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Book of Demons Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Book of Demons, developed and published by Thing Trunk, is an isometric dungeon crawler that is difficult to classify. Drawing upon deck builders, roguelikes, hack and slash, and even some elements of mobile clickers, Book of Demons manages to be a unique experience, but not one I’m sure I enjoyed.

Taking Control

Much of the early game is spent learning and tweaking the controls, as the defaults are extremely difficult to play with. Left-click is your best friend and worst enemy, as it’s used for just about everything — from moving, to attacking, picking up items, and navigating menus. However, given the nature of this dungeon crawler, you can easily end up running when you meant to attack and vice versa, leading to some rather frustrating moments early on. Luckily, most of the controls can be rebound to other inputs and the mouse movement disabled, but this didn’t stop the early game from being soured a bit by the clumsiness of the default inputs.

Right Out Of A Storybook

The first thing you’re likely to notice about Book of Demons is its fantastic art direction. The character design, worlds, menus, cards, and everything in between has a beautiful pop-up-book style to it. Center creases down the middle, folded backwards, and cubic artwork atop them, makes the whole experience feel as if a (somewhat dark and monstrous) children's book has really come to life. All of this is paired with some above-average voice acting, thematic and cinematic music, as well as some over-the-top fanfare, which ends up creating a fantastic fantasy world that is easy to be drawn into, despite its blatant lack of realism.

So Many Systems

One of the strongest points of Book of Demons is the sheer number of systems in play at any one moment and learning to manage them all, whether they be in the hub or the dungeons themselves. Cards, first and foremost, are your lifeline. They come in three main varieties: consumable, passive, and active. Consumables are your run-of-the-mill health and mana potions that will heal you, cure status effects, and refill your magic juice, each powered by charges you pick up in the world. Passive cards lock out a fixed amount of mana from other uses to give a constant, (usually percentage-based) effect such as a chance to block attacks, inflict fire or ice damage, and resist status effects. Active cards are used like abilities and consume mana to do so; these are special attacks or actions with differing effects depending on your character class. As you unlock progressively more card slots, you also need more and more mana to either maintain a large number of special actions or have enough to equip a larger amount of passive buffs.

HEARTS

Book of Demons uses hearts to visually represent heath. Each creature you face will have a bar of hearts floating above their head indicating not only how much health they have, but their weaknesses, resistances, and some unique effects for certain types. To start out, your standard red heart has no resistances or weaknesses — it’s your baseline health indicator where one hit means one heart. Green are poison; these fellas explode in a poison cloud on death and can heal other green-heart monsters, as well as poisoning other enemies. Fire and ice hearts take three hits a piece, unless you have the opposite element, which brings it down to two. Stone hearts are resistant to everything but standard damage, yet acts as normal health otherwise.

The list goes on, with more and more unique effects, based only off of the differing health that each monster can have. This leads to a huge amount of potential information on screen at any one time and doesn’t even begin to touch on many of the other monster mechanics, like spell interruption, stuns, invulnerability, and rage. The sheer number of monster-based mechanics makes gameplay interesting, but it’s a shame they're all attached to a combat system that is among the worst.

Left Click

Sadly, this is where my comparison to mobile-clicker games comes into play. Book of Demons has some of the most diverse enemy variety and mechanics I’ve seen, but they're all in service of what you are capable of doing: clicking. That’s it. The entirety of this complex system management comes down to pressing left click. Does an enemy have fire hearts? Click. Ice hearts? Click. There's an invulnerability timer with a breakable shield and a spell that needs to be interrupted? Click. 99% of my time in dungeons was spent holding down my left mouse button on an enemy until it was dead, or clicking one of the many other click-based prompts, and that’s where the game falls apart. No amount of superbly-integrated enemy complexity can be supported by a player-side combat system that is this utterly boring. This is why I don’t think Book of Demons really falls into the hack and slash genre; it seems better described as a fantastically pretty clicker game.

FINAL MENTIONS

There are a lot of other great ideas in this game, like the Flexiscope, which is a system that allows you to generate dungeons based on the length of playtime you desire. Then there's The Cauldron, a bonus upgrade system based on the upgrades you chose in the dungeon. Each of the characters in the hub world also has a ton of fully-voiced dialogue and fleshed out backstories. But, sadly, each and every idea in this game is fluff added on to what feels like a boring clicker app that does little to address the core issue: the gameplay just isn’t there.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

Book of Demons is a supremely beautiful roguelite dungeon crawler with fantastic enemy variety and a plethora of interesting systems built upon a sheer lack of player-side input. A decent time waster, but difficult to recommend at launch prices.

Coal Fire
Written by
Thursday, 14 February 2019 04:42
Published in Action

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CoalFire is an enthusiastic gamer who has spent the last few years digging for the hidden gems of indie gaming. A scientist by education, he breaks down the components of games sorting out what works, what doesn't and how it all works to create a cohesive experience. When he's not analyzing them, he's still playing.

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