Bringing the tabletop experience into VR, Demeo remains one of the best VR experiences, particularly in cooperative play. Since its launch back in 2021, it has evolved with various maps and expansions, each providing a memorable dungeon-crawling experience that is challenging and exciting to play with your mates by your side in the virtual space. Given its success, it’s no surprise that Demeo is ripe for a sequel or spin-off, which is where the new Demeo Battles comes in.
Demeo Battles takes the tabletop concept of Demeo, which is fully cooperative, and turns it competitive, allowing you to play 2v2 against real opponents (or the AI), with some unique twists along the way. It doesn’t do a lot different from the brilliant original, and that’s a good thing, with its riffs on the formula proving there is still plenty of gas in the tank for the franchise.
Demeo Battles continues to capture the magic that was previously seen in Demeo; sitting (or standing) around a virtual tabletop, you’ll move miniatures through dungeons, cast spells, and enter into combat with opposing champions with dice rolls and clutch moments making for a thrilling experience.
At its core, Demeo Battles flips the script, dropping you into an arena to compete head-to-head with real opponents in a 2v2 scenario. You’ll assemble a team, using a pool of in-game money to purchase minions and cards that serve as your abilities on the battlefield. Heroes remain directly under your control, but minions (much like in OG Demeo) have a mind of their own, and will seek out opposing heroes and monsters to deal damage. While playing, “The Burn”, lava, will creep in from all sides of the board, causing damage and forcing you and your minions close into the center, forcing conflict. The first team to eliminate both opposing heroes is deemed the victor.
The incredibly strong foundations that made the original so successful are all here; it feels awesome being tactical around this virtual table, and leaning in to pick up miniatures and choosing from the various cards in your hand is about as close as you can get to the real thing. Being able to test those skills against real opponents adds another strategic layer. After playing many rounds of Demeo cooperatively over the years, I was excited to test my mettle against real players; the decisions made by humans are always far more unpredictable than those of a computer, after all.
The heart of what makes Demeo successful remains, however, which is cooperative play. Given the core mode is 2v2, you’ll still be playing with a friend by your side and can strategise with them against your opponents, toggling audio so that only they can hear you as well. In 1v1 mode, you’ll be controlling two heroes at once, as well, so the synergy of the heroes you select is still going to be important.
“…it makes for some cool configurations and strategies when working alongside a teammate.”
There are a range of “Champions” to pick from as well, each with their own unique approach to combat. Hunter, for example, is super helpful for ranged abilities, able to shoot arrows across the map at foes and summon wild beasts to support. The Bard is able to strengthen teammates, while the Guardian has strong armour and is adept in close combat. Sorcerer, Assassin, Warlock and Barbarian round out the crew, each providing pros and cons, and making for some cool configurations and strategies when working alongside a teammate.
Choosing which minions to buy in the setup phase is important, too. There are more than 35 to pick from, and they form your army; will you spend big on a couple of larger tanks, or purchase several smaller minions instead who can get more speed and coverage across the map? Experimenting here is part of the fun, and ultimately they do have a mind of their own so it will take newcomers in particular a bit of time to work out the best team across a range of Demeo environments. There are also 85+ ability cards to choose from, and money is finite, so you’ll need to spend carefully.
If you don’t want to play online, Demeo Battles does come with a bunch of single-player challenges, each with specific conditions. Some are open, but others will require you to use certain Champions, or limit you in other ways. These provide a good tactical challenge that could be considered a form of training, although they aren’t as in-depth as what the original Demeo provided in terms of story and multi-leveled dungeons. There’s also a mixed reality mode (taking particular advantage of the new Meta Quest 3) so that you can quite literally play with the board on your table, which is a nice touch.
This is all very satisfying in the same way that Demeo was satisfying, but it certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. If you’re looking for more of that cooperative itch to be scratched, I’d still say that the original provides that without the need to delve deeply into Demeo Battles. Still, the changes, particularly when it comes to factoring in the layers of your minion army and being able to take on your mates (or other online folk) in battle is a different kind of intensity that is hard to match.
Demeo Battles continues to look wonderful, with a now trademark style of colourful, cartoon-like miniatures that really pop against the darker, spooky environments. The backdrop is now a library, adding a more grandiose vibe to proceedings, and there are 10 different environments for the battlefields themselves, meaning each round has a very different visual DNA. The visual flourishes of abilities being triggered, dice rolls coming to life and the effect of The Burn creeping in are all effective in making you feel even more invested in combat. With cards, turn order and other stats literally on your wrists, the UI is clean, allowing you to focus fully on your next strategic move.
In the immediate weeks following the release of Demeo Battles, Resolution Games has said that they will be prioritising game-balancing in a live environment. Following this initial period, there is the promise of additional content for Demeo Battles including a ranked mode and additional single-player challenges that will be made available in the coming months. The game will also come to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation VR2 in 2024. All this is to say, the fun with Demeo Battles is really only just beginning, and given the ongoing support of their previous titles, I’m sure it will continue to change and evolve for years to come.
Demeo Battles is a natural and clever extension to the Demeo universe, offering a competitive twist on what was once a fully cooperative dungeon crawler. It has some nice twists to the formula while maintaining all of the elements that made Demeo so satisfying in the first place, and the extra layer of tactics that comes with taking on humans instead of the AI is quite compelling, reminiscent of those intense board game nights you’ve surely had around your real dining table. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to – Demeo Battles is tons of fun, and another feather in the cap for Resolution Games.