They are serial killers, mass murderers, rapists, and arsonists. They are vile creatures that revel in the pain of others. You cannot call these foul beings human; they are beasts. And you are the one who brings them justice. Others question your methods. They regard you with suspicion, fear, and even disdain. Yet you exist to make the world a little safer. You are Nicholas Farepoynt, Haresh al-Dorem. You speak to the dead through Daemonica, the language of demons.
Your mystical potions allow you to reach the realm of the dead. You seek the truth in places ordinary people cannot reach. Emotions are far from your world. As a physical reflection of your journeys to the realms of oblivion, you bear scars that will never heal. You may never know true joy or happiness. But your grim existence serves a greater purpose. You deliver punishment to the worst criminals. You solve cases others cannot hope to crack. You are a Beast Hunter and you have been called to take on a new quest.
Your arduous journey is almost at an end. You are just a short walk away from the town. You take another look at the letter that has summoned you here. The mayor of Cavorn is deeply concerned. Two of the town’s residents, Greer and his wife, have been missing for several days. Disappearances are not common in this small town. Mayor Saintjohn needs your help in finding the lost couple. You try not to think about the past. You try to forget the burdens of the guilt you carry as you walk up to the gate. You are here for a mission. You have to find the missing couple. Yet it is not long before you find out that new developments have occurred since you received the letter.
Mayor Philip Saintjohn is all too thrilled to inform you that he has already solved the case! A young woman named Elanor Woodbridge has been murdered since the disappearance of the Greer and his wife. Elanor’s fiancé, the town’s undertaker Roger Duncombe, has been found with the dead body. Convinced that the undertaker is guilty for both Elanor’s murder and the old couple’s disappearance, Mayor Saintjohn has already ordered Duncombe to be hanged. After all, why bother with a detailed investigation when you have a suspect whose hands are covered with blood and unable to speak coherently right next to the dead body?
The mayor now wants to hire you for a different task. You are to find definitive proof to back up Saintjohn’s hasty judgment. Yet even as the mayor speaks, you know that something is not quite right. You’ve seen far too many people that got convicted and killed for crimes they never committed. Can the undertaker be truly guilty of killing his own fiancé? What would have been his motive? What about the disappearance of the old couple? Why would the undertaker want to kill them? Had he simply gone insane or is there something else, something much darker going on in this town? Yes, you know something is not quite right. And you have to get to the bottom of the mystery before more people die.
Daemonica is a third-person adventure game brought to us by RA Images, Cinemax, and Meridian4. Set in the middle ages, Daemonica is a murder mystery with a distinct macabre theme. As you investigate the death of Elanor Woodbridge, you will not be employing ordinary methods. As Nicholas Farepoynt, you have access to the realm of the dead. By risking your own life, you will have to become the instrument of justice.
When you look at the screenshots alone, it is easy to assume Daemonica is an RPG. The isometric third-person view is certainly comparable to games like Diablo, Neverwinter Nights, or Baldur’s Gate. Seeing the health meter on the corner of the screen and the sword on your character’s back, it is also easy to assume that there are a lot of action sequences in the game. However, while you will have to get into a few sword fights in the game, Daemonica is most certainly not an action game or an RPG. Progressing through the game involves interrogating other characters and looking for clues to solve the case. There are overwhelmingly more adventure game elements than anything else in Daemonica. As such, despite the presence of a few fights, Daemonica is first and foremost an adventure game.
The entire game takes place in the town of Cavorn and its surrounding areas. After the opening sequence, players are free to explore the town at their own pace. You control Nicholas with a fairly simple interface. You move Nicholas by clicking on an open area on the main view. The inventory is accessible in two ways. You can browse through and select items by using the buttons on the lower left corner of the screen. Alternatively, you can bring up the inventory view with a tap on the ‘I’ key to take a look at all of your items. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to open up the map or Nicholas’s diary.
The bulk of the investigation is conducted by interrogating the town’s citizens. While Cavorn is a very small town, it still has a number of distinct and interesting inhabitants. There is of course the sleazy Mayor Saintjohn. He is the sort of person you distrust from the moment you meet them. The mayor’s wife Helen is hauntingly beautiful, yet she seems so distant and troubled. Doctor Clement Baker and the blacksmith John Codd regard you obvious suspicion, taking you for little more than one of the mayor’s lackeys. Haunted by visions, the town witch Maud Litcott constantly speaks in riddles. Regardless of their backgrounds and motives, there seems to be a dark air surrounding every resident of the town. Something is terribly wrong here and you have to figure out what it is before it’s too late.
