HeroQuest, Warhammer Quest, Talisman; I’ve played a few fantasy board games in my time. I know how good it feels to sit round a board of miniatures with friends and work together toward a common goal.
I also know the monotony of setting up the board and refreshing your knowledge of the rules, whilst trying to arrange a few friends to get together for a game. Demeo seems to offer the good parts of board gaming without any of the dull and difficult parts, you essentially get to have your board game cake and eat it too.
But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s start with the fundamentals.
Your goal for the first campaign ‘The Black Sarcophagus’ is to free the Elven spirits trapped in the underworld Necropolis of Helmaar. To do this you take control of one of four different heroes: the sorcerer, hunter (archer), champion (warrior), and assassin.
Each hero has their own unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses and these are pretty much what you might expect. For example, the sorcerer can do some pretty devastating ranged and area of effect damage but isn’t fantastic in close combat.
In contrast, the champion is your damage sponge, perfect for heavy melee encounters but, as you guessed, isn’t going to be your pick for taking enemies out at a distance. Each hero has two action points per turn, spent either by moving, attacking, interacting with something like treasure chests and healing fountains, or using special cards.
Cards form an important part of the Demeo gameplay mechanics. Each player has a hand of cards (up to a maximum of 10), with some of these cards being reusable character abilities and others being single use.
Cards serve a range of functions from protective abilities such as replenishing armour or erecting a magical shield, to offensive attacks and spells. They can be picked up from chests or earned by filling a mana meter that fills as you defeat enemies (you can also trade cards you own for additional mana).
There is a store at the end of each stage where you get a chance to stock up on more cards using the gold you earned. There are a good variety of cards to choose from with over 60 different abilities/ This adds an element of strategy to the game as you need to decide which card is best to use for any given situation.
For example, during one game where I played as the sorcerer, our heroes were faced with a large room of scattered enemies. I used a vortex spell card which pulls enemies toward a central location of your choice.
I chose to pull the enemies next to an explosive fire lamp, then the ranger of the group used their arrow card to shoot the lamp for it to explode, dealing some devastating area of effect fire damage.
You can play a single player skirmish mode where you control three of the four heroes, but just like most other board games, where this game really shines is the 2-4 player multiplayer mode. Creating a plan of attack with your teammates to take out your foes, grab the loot and escape the dungeon is a feeling of shared accomplishment that’s hard to beat.
There are 3 dungeons to complete in this campaign. In the first 2 dungeons your goal is to get a key to escape to the next one. Then in the final third dungeon you fight a boss, which in this campaign is the Queen.
Demeo has only this one campaign at the time of this review, with several more to be added in future DLC, but that does mean for now it is a bit light on content. However, the dungeons are procedurally generated meaning they have a different layout each time you play which adds to the replayability.
Another feature that will keep you playing is the ability to level up with experience and unlock new character skins, dice, masks and baseplates.
It can take around 3 hours to get through the campaign, and if you die it’s straight back to the beginning again. Some might find this lack of save feature frustrating. For me, after investing 2 hours in a single game, the thought of having to start over again if I died seemed to add to the excitement of staying alive.
I enjoyed the challenge and in many ways it reminded me of my early gaming days where saving your position was not an option. But if this does sound off putting then don’t worry.
There is going to be a save game option added at some point in the future because, let’s face it, even if you do enjoy the high stakes gameplay that having no save game feature offers, you’re not always going to have the time to invest 2 or 3 hours in a single sitting.
In terms of the board game elements, the way you can zoom in and out of the different miniatures and see other players around the table feels very authentic. It feels very much like the actual thing and in some ways better as you get to see each beautifully animated piece come alive.
The movement system can be a bit cumbersome at times as you need to use your hands to grab and drag yourself to different places on the board like some kind of monkey-human hybrid.
There are also instances where you go to pick up a piece to view its stats but you end up grabbing surrounding pieces by accident. However, these are minor frustrations in what are otherwise user friendly controls.
If you are someone who’s played a few board games and RPGs you won’t find anything terribly new here. Demeo takes a tried and tested formula that fantasy and RPG games have used time and time again, and pulls it off very nicely in VR.
It is also quite simple, the RPG mechanics are not terribly complex or intricate. This can be a good thing as it’s very easy to pick up and play, but those who like a more detailed RPG experience might find this game lacking.
That doesn’t mean it’s without any strategic elements. Monsters present with their own set of strengths, weaknesses and immunities meaning you will have to use certain cards at the right times and on the right enemies to make the best use of them.
There will also be plenty of occasions where you need to rely on the strengths of your companions in situations where you are the weakest.
These tactical elements along with the challenging gameplay and dungeons that change their layout with each playthrough makes for a fun and massively replayable dungeon crawling adventure.To sum up, if you’ve been waiting for a dungeon crawling board game experience in VR, this is probably going to satisfy that craving. Demeo made me feel like I was playing Hero Quest again – only this time it was the 21st century futuristic version.
This is the fantasy board game experience most of us have been waiting for with some minor issues around the way players need to drag themselves to move around the board and gameplay mechanics that may be a little too simple for some. There is also a lack of save option, however a save feature is planned for future updates.
Lovingly crafted environments and animated pieces make for a visual treat.
Everything sounds like it should, from the voice acting to the dark, moody dungeon soundtrack which becomes more intense when in combat.
Standard fantasy story that you only really encounter at the beginning and the end of the campaign, so you probably won’t be too engaged with it.
A bit light on content currently with just a single campaign that can be completed in about 3 hours but this is made up for by the procedurally generated dungeons, levelling up system and unlockables. Several additional campaigns are planned as future DLC.
The ability to get up close to the action or zoom out for a more god-like overview works well in VR. Playing Demeo in a basement setting adds to the immersion and D&D charm of the game.
Moving around and zooming in/out the board is a pretty comfortable experience. Looking down at the board can cause a bit of neck strain but this is easily remedied by using the tilt table option to tilt the table vertically.
Learning Curve: 9
It includes a quick tutorial and is easy to pick up and play. You’ll probably get the basics within the first 10 minutes.
Value for Money: 10
If this is your type of game then you’ll find it to be worth the $29.99 price tag. Especially with confirmation that future expansion packs will be free!
A fantasy board game experience that’s just as good as the real thing, if not better.
Summary: Do you have the mettle to survive a monster-infested dungeon crawler that immerses players in the classic fantasy RPG genre like never before?
Game Modes: Single User, Multiplayer, Co-op
Genres: Adventure, RPG, Strategy
Platforms: Oculus Quest
Developers: Resolution Games
Publishers: Resolution Games
Release Date: May 6, 2021