Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Quick Take – Din’s Curse: Demon War

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 2, 2011

I played a bit of the new expansion for Din’s Curse Demon War over the weekend. I call it “work” as a justification. You know, so I could tell you about it and stuff. In reality, I’ve gotten myself hooked all over again. Sigh.

I’ve gushed a bit in the past about the original game. But for those who may have missed it, here’s the summary:

Din’s Curse is an action-RPG that takes the Diablo formula as a foundation, but then builds upon it in a way no other action RPG to my knowledge has ever done. It adds layers of replayability and dynamic events that unfold as you are playing the game. The course of events depends upon your actions – or inaction. Neglect something important long enough, and a natural progression of events will occur. Bad guys won’t wait in the dungeon forever for you to come and smite them. They’ll amass armies and attack the town you are charged with defending; or unleash some some sort of hellish invention or plague upon you. Or something. I don’t think I’ve seen all the variations of what can happen (I try hard not to let them escalate that far, but it still happens), but it really increases the pace of the game and makes your choices all the more challenging.

As for replayability, there are 18 skill sets (“specialties”) categorized by six different base classes. Each skill set has several unique skills which you can increase as you level – with no “cap” that I’ve found. They aren’t “trees” – but the more powerful skills cost more points to increase (and each level you raise them increases the cost a little more). You can mix and match freely between your classes’ specialties. You can also create a custom hybrid class that can choose from any two specialties in the game. This works pretty well, as I rarely buy skills from more than two specialties anyway. While this may muddle the uniqueness of each class somewhat, it makes for a pretty interesting variety of play styles.

On top of this, there are several game variants you can choose from, including a “hardcore” mode with permadeath, and a mode where your character is “cursed” and can only equip cursed items. Speaking of which, the variety of equipment – normal, common, rare, “elite” (unique), artifacts, legendary, fragile, intelligent (ego),  cursed (powerful but saddled with a penalty) – are pretty staggering. While it lacks the crafting ability (so far that I’ve seen) from Diablo II and Torchlight, the variety otherwise puts those games to shame. And the game includes cooperative multiplayer right out of the (virtual) box.

Okay, that’s the basics. The overall plot is dirt-simple: You are serving the god, Din, to redeem yourself by saving town after town from certain doom. Unfortunately, you won’t win them all, unless you are a better player than I am. It’s not quite as pretty and polished as mainstream games of the genre. But under the hood is where it really counts for players like me, and there the game is meaty and original. It’s a game where you still feel like a noob a dozen hours (and a half-dozen saved towns) into the game.

So what does Demon War add to the package?

To start off, it adds new monsters – three new base demon types and their dozens of variants.  And it adds a new class – Demon Hunter – with three new specializations with several skills / abilities each.  Bringing the total to 21 specializations, and about 196 possible variations on classes.  The Demon Hunter seems to want to be more of a melee character, but that may be more due to the specialization I’ve focused on.

There are more quests, more environments, environmental effects in the town, and a slew of new world modifiers to make the experience different. I tried one which had waves of enemies attacking the town every few minutes. I abandoned that city eventually, as I didn’t have the patience for it after I’d beaten all the dungeon challenges and there were only a handful of survivors in town for me to protect.

The townspeople are probably going to be the most immediately noticeable difference in the game, if you are playing with a character without Demon Hunter skills.  I’m still getting a grip on understanding these guys. They are a much bigger part of the game. Occasionally, in the past, they’d fight (and die) in attacks on the town, or get sick and die due to a plague or magical attack or whatever. And you’d have to check around town to see if there were some optional quests being offered by regular townsfolk instead of just the main quest-givers and vendors near the town center.

Now they are a lot more active, with personality types and happiness levels and relationships with each other and stuff like that. In practice, unfortunately, that meant I have had to go around town a lot giving handouts to keep them from starving:

I can’t say I fully understand everything going on in the towns after just a few hours of play of Demon War.  The end effect has been that the towns are a lot busier and the NPCs play a much bigger role in what’s going on. I’ve seen married townsfolk get divorces, get so hungry or destitute that they start stealing from other NPCs. I’ve even had one woman in town become so grieved over the death of a loved one (even though I avenged the murder) that she turn traitor, poisoned the water supply (spiking the cost of water & drink in town), and when discovered fled into the dungeon to join forces with the bad guys. And then I was sent to go kill her. All in a day’s work.

You have a lot more options to interact with the NPCs, including donating money to them, inspecting their gear, and challenging them to a fight (I haven’t tried that one yet… I only fight them when they turn hostile). I’ve explored some of their dialog a little more, as it seems their dialog gives some indication as to their motivations and state. The game can get pretty chaotic, so it’s hard to keep track of what everyone is doing in town. But you can see the NPCs now walking around doing their activities. Apparently some of the more adventurous types, if they decide you aren’t doing enough,  may take up sword and armor and head down into the dungeon to complete your quests for you!

I’ve seen notices of gossip going on and other things happening between NPCs. The downside is – as with the dungeons – it gets so busy and difficult to tease out the feedback for that it’s easy for it all to just seem too chaotic and hard to follow. However, some of the modifiers (which I haven’t tried) for each new town include options to slow the event progress down a bit, which may make it easier in the end to spend some time above ground interacting with people before things get too crazy to follow.

