The Fire Emblem community, disappointed with the lack of news about the saga on E3, can now rest their eyes upon Dark Deity, a brand new Tactic-RPG developed by Sword & Axe. The beta version is available on Steam since June.
In the Delia Kingdom, you start with Maren, Alden, Garrick, and Irving, a group of warrior students forced into an adventure when King Varis commands all apprentices to join a sudden war. In each chapter, there are plot development scenes followed by a turn-based battle. There is a total of 28 chapters.
In each match, we have to move the characters through the grids to defeat enemies and achieve the objective: defeating all enemies, defending for a few turns, or even escaping from enemies. Units attack within the range of 1 grid, and the direction depends on the weapon used.
Our cast has various roles and weapons with advantages/disadvantages against specific enemy classes, represented by green/red arrows as you select characters. They’re determined by attacker weapon type versus defender armor type.
As you go, new characters join your cast and give you the possibility of choosing their classes.
Dark Deity has unique features that complement the mechanics brought from FE:
there’s no permadeath, but the characters lose stats when dying;
the promotions (reclass) not only boost but also reduce stats;
Weapons don’t need to be repaired, as their use is unlimited, but you can upgrade them with tokens.
The campsite menu is where we can watch bond scenes, manage characters’ items and upgrades. The Bond Scenes are unlocked by characters building relationships by being close on the battlefield, similar to the Support system in Fire Emblem. It’s where you can see character development and how they interact with each other off battle, revealing their quirks and backstories.
As for longevity, Dark Deity isn’t an extensive game. Battles can last for an hour (or less, if you’re more proficient), so you can beat the game in about 30 hours.
On the other hand, when a character levels up, the stats that improve are random, making each playthrough unique according to your management and adding up on replay value. Also, if you want to grind bond scenes, you may have to play more than once, which brings me to something I think Dark Deity could benefit from. At a certain point, with so many new characters joining, you need to choose who you want to take to battle and who you want to bench. New characters that join usually have higher levels, and at some point, there was a rift between older characters and new ones in terms of level. Especially if characters die constantly, there is no way to train them. For example, I had to give up on Elias after he perished a few times in a row. Because of that, and since I didn’t bring him to battle anymore, I missed his bond scenes with other characters.
As a fan of this genre, I intuitively figured out what I had to do. However, I feel like players new to tactic RPGs may struggle to understand objectives and mechanics. At first, you couldn’t save during battles, but that feature was added in an update in the meantime.
Some players complained about performance issues, but for me, the game ran smoothly.
For me, the narrative is essential in a game. Of course, I also enjoy games that admittedly lack that component. Still, in Dark Deity, the narrative could (and should) be improved to make it even more addictive.
Some characters had similar mannerisms, which resulted in none of them standing out; the bond scenes sometimes were repetitive. To illustrate this, Cia & Bianca’s and Cia & Irving’s bond scenes were basically the same rants, and Cia would look more multidimensional by showing other different sides (I’m vague to avoid spoilers). Not knowing if characters were gonna stick or not made me afraid of investing in them. It’s hard to
Furthermore, some critical emotional climactic scenes might have been weakened by the way characters reacted and the timing of the events.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t like it; it’s just the narrative could have been the icing on this already delicious cake.
The art in Dark Deity is fantastic: from character design to map layout. I loved the contrast between cut scenes, where characters are presented with details, and the battle scenes, with pixel art and cool animations. They’re all positively spectacular and connect well with the atmosphere. As for the soundtrack, although it’s not varied, the background music is unique, epic, and catchy.
Since Dark Deity is still in Beta, it’s understandable that it isn’t fully voiced. But I would love to see that happen at a later stage! There are only occasional comments and lines characters say, either during bond scenes or leveling up in battle. Sometimes these lines are confusing since what the characters say has nothing to do with what the text actually says.
I must say I loved Dark Deity and had a blast! The combat is over the top and was the fix I needed for my Tactic RPG cravings. Even though I wasn’t in love with the story, the battles were challenging (I played in Normal mode), and the enemies’ levels and “intelligence” are adequate. I highly recommend it to fans of tactic RPGs.
Challenging combat, stunning art, and highly addictive.