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August 1, 2011

Demon's Winter - Review

Demon's Winter was a special experience. I had a lot of fun. It was better than anticipated. I never thought I would get hooked to such an old game and that I would manage to play it until the end. You need the manual to get the most out of this game. Only on some rare occurence did I use a walkthrough to solve some particular problem. I also had use of a game map world found here. Without it, this game would take much longer to complete.

The review of the games different elements if from 1 (worst) to 5 (best).

Gameworld & Story
I think the story was quite original. I have heard that there is a certain time limit before the winter come so if you are not moving fast enough it could be triggered without your intervention. I am not sure if this is correct though. There are not much story to the game but the plot is interesting and with some twists.  The game world is created for this game as far as I know (and in its predecessor Shard of Spring). You don´t get much background or anything from the several pubs but what you hear is often important. They could have elaborated the background and information you get when travelling a little more. The story is great though with some interesting twists. Such as that Malifons minions not always know the whole story and realise they are used as bricks in a grander game. Besides, I thought I would fight a difficult end battle of some sort but there was none.
Rating: 2

Economy
You were almost always short of cash or when you had them you could never, ever buy what you really wanted, just the most neccessary things. I like that system. There should always be a use for the amount of gold found and you should never really feel very rich. The variety of weapons and armours are limited to a few types but with huge amounts of magical properties that they could be enchanted with. I couldn´t almost ever afford magical weapons except + 1 or if I found something until in the end of the game but then there where no cities to buy them in, the distances to travel too large etc . The inclusion of the dwarven smithy is a good one. I could probably have gone there to enchant my weapons before the endgame but choosed otherwise just to speed up my adventure.

You do very seldom get good items fron looting the enemies. Most are junk and your inventory are limited and in the end full of quest related items. I would like the game to give a little better loot in the second half of the game. You where really lucky if you found a magical weapon and most of the time it was only a + 1 thing. Compare that to the incredible weapon types the merchant often has.

In the end I rather choose the fewer items than too many and too good.

Rating: 3

NPC & Interactions
There where almost no interactions with which you could choose your answer except for two places (with the high priest and in the end). There are very few important NPC and none out of the enemies you meet. Those meetings are well described and atmospheric but too few and far between.

Rating: 2

Monsters & tactics
There are a lot of different foes and that is good. They have different abilities and the most difficult ones are high-level wizards, dragons and elementals. They could cast spells that kill you instantly if you are unlucky. There are some variety. You never know how many hitpoints a certain foe has left which is a little unlucky. Perhaps the skill Tactics would tell. I never noticed if different monsters had any weaknesses to ceratin weapons or elements.

The tactics used by them in combat was not very good. Sure, they tried to get to your weak members but could neglect to attack others more near just to be able to maneouver. That is not good for them because they loose their round and you use it to attack them on yours instead. When you flee, they don´t try to block you from the exit entrance you creates. They don´t concentrate their attacks on one single member or use attacking from behind unless in random. There are too many random fights and the difficulty could vary much between them.

The sea combats is much quicker (thank you) but give you a huge amount of experience early in the game but no gold instead. The land battles are the opposite.

Rating: 3

Map design
The map of the world is both large and quite interesting in how it is drawn. The dungeons are standard dungeons with different sizes. There are no boring teleporters, total darkness squares or compass problems which games such as Bard´s Tale have. And that is a good thing. Many places are well described and the maps are not made random but seems to have a purpose.
Rating: 3

Graphics, Sound & Interface
There is two kind of sounds in the game. When anyone hit or miss. Blip or Blop. That´s about it. No title melody or anything. The graphics is very bad. Even for that time but it is functional and works. The interface is clumsy and terrible to use in the beginning but you soon learn the shortcuts and it is less of a hinder. There are too many shortcuts to do certain things. For example to inspect a character to see what inventory he has there are different command depending if you are in a city (and then you must be at a merchant) or when you camp. Selling items is done one at a time and for every new one you have to repeat the sequence of shortcuts instead of having the inventory just updated. Still, you can survive the interface.
Rating: 1

Gameplay
I read somewhere that this was supposed to be a beginners choice of RPG. I don´t agree. The game is quite complex and advanced but of course much less so than in the Goldbox games from SSI. The fights are tough, it is hard in the beginning and even in the later stages you have to try to preserve your strength. You have a good leveling system and a good skill system. I really like the skill system that every class can buy any skill. They are just harder or easier to get and you pay with Intellect points which you get randomly when you raise a level.

Certain skills are almost essential to be able to win the game. Without hunt you can not get any provisons unless in town (and all dungeons are often far away). The Spirit Runes is hard to find and very important since that is the only way to heal or resurrect a character. I got them so late in the game so I only tried out the heal spel.

For the most part I did not use my wizard at all. Sure, the spells in themselves where quite ok but the problem is the time it takes to regain spell points. You never regenerate SP:s unless you sleep and when you sleep the regenerate only for a few points (the same goes for hitpoints). You hade to sleep 5-10 days in a row just to heal up but that drains too much of your provision inventory (of which you cannot have more than 255, an 8-bit limitation I am sure). Since you are in so many fights all the time your wizard would run of of SP:s on the way to the dungeon.

The leveling system is fun. You always get some hitpoints and spellpoints (even if you don´t have any magic school yet). And three random base skill increases. I found the most important base skill increases to be speed. Your speed skill determines the number of move points you get and with a high amount you can attack more often or flee faster. The second best point is the intellect points. They are needed to buy new skills. Then you have strength for increasing your damage, endurance to increase your hitpoints or the Skill which determines the prowess with weapons.

I had a good time and can recommend this game if you can spare the time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

2 comments:

  1. Nice to see another retro CRPG blog!
    Demon's Winter happens to be the next game on my to play list. I've been quite uncertain wether I should bother with it, since frankly it _looks_ boring, but the manual makes it sound interesting, and the fact that both you and the CRPG addict completed it suggests it worth playing.

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  2. I agree with you that it looks boring but as you say the manual is very good and drew my attention to the game. The game is also not enourmous and you will complete it in around 20 hours or so.

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