While it starts as a simple murder investigation, Daemonica has a fairly engaging plot that should keep players interested throughout the game. As you get deeper into the investigation, the game offers a few plot twists to keep things interesting. You immediately get the sense that something is wrong with the town and its citizens. The recent murder and the disappearances are not the only things bothering these people. Yet you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong. And nobody seems to be willing to give you a straight answer. In the end, the mystery is not astonishing and it may not be completely unexpected. But nevertheless, Daemonica will most likely have what it takes to keep your interest as you conduct the investigation.
Among the strongest and best-implemented elements of Daemonica is the atmosphere. The game does a rather successful job of communicating its macabre theme. Before you even talk to the characters and start getting into the investigation, the game manages to create a somber and unsettling tone. It is clear from Nicholas’s description as he approaches the town. He remarks on the dark clouds and the surprisingly cold rain. Everything seems to be strangely quiet. Even as you hear the ambient sounds and see the town’s residents, the whole place somehow seems to be devoid of life. A deep sense of gloom covers everything.
The grim nature of your investigation adds to the effect. As a beast hunter, it is simply part of your job to make contact with the spirits of the dead. The dark ritual involved with achieving this communication certainly adds to the game’s atmosphere. Your closeness to the lifeless bodies and spirits serves as a constant reminder that death is everywhere. And in order to unlock the mystery, you have to become intimate with it.
While you will not hear it very often, the soundtrack of Daemonica also boosts the atmosphere. The haunting tunes fit very well into the underlying theme of the game. The only problem is that the music seems to play randomly as you explore the town. As such, it does not always highlight critical moments of the game as well as it could have. The game could have also benefited from a couple of extra tracks that play as you explore the main areas of the town. Nevertheless, the music that is available should still help enhance the experience.
Before you even start the game, it is highly recommendable to read the background story accessible through the game’s main menu. The short story will provide you important details about the main character Nicholas Farepoynt. You will gain insight into his early days and how he came to be a beast hunter in the first place. While many details of the background story will not directly factor into Nicholas’s adventure in Daemonica, you will be able to appreciate certain scenes a lot better if you know about the beast hunter’s past. In addition, having some information about the nature of Nicholas’s work should be helpful at the beginning of the game when you are trying to figure out how to proceed with the investigation.
It is important to note that reading will be a large part of what you do throughout your adventure in Daemonica. The background story is most certainly not the only chunk of text that will be presented throughout the course of the game. As part of his investigation, Nicholas has to prepare potions and speak to the spirits of the dead. In order to learn how these processes work, players are required to read entries in Nicholas’s diary. Dialogs with other characters are presented in text format as well. Voice acting is available only in a small number of sequences. Since you will be spending a lot time talking to other characters, be prepared to do quite a bit of reading.
The conversation interface featured in the game is fairly simple. Once you initiate a conversation, a list of questions or comments become available at the bottom of your screen. You simply select a topic and read the other character’s response. On occasion, as the conversation unfolds, you will have to make decisions. How you choose to respond to other characters will have an impact on the game. At times you may be able to prevent fights by selecting the correct responses.
Your investigation is hardly limited to talking to the living citizens of the town. After all, Nicholas Farepoynt carries the title Haresh al-Dorem, which means he can speak to the spirits of the dead by traveling to the realm of demons. The process of finding and talking to the spirits is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Daemonica. As detailed in his diary, Nicholas first has to prepare a potion called Soulgreep. Upon consuming the potion, Nicholas’s spirit is able to access a special chamber. Here the beast hunter performs a ritual to call forth the spirit. If everything is done correctly, Nicholas is allowed to talk to the spirit. The ritual works like a puzzle, testing how well players know the character whose spirit they will be summoning. The entire process nicely fits the tone of the game and makes for a rather unique experience. It seems as though the development team has put quite a bit of thought into the ritual and the realm of spirits.
Another fairly uncommon feature of Daemonica is the preparation of potions. Since it is required for the ritual that allows you to talk to spirits, the most important potion you have to make is Soulgreep. But Nicholas will have to prepare other potions to aid him with his investigation as well. For instance, Nicholas can make two types of healing potions to recover lost health. The recipes for these potions are recorded in Nicholas’s diary. Each potion requires a number of different types of herbs. Once again, the diary will provide information about each type of herb and where you might be able to find it. Players are required to collect the herbs and prepare potions by combining them according to the instructions in the recipes.
The process of preparing the potions is quite straightforward. Players simply have to select the correct combination and quantity of herbs from a short list. The fact that you have to read through the recipes and look for the herbs yourself does initially make the process more involved and even quite entertaining in the beginning. However, trying to find the elusive herbs can easily cause a great deal of frustration. While the descriptions in the diary are helpful in trying to figure out where to look, players still have to essentially wander all around the town looking for strange plants at each corner. Some of these plants are fairly common and should be fairly easy to find. However, players can easily have a rather hard time locating the rarer herbs. They can be at just about any random corner, potentially forcing you to run around the town over and over again.
