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August 25, 2011 • Gaming, Reviews

Mac/PC Game Review: Din’s Curse: Demon War (PC/Mac RPG, 2011)

Nearly a year ago I reviewed Din’s Curse, praising it for offering loads of fun and tons of gameplay. I summed up as follows:

Soldak has once again created a great RPG that encompasses many familiar things but brings us something new and challenging that lends itself to a fun and fresh gaming experience. The core of the game is wrapped around a dynamic world loaded with quests, and that in itself will be enough to keep you coming back for more.

Now they are back with an expansion to Din’s Curse called ‘Demon War’. To put it simply, it takes everything from the original and makes it bigger and better and a richer and fuller experience! Let’s take a look in some more detail!

The Hype:

Din’s Curse: Demon War is the first expansion for the unique action RPG Din’s Curse. Adds the Demon Hunter class, new demon monsters, tons of new quests, more involved NPCs, lots of new dungeons and caves, and much more.

The Reality:

There are various roles for an expansion to play – to add new content (such as story, quests, weapons, areas to explore, or characters), to improve upon what was in the original game (new weapons, more skills, etc), adding multiplayer, and … well, that is pretty much it. Demon War hits hard on two of those, with Soldak Games adding plenty of new features, and improving the original game in pretty much every way possible.

As a reminder of who Soldak is, their first game was Depths of Peril (DoP), which was interesting because it featured a dynamic game world. At the core was an action RPG, but DoP offered much more than a simple Diablo-esque experience. As a player you head up a faction charged with protecting the city of Jorvik from invading forces, and have the goal of becoming leader of the city. But you aren’t alone – there are other factions and other leaders and in the dynamic game world it is possible that some will befriend you and others might become competitors!

The follow-up to DoP was Kivi’s Underworld (Kivi). For many hardcore fans of DoP Kivi was a disappointment. Whereas DoP was deep, and dynamic, Kivi’s Underworld was never designed with that in mind. It was definitely designed to satisfy the ‘casual bite-sized gaming’ crowd, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of the experience. Kivi is on a mission to save the world – one small quest at a time. No real inventory, and a limited ability to develop your character, but with fun quests and loads of secrets that allow you to get more and more powerful. It was a good bit of fun that I still enjoy. Many, I believe, dismissed it unfairly.

Finally, last year Soldak released Din’s Curse, an action-RPG with loads of replayability built-in due to world randomization and an incredible array of character customization options.

The story is pretty basic: during your life you squandered your time while causing misfortune to those around you. The great god Din has cursed you into a second life which you will fill with service to others. Only when you have demonstrated true atonement for the actions of your first life will you be released for your fate.

The core of the game remains the same in terms of setting up your character, choosing class, and so on, so for those elements I refer you to the original review. My purpose here is help you decide if you should spend $9.99 grabbing the expansion.

As I mentioned, the game is just a blast to play in short or long sessions, as there is a wide array of activities to do. Some will take only a few minutes, others can take hours to fully complete.

The first addition in Demon War is a new class – Demon Hunter. This specialized class uses ‘demonic powers’ to deal out loads of damage, and presents an interesting change to the gameplay dynamic. But the most interesting gameplay remains taking on hybrid classes – rather than three specializations you only get two, but they can come from any class.

One of the coolest things (for me anyway) in Din’s Curse was the dynamic world. I remember at first thinking this was a world where everyone just stood there and never had to eat or go to the bathroom … and then finding out that they have starved to death or been over-run by monsters because you didn’t make it back in time! That dynamic world has been improved, with more chances for things to happen when you are in the dungeons that require you to head back to town – you can actually fail quests because of this!

Another way to fail is that others can complete your quests and you simply lose the chance to collect! It seems unfair at first, but again this is a living world where you are just one of many cursed by Din. Speaking of quests, there is loads of new content, from quests to environments, to special interactions, and so on. You will never be bored in Demon War … because you need to survive and emerge victorious against a Demon onslaught!

As I mentioned, pretty much everything has been improved – you get new monsters from the start, and a few major new enemies you won’t see until higher levels. It keep things fresh and challenging – you can very much tell which enemies are immune to certain attacks and require you to switch up your strategy.

Multiplayer remains loads of fun – but feels even smoother to me than before. I am not a huge multiplayer gamer, but Din’s Curse is clearly one that benefits from exploring with a few friends!

In my review of the main game, I noted the graphical updates from the first patch. The game has definitely seen more improvements since then, and is a gorgeous game that looks fantastic on my 1680 x 1050 Macbook Pro and my 1600 x 900 Sony Vaio. Again, this type of game isn’t going to win any Spike Awards for ‘most bootylicious graphics’ (or whatever equivalent nonsense award they give out on that show) – but Soldak effectively creates a varied dungeon experience that will keep things interesting for hours.

My main concerns with the original game were the thin story and the purchasing system. I mentioned how the story and quest content as well as the dynamic world have all been improved – you still won’t think you are in the midst of The Witcher in terms of depth of story, but the added content is greatly appreciated.

More importantly, up through Din’s Curse all games were bought for Mac OR WIndows, and you’d have to get a ‘transfer license’ to switch. It was antiquated and a hassle. With Demon War, you now buy the game, period. I have played it on Mac and PC without issue or need to get Steven Peeler involved personally!

There is a reason I love indie games in general, and Soldak games in specific – they are awesome. More specifically, they bring a creativity and player-first experience that I simply don’t get from the big AAA corporate games. Din’s Curse is a great example – based on reception of Kivi (especially since Steve himself has said ‘Kivi was a mistake’), many big publishers would have moved in a very different direction for their next game. Soldak stuck with their strengths – integrating elements from Depths of Peril and Kivi’s Underworld as well as all new material to forge an experience that was at once familiar and all new.

Soldak has started initial reveals on their upcoming un-named space-based RPG. Considering that everyone is in agreement that Kivi was their ‘worst’ game, and I loved that … and also considering how wonderfully executed Din’s Curse has been, I just can’t wait to play whatever they produce next!

Oh, and since I did my initial review as a Netbook Gamer article, here is a look from the Retro Gamer perspective:

RetroGamer Perspective: Soldak produces games that appeal to fans of classic games with hardware requirements low enough that just about anyone can play them. They bring back the purity and simplicity of the older randomly generated dungeon crawl games, but with an intelligent challenge created through a dynamic and living world. Din’s Curse: Demon War brings classic gaming to life on just about any recent hardware platform while still feeling modern.

Review: Din’s Curse: Demon War (PC/Mac RPG, 2011)

Where to Buy: Soldak Games

Price: $9.99

What I Like: Constant improvement and great attention to the fanbase; Loads of fun and challenging quests; Dynamic world adds to replayability; Distinct character classes provide varied play experiences; everything improved from original game; purchase system revamped

What Needs Improvement: Nothing!

Source: Game code supplied by developer

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