floor store-and-save-point, assuming I'd have friends around to pat me on the back. I did not, and that made me sad. Almost as sad as I was when I sent my barbarian off on a solo mission only to walk straight into an ambush, and I realized I couldn't blame anyone but myself.
I really want to love Demeo, but it pains me to know I'm not getting the full experience by not being able to make time for the multiplayer side of things. Like Table of Tales, I think this game showcases how well the miniatures format works in VR. In fact, between the interface feeling a little sleekier and the combat clicking with me just a bit better, I actually am enjoying my time with Demeo just a bit more than my time with Table of Tales, even though the latter is explicitly a single-player experience.
If this game had fallen into my lap ten years ago, before I met my wife when I was working fifty hours a week and living alone, it probably would have become an absolute obsession for me. The core gameplay loop is satisfying enough that I could see a younger, less responsibility-laden version of me playing this a few times a week with different ongoing groups and having a blast.
As it stands, it's a game that's already a bit tough to pick up and play thanks to being in VR, and the fact that you can only make an actual checkpoint save at the shop between levels means that even the solo version of it is tough for me to make progress in. I want to and plan to play through the entire campaign of this game, but I'm frustrated that it doesn't fit into my life better.
Still, if looking at screenshots of this game piques your interest even a little bit, it's an easy recommendation. This is a great package with a good amount of content… but you'll get the most out of it if you're schedule has more flexibility than mine.