It is not enough to find the herbs and prepare the potions once either. As the adventure progresses, you will have to prepare some potions several times. The herbs Nicholas uses for his potions seem to be some seriously fast-growing plants. The story in Daemonica spans over a number of days. With each new day, the supply of herbs around the town magically gets replenished. Thus, when you realize you need to make a fresh batch of Soulgreep or require a healing potion to recover some hit points, you have revisit a bunch of locations and try to find some extra herbs.
It is worth noting that the potions do not require the herbs in massive quantities. Since the town is quite small, you will not be forced to search through a huge area either. However, once you have tried out the potion making process, it can get very annoying to search through the game world several times looking for herbs you had already found and used in the previous day of the adventure. It is highly likely that you will get to points in the game where you will know exactly what your next step should be, but you will not be able to make progress until you find a specific herb.
Since you will be spending a good deal of time interrogating different characters, it is a good thing that Daemonica has a helpful map feature. As you explore the town, key locations will be automatically marked on the map. You can then bring up the map and instantly travel to any of the marked locations. It is also possible to set temporary markers on the map. You create a marker by clicking on a location denoted in the map. As soon as you set the marker, a green arrow will become visible in the game world. Using the arrow as a guide, you can reach the selected location. Even though the game world is quite small, it is still nice to have the map shortcuts and the marker functionality. The shortcuts in particular should save you a good deal of time as you move around the town talking to different people.
The size of the game world is another aspect of the game that can be frustrating to many players. During the majority of the game, you will be confined to the town of Cavorn. Even when you throw in the surrounding areas, this amounts to a considerably small area to explore. Of course Daemonica is not exactly the first game to take place in a small location and every single game does not need to span a myriad of unique places. However, when it is possible to run across the entire town in just a few minutes, it is easy to feel too confined. A few extra locations and several more characters would have probably greatly helped Daemonica.
Nicholas Farepoynt does have to do some fighting throughout the course of his adventure. However, the combat system in Daemonica is fairly simple and should not be too challenging to master. The fights are always in the form of a duel. You can either swing your sword or guard against incoming attacks by holding down the space key. It is not possible to block attacks indefinitely. The moment you press the space key, a shield icon appears over Nicholas. Each time your opponent tries to hit you, the shield icon will fade. Eventually, you will not be able to fend off the attacks. Thus, after you block your opponent a couple of times, you are encouraged to launch a counterattack. If your opponent fails to block your attacks, you will start depleting their hit points. Once you hit the opponent enough times, you will win the fight.
Nicholas starts the game with thirty hit points. Each time you get hit during a fight, he will lose a small portion of his health. The game does have a feature in the options menu that makes the fights easier. Especially with the simplified combat option activated, you should be able to get through most fights without losing too much health. When you do need healing, you will have to make potions that will replenish your lost energy. Unfortunately, having to prepare these potions can add some tedium to the game. In the event that you barely survive a fight, you would be ill-advised to proceed before healing Nicholas. After all, if you neglect to heal the beast hunter, you may find yourself in another fight with very few hit points. As such, every time you lose a good chunk of your help, you will be almost forced to find the required herbs and patch up your wounds. Thankfully, the combat is fairly simple and there isn’t that much fighting in the first place, which reduces the need to make the healing potions.
Without a doubt, Daemonica has some strong elements and it can be an entertaining experience. The storyline is interesting and the atmosphere is fairly strong. The game manages to capture your interest and create a dark, unsettling mood. There are some nice features that make the experience colorful. The ritual for talking to spirits is fairly imaginative and should be entertaining to perform. Towards the end of the game, there some optional mini side quests you can complete to change parts of the game’s ending. You also make a decision at the very end that determines the ultimate outcome.
However, Daemonica suffers from several problems that significantly hurt the experience. The game world ends up feeling too small and restrictive. While it is initially interesting to make potions, looking for herbs can easily get very tedious and frustrating. The amount of character interaction and reading involved may be far too tiresome for some players. There are also a few points in the game where it is not quite clear what you are supposed to do. You need to essentially wander around the town until you quite randomly stumble upon something that will progress the storyline. Adding minor annoyances like occasional badly constructed dialog trees, somewhat lengthy load times, and a limited number of save spots to the mix, the game starts to get rather difficult to recommend. With more locations to explore, additional game play time, and a more refined potion-making process, Daemonica could have been a remarkable game. Unfortunately, despite all its strengths, it ultimately falls short of the mark. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a murder mystery with a macabre tone, some interesting features, and a great deal of character interaction, consider giving Daemonica a try. It will not be the greatest adventure game in your collection, but it can still be a fun ride if you can manage to overlook the game’s problems.