Demonworld: Dark Armies Review

Demonworld has numerous glaring problems that make it downright painful to play.


Demonworld: Dark Armies is based on a German fantasy-themed tabletop strategy game called Demonworld, which is reminiscent of Games Workshop's better-known Warhammer game. Developing a PC strategy game based on a tabletop miniatures game makes perfect sense--a lot of them can take a long time to set up and play, and a lot of them have interesting stories and characters that could be fleshed out. Yet while Demonworld may be well intentioned, somehow the game manages to be a real monstrosity true to its name.

Demonworld is an awful, awful game. There's evidence of this right when you first begin play, when you realize that the publisher didn't even get the title of the game right. The box and CD case call it Demonworld: Dark Armies, the game calls it Demonworld II: Dark Armies, and the introduction cinematic splashes the name in a half-English, half-German hybrid. In reality, it doesn't matter what you want to call it, because after a short while you won't even care what the name is. In fact, it seems as if even your computer will try to forget it's installed, because it'll try to reinstall the game every time you insert the CD.

At its core, Demonworld is supposed to be a real-time strategy game with a few RPG elements. As in last year's Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, each unit on the battlefield in Demonworld is actually a formation of warriors. While each warrior in a unit has its own hit points, you can't select warriors individually. Units gain experience as they fight and can be upgraded to become stronger. There are melee, ranged, spellcasting, and hero units in the game.

Demonworld includes a campaign, single-scenario missions, and a multiplayer mode. The storyline in the campaign is an absolute atrocity. You have no idea what's going on--a narrator tries to tell a grandiose story that seems to pick up out of nowhere. Perhaps if the introduction had been translated into English, you'd have some background material to work with. There are three factions in the game: the empire, the dwarves, and the orks. While you can only play as the empire in the campaign, you can choose any of the three races in the scenario missions. The missions have varied objectives including large-scale battles, covert actions, and defending walled cities. Unfortunately, most of the time you won't have a clue as to what exactly the objective is because the mission descriptions are terrible. In the end it doesn't matter because the computer can't seem to figure it out either. You can win some missions by not even issuing a single order to your troops. How the multiplayer mode works is anyone's guess. During the course of two weeks of testing, we were never able to log into the game's multiplayer server--because it's not running. Apparently the game hasn't been too successful in Europe either, so don't expect to find any other poor souls to play against.

Demonworld has numerous glaring problems that make it downright painful to play. When you issue an order to a unit, it's automatically deselected. If you want to tell it to do something else, you have to select it again and repeat. Think hotkeys will solve the problem? Well, selecting a unit using a hotkey will automatically center your view on the unit. You then need to scroll to the position on the map where you want it to go. It takes a long time to get used to the mouse interface. Right-clicking the mouse will cycle through the available commands for a selected unit. It gets frustrating because right-clicking also brings up the special commands menu when a unit is not selected. If you want to cast a spell, you have to make sure nothing is selected. But if you want to move the mage, you have to select it, then right-click until the "boot" icon shows up. Sound confusing? Good, because now you have a sense of what's easily one of the worst control schemes in years.

Unsurprisingly, the game's artificial intelligence is filled with problems as well. Pathfinding is ridiculous--units stop in their tracks and get stuck on walls seemingly at random. Sometimes your troops will briefly, suddenly move at three times their normal speed. When fighting, half a unit will engage in combat while the other half just stands there. The computer often will not move its units even if you're pummeling them with artillery fire.

Despite these huge problems, the biggest problem is the campaign itself. You aren't given new units every mission; instead you have a standing army that you need to supervise. It costs gold to recruit new troops and replenish damaged units. The trick is that gold is hard to come by, so if you make a mistake, you're out of luck. It wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that the game doesn't automatically save after every mission. You can find yourself in deep trouble halfway through the campaign when you can't even field enough units to win. You'll also find that you'll get a mission briefing that says one thing, but you'll end up playing a completely different mission.

The graphics in Demonworld: Dark Armies are completely inexcusable for this day and age. You wouldn't be able to distinguish most of the units if you didn't have a pop-up box that displayed their names. Explosions are a joke, and spell effects are lackluster at best. The fog of war has serious problems as well. Sometimes it'll act like it does in a typical real-time strategy game, where you can clear the blackness from the map, but areas will gray out when you don't have units there. Other times the blackness is restored after you move out of an area. And the strangest of all is when you can still see enemy movements through the fog of war. It's completely random, and all three of these possibilities can occur in the same mission. The sound isn't much better than the graphics. You'll hear typical sword-clashing sounds, screams, and recycled explosion sounds. The music is redundant and makes you want to sleep.

The tabletop version of Demonworld is currently available only in Europe, which is unfortunate because North America has only Demonworld the computer game as a reference for the source material. While the tabletop game may be fun to play, the computer version is utter garbage that should be passed up without a second thought.

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Demonworld: Dark Armies More Info

First Release on Jan 13, 2002
  • PC
Demonworld has numerous glaring problems that make it downright painful to play.
Average User RatingOut of 72 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Published by:
Xicat Interactive
Real-Time, Strategy
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
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