Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Homages are nothing new especially when it comes to the realm of gaming. So many great titles have come before and sometimes developers instead of trying to reinvent the wheel simply make the edges smoother. Not really reinventing the wheel or adding anything new, Dark Deity pays homage to the older days of Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem while also offering up a decent turn-based tactical experience where you’re often outnumbered and can’t exactly rush in without thinking things through.
Now while it doesn’t do anything new per se, Dark Deity does have a certain charm to it especially for retro lovers as the visual style of battle is very old school in graphics and I loved it. The overall story is one we’ve seen before with power hungry and mad kings waging war with other “dark forces” lurking in the background, but it works to set the stage for our newly graduated military recruits whether or not they were ready. Adding in several other character types for some magic between battles and there’s a solid formula of narrative, combat, narrative, friendship binds, rinse and repeat.
So the overall formula is a simple one. Each chapter starts off with some dialog, you’ll then move into the battle sequence with a bit more dialog both before, potentially during, and then after, and then some more dialog to finish the chapter off. Before going into battles you’ll be able to set up your squads with some items to heal in case of an emergency if your healer types are too far or upgrade one of their four possible weapon types in order to make them more effective in battle. Once that’s done, it’s off to see if both you and your forces can hack it.
Battle plays out easily enough. You get your turn to move your units around the map, and then the enemy gets to do the same. While either selecting or hovering over your units, you’ll get to see who they are stronger and who they are weaker against. Now depending on your unit’s power, they may still do well against a particular enemy but the repercussions of a counter attack could be devastating and even take your unit out in one hit. This could be made worse in one of two ways. The first? Your unit actually missed their attack that could have taken out this enemy unit. The second? The counter attack is a critical hit taking your unit out before they can launch their potential second attack which would have dispatched the enemy.
Where Dark Deity works a bit differently from the Fire Emblem series is that instead of using a durability weapon system where iron, steel or mythril weapons for example can only be used a certain amount of times, each character at all times have access to four weapon types. These weapon types add a level of strategy into the mix as just because a unit is a spellcaster, it does not mean that it will be effective against the enemies that they find themselves again. So it’s a good thing that even in battle, if you take the time to do it of course, you can change weapon types to hopefully leverage things a bit more in your favour.
Keeping in line with the strategic elements, throughout battle you’ll be able to acquire weapon tokens in order to level up your units’ weapons but they are small in number. This means a constant evaluation as to whether or not leveling a particular unit is more important than another and as your forces grow, who are you actually going to use and is it even worth upgrading their attack weapons if they are healers? This leads into the last strategic element, unit classes.
Every unit starts off with a base class but as they level up past a certain point, they can change their class into one of four possibilities. These possibilities are different enough from one another making having multiple fighters, spellcasters, healers and rangers quite useful as some may be able to serve as a tank unit absorbing all of the damage while some healer units can heal from a far as well as cause a serious amount of damage without ever being within physical range. There are a fair amount of possibilities to try out and it was at least a nice touch that any new unit after a certain point in the story came instantly leveled up enough to be able to change into an advanced class.
Where things don’t quite mesh so well after a while is that the stages are LONG. For someone like me that loves both the style and the challenge? I wouldn’t mind but it’s the fact that there’s no way to save. Perhaps the first instinct on this one is, well if you could save then maybe your decisions don’t have as much of an impact, which could be the case for some, but for someone who may need to run off at a moment’s notice or has a limited amount of time to spend? Without being able to save mid battle, without being able to hibernate the system as this is currently neither on the Nintendo Switch or the Sony PlayStations 4/5 or Microsoft Xbox One, Series X/S, you have to be committed before sitting down to sometimes very lengthy fights even with all of the effects turned off to speed up the process.
The only other potential issue would have been while trying to play with a trackpad. I know that some people may be thinking, are you crazy? A track pad? But with the stellar heat of late when the choice is a room with no AC or a living room where the AC hits and we have fans to help? The track pad seemed like a good idea but it was never responsive often causing battles to go on even longer as things just didn’t seem to register. So I am quite happy to say that while a mouse does work well, Dark Deity works excellent with a controller so whether at the PC or hooking up into a TV, a controller is definitely the way to go and for those that have played through the Fire Emblem and similar series, you’ll feel right at home with this setup.
On a whole, Dark Deity does offer up a solid turned based tactical experience with plenty of units types to choose from as you move from one theatre of battle to the next. Adding in elements like character bonds which adds in a depth to the story is nice but at times I do wish there had been a bit more side content and not simply going down the road from one giant battle to the next hoping that you both had enough time to finish it and that the system didn’t crash as there’s no way to save while in the thick of it.
This all said, I enjoyed my time with Dark Deity and I do hope to see more from these developers down the line with a sequel or a spiritual successor to this decent homage to Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem series.Score: 7.5 / 10