In a recent session, I had just completed a quest when the town above was attacked. I raced back to a portal to get back to town, to find a powerful “boss” fire-thrower laying waste to a lot of the main quest-givers and vendors in the town square. The NPCs were valiantly giving it all the had, including the Warmaster, who had given me the quest I’d just completed. I raced to their rescue, but the monster was seriously nasty, and managed to kill both NPCs in short order, and me as well as I went overboard trying to kill him. I was resurrected and managed to kill the invader before he slew anyone else in town, but in the meantime I had a completed quest in my queue that I couldn’t end. I considered dropping it, but held on. In short order, the steward had a new quest for me – a new potential warmaster had been found, but I had to do a quest to shut down some demonic gateways in order to seal the deal. Maybe I had to prove the town’s worth to him or something. Anyway – I did so, a new warmaster was brought on board, and fortunately for me his predecessor had taken very good notes. The new warmaster accepted my old completed quest that his predecessor had given me, and rewarded me appropriately. To be honest, this is actually something that could have happened pre-expansion,  but it illustrates the sort of emerging narratives that come through in the game.

All told, Demon War is taking the already incredibly detailed, dynamic gameplay of Din’s Curse (much of it first introduced in Depths of Peril) to the next level, across the board. On the surface, it sounds like holy grail kinds of stuff… the kind of “dream RPG” type stuff I would have laughed at a decade ago if someone suggesting stuffing all of it into a game. It’s not perfect; it’s easy to see there’s stuff going on and to see the causality for sequences of events taking place the way they do, and to get a feel for all this incredible simulation taking place under the surface, but it can be hard to do much more than simply react all the time like it is some kind of time management game pushed into hardcore mode. But at under $10 for an already killer-fun game, it’s a bargain and a must-have for anybody who already owns and enjoys Din’s Curse.

And if you aren’t sure, particularly if you haven’t played the original… the new demo includes the enhancements from the Demon War expansion. You are level-capped pretty low, but it does give you a taste of how the world works. Click the linky-thing below:

Din’s Curse – New Demo Including Demon War

If you already have the game… I recommend the expansion, which you can buy at this link.

Filed Under: Game Announcements, Impressions - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I bought Din’s Curse a while back, but never got around to playing it.

    Seems like it might be a good idea to dust it off (metaphorically speaking, since it’s on GamersGate).

    Would I miss much by not having the Demon War expansion, or would it be a good idea to pick that up too?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Din’s Curse is really good without the expansion, so no, I wouldn’t say you’d need the expansion before playing the game. It’s a very complete game on its own. So in that way, the expansion is just icing on the cake, I guess. But if you find you enjoy it, there’s really not any reason to hold off on getting the expansion so far as I can tell. Things in town get a little crazier, but otherwise it’s really just More Cool Stuff to keep the game fun & interesting.

  • UDM said,

    I never much understood all the hype for Torchlight. I tried the demo and I thought it was okay for a dungeon crawler. Solid mechanics, but nothing really eye opening. With Din’s Curse though, it’s different. The core mechanics of item collection are probably less balanced compared to Torchlight, but what really made it stand out for me were the numerous permutations of things that could happen at any one point in time.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    Brief play of Dins curse, and it’s quite good. One source of minor annoyance is that I can’t figure out how to map my spells to a mouse button… no point in my wizard hitting things with a staff, but the only way I can make him fire off a spell is by selecting an enemy then selecting the spell (both right clicks).

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I move the spells to the quickbar on the lower left and just hit number keys to fire off my special attacks. There’s also three skill slots on the lower right where you can make right-clickable buttons from your skills.

  • skavenhorde said,

    I’ll buy this game to support the developer, but I doubt I’ll play it all that much. Without factions Din’s Curse is just another Diablo clone in a long list of Diablo clones.

    Don’t get me wrong it’s an awesome clone and is far superior to other clones like Torchlight, but I’m tired of playing Diablo-like games. They are all the same with a few differences.

    Depths of Peril brought something new and interesting to the tired ol’ mix of Diablo clones. Actually it brought three new things. Factions, NPC companions and a dynamic world. I loved every minute of that game and still play it when I’m getting an itch to destroy some other factions.

    It’s good to see he is at least working on one of those three things, but without factions this game is just not that interesting.

    I hope he does well and one day revisits what made Depths of Peril truly unique amongst the hundreds of other action-rpgs out there.

  • WCG said,

    Din’s Curse sounds great,… except for that “action” thing. If it were turn-based, or even something like Baldur’s Gate, I’d snap it up immediately. But “action-RPGs” just aren’t for me.

    Too bad, because I really like the idea that the world continues on, with or without your character.

  • Indie RPG News Round-Up, March 2011 said,

    […] I’ve talked about this one already. I can’t stress enough that if you haven’t tried it, download the demo (which now […]

  • Alex said,

    I never heard about that game. I am looking to download the game Demon War to support the developper.

    Thanks for making a great review about it.

    Diablo 3 barbarian skills