Demeo sets out to bring the table top RPG experience to virtual reality, capturing the vibes of standing around a table in your basement, surrounded by your mates as you roll dice, move your characters around the board and dungeon crawl with the best of them. What makes table top gaming so special is the social element that is a core part of the experience; talking strategy, truly cooperating to take down your enemies – and of course just the general banter of catching up with friends while going on an epic adventure. Demeo, then, has quite a lofty task, in terms of making sure that pure essence of joy is fulfilled, while still creating a functional and fun experience in VR.
It’s with great pleasure then that I inform you, Demeo is a smash hit. It’s easily one of the best experiences available in VR today, and the best multiplayer game available on the platform by far.
Demeo is billed as a dungeon crawler, fantasy RPG, co-op multiplayer virtual game night all rolled into one, and that’s absolutely the best way to describe what makes Demeo so strong from the outset. Through the magic of VR – and I say magic in a pure sense here, as this is one game that absolutely captures what makes VR feel magical – it takes mere moments to be transported to a table top adventure with your friends. It’s the same kind of genius that makes some of Resolution Games other titles so captivating, including Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale, Acron: Attack of Squirrels! and Carly and the Reaperman.
Bringing a multiplayer experience that’s literally designed as an in-person activity it impressive stuff. You simply choose your character class and away you go, physically grabbing your character statue and moving them around the board, fighting enemies in turn-based-tactics style combat, finding loot, collecting the key and hopefully making it to the exit unscathed. Like a simplified D&D or beginners Gloomhaven, you roll the combat die to determine the strength of your attack, and can also choose from a range of ability cards to aide you and your party. It’s instantly appealing and the simplified nature of what can sometimes be a complicated task on a table IRL truly proves how clever Demeo can be.
From the moment you stand (or sit) at the table, Demeo just a wonderful job of being accessible and makes the actions within the game feel second nature. First, you can adjust the table in front of you and shift your perspective very easily. Zooming in and out, moving around or even tilting the table so that it’s more comfortable for you is a nice touch. From there, you simple pick up your character statue and move them around the board. Placing them on an enemy triggers the attack sequence, and the simple act of rolling the die results in a hit, a double hit or a miss. Checking your wrist shows you the turn order so you know who is attacking next, and then holding your hand out as if looking at a bunch of cards makes those very cards appear virtually, allowing you to choose larger damaging blows, healing potions for your party or even summoning a monster to fight alongside you.
They’ve done a fantastic job of making what can be quite a complicated process in real life into something so simple here. Because the actions make sense and the style of gameplay is so easy to learn, you’ll have picked it up within minutes, but strategies between yourself and your fellow adventurers could take hours depending on the dungeon layout you’re presented with. Each time you play, it’s procedurally generated, with the goal to make it through three floors of the dungeon with a boss battle at the end. There will be more quests to come in the future, but the random nature of things and the strong social element has kept me coming back to Demeo time and time again, like catching up with your friends regularly and playing your favourite board game.
“There’s a comradery in playing a shared table top experience with your pals, and I genuinely didn’t think that could be replicated virtually, until now.”
And that, again, is where magic comes into it. We’ve been in and out of lockdown for over a year now, and board game nights just aren’t as frequent as they used to be. Now, with Demeo, I can be transported to a virtual game night with 3 of my friends that feels just as interactive and exciting as it does in person. It sets the adventures apart from so many other multiplayer experiences actually, and I’m talking in video games overall. It’s stress-free, basically, even when staring down the barrel of a bunch of tough enemies and knowing that the roll of the die could result in your characters death. There’s a comradery in playing a shared table top experience with your pals, and I genuinely didn’t think that could be replicated virtually, until now.
The VR component is what makes Demeo rather special, but the combat could be considered to be a little bit simple for experienced players of the genre. I’m a fan of XCOM and Fire Emblem, for example, so turn-based-tactics are something I have learned to take very seriously (when things like permadeath in those games are involved). Enemies in Demeo often move towards you in a predictable automated manner, and the gameplay never moves beyond the basics I outlined earlier. That’s not to say you won’t have your fair share of failures, but these come out of being overwhelmed out of nowhere by a group of foes, more often than not. Opening a door is what reveals the next room, and it can be daunting to just scrape through a previous battle, only to open a door to 8 more baddies ready to kill you quickly.
So far, Demeo only has the one “story” to play through, with more free content promised in the future. That being said, with different character classes to choose from and different strategies to discuss, and some adventures taking easily over an hour or longer depending on your luck, there’s plenty of replayable content here. There’s even a single-player Skirmish mode, where you can control three of the game’s heroes yourself, but this pales in comparison to the fun to be had with a party of friends.
The backdrop for Demeo is, quite literally, a basement, complete with geeky posters and an old video game console with CRT TV straight out of the late 80’s or early 90’s, which honestly is the perfect setting for this style of adventure. Zooming in on the action though, there are plenty of visual flourishes that help you understand the effects on the pieces of the battlefield, and being able to get incredibly close – like, face down to the table close – let’s you feel like you’re really in the dungeon yourself. It does feel like a physical table top RPG that has come to life, and I can’t overstate how nice it is to have a game keep track of things for you. In physical table top, you’re noting the damage taken, the progress, the HP of each character. It’s lovely for a video game to just take all the annoying stuff out of it so you can focus on the adventuring.
The best VR experiences I’ve come across so far are the ones that take something fun in real life and perfectly translate it into the headset. Demeo is another wonderful example of this, but what makes it more impressive than say, golf or table tennis, is the fact that it not only captures the activity well, but the social aspect that is intrinsically built into the table top RPG experience. When gathered around a virtual table with friends, exploring dungeons, collecting loot and your fate linked to the lucky roll of the dice, the moments of huge success or torturous defeat are heightened by the physical and verbal reactions of the party surrounding you. Demeo is absolutely the best multiplayer experience you can have in VR today, and it’s only set to improve as it adds more content in the future. This is a must buy.
Demeo is available now for Oculus Quest – check it out.