Dungeons and Dragons is one of those experiences that I’ve often considered but never had. Over the years I’ve played card games like Magic the Gathering, attended several Everquest and World of Warcraft LAN parties, and yet somehow I’ve always missed something as ubiquitous as Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know if it’s the deep commitment that D&D players often agree with – my own brother has a regular D&D group he plays with – or the huge set of rules that seem to be constantly changing. It was just never part of my routine.
Demeo threatens to change all of that – in a very good way, of course – by bringing the feel of Dungeons and Dragons to the world of VR and creating a board game atmosphere in a virtual basement that you and three other teammates can dive into deeply without the need for dungeons a commute or a massive commitment. It’s Dungeons and Dragons for the rest of us, if you will.
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Resolution Games, the developer of Demeo, gave me the opportunity to attend a virtual hands-on session of the game last week. When I joined two of the game’s developers and another game journalist for an hour of my day, I found that Demeo did more than spark my interest. It spoke to me in a way that turn-based RPGs haven’t in ages, and I’ve longed for more.
While I was playing it on the Oculus Quest 2 for this gaming session, future versions of Demeo will support both VR and “Pancake” PC games at the same time, meaning you and all of your PC game friends can partake in a brilliant experience whether you want to join VR or not. If you want to play longer in VR, the best Quest 2 accessories will make these extended sessions a lot more comfortable.
Demeo Realistic expectations
Source: Resolution Games
In the hour-long game session, we nearly completed two dungeons, which means you can probably expect half an hour per dungeon. The exception, of course, is if you want to clear the entire dungeon or explore all of its secrets before leaving. Demeo starts the players together at the entrance of the dungeon and has the task of finding the key that unlocks the door. Both are at a random point in the dungeon. Each player’s board piece is pre-selected and represents one of four traditional RPG classes.
Each dungeon is procedurally generated and enemies are also placed in a random manner, similar to roguelike or roguelite games. Players begin with a deck of cards that is also randomly selected at the start, but can be adjusted in subsequent rounds. You can buy cards at the end of each dungeon using the gold you earned from killing enemies and finding treasure. You can find these cards in your hand by holding your palm up, just like in a real deck of cards in your actual hand.
Source: Resolution Games
Each player is allowed to perform two actions per turn, which usually consist of a turn and a special attack during hands-on. Moving and attacking is considered one round, however, so you can put some different types of actions together to get the most out of each round. Like many board games or turn-based RPGs, Demeos Dungeons have a grid on the floor that better tracks the distance a player’s character can move. The pieces are picked up and placed in the desired location, just like you would expect from a board game. You’ll even roll a 20-sided die after each action to see how successful your move will be.
I recorded part of the second dungeon during the hands-on which you can see unedited below. My voice wasn’t recorded for some reason, that’s why you won’t hear me.
Demeo Bring your friends, no basement required
Source: Resolution Games
Demeo was developed as a more social way of playing multiplayer games that all too often morph into personalized experiences that happen to take place in the same field as other people. In my experience, too many players in multiplayer games – shooters in particular – play like lone wolves rather than part of a pack. Demeo’s slower, more tactical gameplay and its focus on huddling around the table – complete with open-air communication – make you feel like you are actually playing the same game with other people.
Demeo’s controls allow players to turn the table, drag their way around the world, and even grow or shrink to the size that is most comfortable.
The feeling of standing at a table has advantages and disadvantages similar to those in real time. For example, after just a few minutes of playing, my neck started to hurt from all that looking down. While this can happen to a real-world version of Dungeons and Dragons – or any other board game – Resolution Games came up with a simple method to fix this problem: tilt your view of the board in the game. By simply moving one of the two thumb pins up or down, the board is tilted so that you no longer have to look down, but from top to bottom at the board.
The rotation is done at small angles so you can tilt it as far or as little as you’d like to relieve a straight neck. During the hands-on session, the developers joked that they now have the strongest necks in the world and I can understand why. Although this mechanic is brilliant, I was saddened that tilting the board blackened the space around the board. This is done to prevent people from feeling sick as the space around the blackboard looks like a basement when the blackboard is at a normal angle.
In fact, I was absolutely thrilled with the feeling of sitting at a table with friends in a basement and playing D&D. It felt authentic in every way and more than once I felt like I wanted to lean on the table to take a closer look at the characters or just relax a bit while waiting for my turn to come . Like a regular board game, Demeo is best played seated for several reasons, although you can definitely play while standing if you prefer.
Demeo gives a sense of presence that most multiplayer games just can’t match. You actually feel like you’re in the room with your friends.
I spent the entire hour sitting in my office chair, just like I’d done through the tutorial and first playthrough earlier. Between the two sessions, I found that sitting was the more comfortable way to play. There’s nothing wrong with standing all the time – people do this when they’re playing pool or other games like this – but a strategic and turn-based game like Demeo just feels like it makes more sense from the comfort of a chair would.
If you’re worried about how uncomfortable it would be to lean over a huge virtual table to reach for your piece, then you shouldn’t. Demeo’s controls allow players to turn the table, drag their way around the world, and even grow or shrink to the size that is most comfortable. It all happens naturally, which makes sense in a world of pinch and zoom.
You will see players crowd around the table – represented by a mask and pair of hands – exactly the size they made themselves. Whether you are looking down at a tiny 2 x 2 foot board or scaling down to make your hero piece the size of your face, it is incredibly helpful when you can play with others to get the best point of view. The best part is that because of the way Resolution Games designed the masks, other players’ hands and faces don’t get in the way.
Demeo I can’t wait to delve into it
Source: Resolution Games
After just an hour, I was absolutely thrilled. I thought about Demeo for the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to get as many of my friends as possible into this game. As an adult with a family, busy schedule, and finding it impossible to schedule even an hour to play with friends for a few weeks, a game like Demeo feels like the perfect blend of accessibility and depth. I don’t know about you, but most of my friends now live in different locations across the country and around the world, and it’s just not possible to get together regularly and play something like Demeo in real life.
For me, the real core of the experience was the feeling of presence that Demeo conveys. I felt like I was actually in the room with these people and strategizing and socializing in a way that previously only felt possible when I met in real life. The regular PC version for keyboard and mouse will certainly lack this component, as you lose a certain amount of sensory experience outside of VR. However, I imagine this is still a great way to meet friends outside the confines of an actual basement hangout.
Demeo will be regularly updated with new free content like environments, enemies, maps and much more, starting with Realm of the Rat King in the coming summer of 2021.
Resolution Games plans to regularly update Demeo with new content that will be delivered in “book” format. The first content expansion, Realm of the Rat King, was teased on Twitter before the game launches, showing that Resolution is committed to bringing a lot of upcoming free content. I’ve also seen users request features like the ability to be the dungeon master in a game, which would open up a whole new can of worms for multiplayer. Either way, Resolution rolls it out, the future looks bright for this dungeon crawler.
Gather around the table
Put your crew together
Gather your friends for a four-player dungeon crawler that feels like nothing you’ve ever experienced before thanks to the immersion of VR.
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