Dark Deity takes you back to the simpler times of classic TRPGs. There’s plenty of quality nostalgia to be found but a few less desirable elements of the old days managed to fly under the radar as well.
Genre: RPG, Strategy
Developer: Sword & Axe LLC
Publisher: Freedom Games
Release date: 15 June, 2021
I’ve apparently found myself on a tactical RPG trend considering the last few games I’ve been playing. Disgaea 6 ate up too many hour of my life (and continues to do so as Disgaeas tend to do), and now I’m powering through Dark Deity and reliving the old days of the genre. The differences between the two are as staggering as one might imagine and while the former streamlines and modernizes, the latter embraces its old school roots and charges full speed ahead.
School’s Out for Summer
Our story begins as many stories do with those in power having a dispute and pulling those below their station in to do their dirty work. The four heroes that make up the starting party are cadets of varying ages from a particularly prestigious military academy. Thanks to the king’s ambitions and lack of respect for tradition, all of the stuents are drafted for service immediately, no matter what their age.
The twists and turns that follow are interesting enough and keep the story moving forward even if there isn’t much that will make Dark Deity’s tale stand out in your memory in the years to come. It’s a linear story without any side scenarios to improve your party so you’ll need to make the most of the experience and loot in each chapter. Maybe it’s the recent grinding of Disgaea that’s still cooking in my mind, but I would have liked to see more opportunities to level my characters. You’re bombarded with new recruits along the way but there’s nowhere near enough experience to keep them all viable and the most effective strategy is to focus on a smaller group.
Everybody Gets a Class
Dark Deity’s significant number of characters is paired with a healthy number of classes that are available to them. Leveling and experience complications aside, the sheer quantity allows you to spread them out over your impressive roster. Always a classaholic myself, I loved seeing so many options and only wished that I’d actually been able to use them all from start to finish. I would’ve liked to see larger battles that let me take all of the characters in as opposed to the increasing number of heroes that became professional bench warmers.
Each class tree comes with its base class and it splits into four second tier and four third tier classes. Though each tier provides improvements over a similarly themed class of the previous tier, the transition from second to third isn’t a linear one. A character who is upgrading to the top tier has access to the same classes as any other character of the same class tree would. This can make for some interesting leveling paths that mix up the attribute design of a character.
A pleasant surprise in the class system that I enjoyed was the weapons mechanic. Each class has four different weapons available to them at all times that can be swapped on their turn to suit your strategy. Though there’s some variation on the overall focus between classes, they’re broken up into four focuses: raw damage, critical chance, accuracy, and speed. Two characters of the same profession can play quite differently as upgrading these weapons will help them hone in on which enemies they excel against.
Loyal to a Fault
The nostalgia flows strongly through Dark Deity, but it’s both its gift and its curse. Though it hits on the classic aspects of the genre effectively, you’ll recognize some issues that tend to have been hammered out of more recent releases. Though there were a number of minor issues, the most blatant offendors for me were the lack of in-battle saves and the subpar menu navigation.
Combat tends to take some time to muscle through and saves only being available between scenarios often lead to me being frustrated that I had to play a full hour plus or not at all. I’d really like to see this changed; even if Dark Deity wants a more hardcore, ironman feel to it, I’d prefer they went the single autosave route instead.
Controls are an issue that you get used to but it isn’t as smooth as I’d like to see in a title that involves a lot of menu navigation. They seem to march to the beat of their own drum and even a few hours in I was still struggling to move through them effectively without having to work around it. Though these controls don’t ruin the experience, they make navigating just restrictive enough that it’s likely to become a pet peeve along the way.
A final point of note that some may find lacking but other may not be particularly bothered by is the lack of voice acting. You’ll have grunts and repeated phrases that add some character to your party, though you’ll want to bring your reading glasses to this one. There’s plenty of chatting before and after each scenario and there’s a healthy amount of character relationship conversations that will pop up between each scenario reminiscent of the Fire Emblem series. I spend a lot of time playing older RPGs so this wasn’t a big deal to me, but it’s one that you want to be prepared for if you’d rather listen than read.
Dark Deity is a respectable entry in the tactical RPG genre that skillfully pays homage to the classics without innovating in many ways itself. Some elements that were retired from TRPGs for good reason see a return, such as a limited window for saving, but overall it’s a title that you should check out if you miss releases like Shining Force or the old school Fire Emblems. If you go into it expecting some flavorful jank, there is a solid title here and one that I’d love to see improved upon with a sequel.
But please, Sword & Axe, let us use all of our characters next time!