Book Of Demons PC Review

Book of Demons is both an excellent tribute to Diablo and a great ARPG on its own.

By Woozie, Posted 13 Dec 2018

Book of Demons is paper craft Diablo with a sprinkling of rubber ducks wearing spiked leather collars. Let me explain. Built as one of seven projects meant to be modernized tributes to classic titles from the 90s, the game basically takes Diablo’s framework and reworks elements of it, successfully creating a thing of its own in the process. The start is instantly familiar. You arrive in a troubled town as one of three classic archetypes (Warrior, Mage, Rogue) and, after briefly encountering four NPCs, you’re off to explore the depths beneath the town’s church. Rumor has it that the local priest has gone mad which might have something to do with the outpouring of monsters that’s bothering the villagers. Thus, you dip right into delivering justice to malevolent skeletons, gargoyles and devils, periodically returning to the village to refill consumables, upgrade abilities, equipment and chat with the locals.

Book Of Demons, PC, Review, Screenshot

One way in which Book of Demons streamlines the ARPG recipe is by removing your ability to freely move around, confining you to set paths through its many levels. The enemies aren’t subjected to the same limitation, but surprisingly everything pans out just fine. Heroes have a circle of light surrounding them, marking the area in which they can attack, use abilities and pick up items. It’s a bit of a strange choice initially, but getting used to it doesn’t take too long.

Although all three classes are able to attack at range, the Mage and Rogue are far less effective when enemies get up close, while having more spells and abilities that are devastating at distance. Conversely, the Warrior cares not when a goatman gets up in his face, smacking them with his big, sharp metal stick. It’s true that in the third act, and during longer sessions, things can get a little too crowded, but the classes have various escape tools – like an area of effect fear, or a swift leap that shoots arrows upon landing – at their disposal to get out of being sandwiched in between hordes of opponents.

Book Of Demons, PC, Screenshot, Review

Book of Demons’ approach to abilities and items is another instance of simplification that translates to engaging gameplay. Instead of inventory slots, skill trees, and endless numbers to labor over, you have access to a set of cards and up to eight slots which you progressively unlock at one of the NPCs in the town. Cards come in different types, being either spells, equipment, consumables or runes. If runes are used to upgrade the other cards, making them more potent while costing more mana, you have complete control over which eight cards you pick for your build.

My warrior wore more equipment items than the other two classes, given how he wasn’t penalized when enemies got up close, which also meant that more of his mana was reserved. To offset the smaller mana pool, I equipped a mana potion, or an item that would replenish it passively, allowing me to reliably use my two damaging abilities. Conversely, on the Mage I ended up favoring more abilities due to a need of keeping enemies away from me, and because pelting monsters in the face with fireballs and lightning in quick succession is damn fun. There is some overlap when it comes to the cards available to the three classes, but although their playstyles have certain similarities, each class has enough distinct flavor to make taking it for a spin well worth it.

Book Of Demons, PC, Screenshot, Review

Cards are obtained as you clear dungeons and there is a fair number of them to collect, so much so that you won’t see all of them by the end of the campaign. Its time in Early Access has also given Book of Demons magic and legendary variants of cards which come with extra bonuses. These are both good reasons to go into post-campaign freeplay. The mode adds difficulties which unlock as you play. It also shakes things up with imposing a number of cards on each run and bosses that curse certain cards into being unusable for the duration of the fight. This prompts you to adapt on the fly, dipping into your inventory, pulling new cards and replacing some in your build.

The cards don’t pull the gameplay’s weight alone, though. Book of Demons boasts a rich roster of enemies that keep things interesting all throughout. If a lowly skeleton crumbles after a poke or two, further on you’ll go against armored brutes which require precisely targeting a shield above, or on, their model. The hearts denoting health might be encased in a fire-protective layer, which requires countering with an ice spell – another example of having to potentially replace cards in your slots on the fly.

Book Of Demons, PC, Screenshot, Review

Demonic goats prepare their charge, – interruptible if you click and hold on the icon above their heads – and if it connects you’ll have to collect stars floating across the screen in order to recover. Pestilent zombies explode in a cloud of poison, huge spiders burst into many smaller ones upon death. Getting hit can dislodge cards from their slots. Getting poisoned requires clicking on your health pool when it pulses. There are a lot of these interactions to consider, aside from oceans of particles ominously moving towards you and shielded behemoths advancing to chop you into tiny bits. But, even so, Book of Demons rarely overwhelms. Instead, all these elements come together to create surprisingly intense encounters where you’re not only slashing, burning or poking holes in paper craft baddies.

One thing you don’t have to worry about in Book of Demons is playing more than you’d want just to reach that next checkpoint. There’s a set amount of dungeon in between the three bosses and the Flexiscope system lets you section them into playthroughs of different sizes. They range from small chunks to large servings which reward you accordingly. Supposedly, the system also “learns” your behavior to better generate levels but, while I can’t speak for that, I did find both the shorter and lengthier runs to take as much time as I expected them to. It’s extremely handy, especially when you’ve just some 10 minutes to spare. Progress is also saved upon exiting. At the end of each chunk – a run is split into several of these – you can return to the village, in case you need a breather.

Book Of Demons, PC, Screenshot, Review

I never understood how exactly a Hell made of paper doesn’t burn itself down, but Book of Demons insists that it’s possible. Its three areas echo Diablo’s quite vividly, although while there are plenty of gothic elements and dread to find while battling skeletons, zombies and demons, there’s also a fair degree of humor and goofiness. Remember the BDSM ducks I mentioned earlier? The big bad uses them both as minions and toys when taking lava baths. Humor is also sprinkled in the lore entries back in town, whether it’s a monster description or an ongoing feud between NPCs, as well as in cheeky references in boss or enemy names. The two different sides balance themselves out perfectly without stepping on each other’s toes.

Book of Demons is an excellent reimagining of the Diablo formula and a great ARPG on its own. The way in which it uses Diablo’s three act structure and monster-slaying core makes it immediately familiar, while the streamlined elements build an engaging gameplay loop that requires you to be surprisingly active. Whether it’s pelting monsters in the face with fire, steel and arrows or clicking around the screen to avoid an extra wave of baddies, or remove poison from yourself, Book of Demons keeps you on your toes without wearing you down. It’s a good example of Early Access done right. As for its mission of creating a modernized tribute to Diablo, it wholly succeeds as it’s not just easily approachable by a modern audience, but also captures the essence of the classic that inspires it.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
Publisher(s): Thing Trunk
Developer(s): Thing Trunk
Genres: Action,RPG
Themes: Hack and Slash, Fantasy
Release Date: 2018-12-13

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