From the very first reveal, there has been something utterly appealing about the very concept of Demeo. In an industry where gaming experiences in VR have often strived to put us in the boots of survivors, dancers, fighters, and other active situations, Demeo is far more wholesome and humble. It puts you in a seat at a virtual table with up to three friends and asks you to take part in a randomized dungeon-foraging, turn-based, tabletop adventure in which your every card selection and roll of the dice could spell riches, triumph, or disaster. I’ve been excited to try this one for quite a while, and just ahead of its release, I finally got to sit down with the developers at Resolution Games and roll the dice on a delightful dungeon crawling adventure.
The very aesthetic of Demeo is pleasing to anyone who has ever cracked open a game box and gathered the board and pieces of a tabletop game. At the start, you and your friends choose one of four Champions: Guardian (a warrior / knight class), Assassin (backstabbing rogue), Sorcerer (the magic user), and Hunter (bow, arrows, and long range prowess). Each Champion has a different attack and health, but your class also determines one-use action cards you’ll have at the start and can earn later. More importantly, your choice casts you in command of a neat little active miniature that will carry out your decisions each turn and animate when you perform any sort of activity.
The settings to the game are square grid dungeons of randomized rooms, doors, monsters, treasures, and an exit. The version I played was a dungeon in the literal sense, featuring a crypt of spiders, goblins, dark elves, and other creatures. Our goal was to explore the dungeon together in turn-based fashion, find a monster that had a key, slay them, and then find the exit to advance towards the next, harder level of the dungeon.
Did you think we were done with the surprises? Oh, how wrong you were, adventurer! Demeo will be updated regularly with new, free content such as environments, enemies, cards and much more. Here is a sneak peek of the next module, Realm of the Rat King, coming summer 2021. pic.twitter.com/Ho4FpVoTip— Demeo (@DemeoGame) May 5, 2021
Mind you this setting was just one "module" and more are on the way. Demeo's settings are presented as modules of the game playfully based on different adventure books full off different narratives, but with the same core rules like in Dungeons & Dragons. Resolution Games has already confirmed that post-launch content will include further modules for players to choose from, including an upcoming verdant-looking Realm of the Rat King module. If that’s anything like what I played in my demo session, than it seems we can look forward to a wide array of interesting randomized dungeon design and well-crafted and animated monster miniatures to contend with. With all of this in play, Resolution Games has crafted a cool-looking “living” board game that’s as fun to look at as it is to play.
Turn-based team tactics
Making it through a level of Demeo is no easy task. You’re going to need to make good use of your moves and cards, coordinate with your fellow players, and operate strategically against anything the game throws at you as you explore and try to survive each level. The way the game operates is that each character in the party gets their own turn and then all enemies get their own turn at once. During your turn, you get two action points and you can use them to move twice, basic attack twice, use cards in your hand (which take zero to two action points based on the card), or any combination of those mentioned actions.
Moving is the friendliest option. You actually pick up your character and place them wherever you want to move them within the available space and their move range. For attacks and card play, it’s a little more risky. Your card hand is shown by turning either of your hand controllers palm up towards yourself, as if truly looking at a hand of cards. From there, you can pluck a card, pick a target or space, and deploy it. You’ll always have your basic attack cards, but you also start with a set of Champion-specific cards that are one use. You can get more cards by filling an action gauge or buying them with treasure between dungeon levels.
Either way, using any card means you have to take your chances on a virtual dice roll, grabbing a 12-sided dice from out of the air before you and giving it a toss. Out of that you could get a normal outcome, a bonus outcome for something like critical damage, or an unlucky outcome leading to a miss or even damaging your friends. May luck be on your side and in your rolls.
For our session, I played the Hunter which allowed me to do physical bow attacks at range and gave me a starting hand of cards that allowed a single poison tipped shot or a barrage of arrows across an area. Meanwhile, a companion like the Guardian had armor that I didn’t, but also had to get in close with their spear. In addition, they had cards like one that allowed them to sweep their spear in a circle to damage everything in their immediate vicinity. Each character has their unique benefits and drawbacks, and it’s all packed into fun little miniatures that you regularly interact with and play around the enemy miniatures within the game’s harrowing dungeon walls. Talking it out with your friends, coordinating with what cards you have, and planning your turns is fun and engaging as a co-op tabletop game ought to be.
Tabletop play catering to your comfort
For a big gameboard like that featured in Demeo, it can be a little difficult or straining to get a good look at everything you need to see. Fortunately, Resolution Games took quite a bit of effort building comfort factors into the game on a variety of levels. The most basic and probably the one you’ll use commonly is a grab-and-pull zoom feature. By reaching out to a spot in the play space and activating a certain grab function, you can tug your POV towards it or push yourself back from it. That could mean tugging yourself down to the gameboard to get a good look at the activity going on in the room or looking down and pushing yourself up from the board to get a birds-eye view of the situation. Either way, you don’t have to stay in your virtual chair in Demeo. It’s very easy to move yourself to wherever you need your “headspace” to be to see the action best.
One of my favorite comfort features of Demeo was that the game can also be adjusted for standing, sitting, and even lay-down modes of play. Craning your neck over a game table for long periods of time can absolutely get tiring. For this, Resolution Games included a mode in which you can lay down and the game will adjust to your vision and operation of it accordingly. Not only will it be a comfort to those who are feeling sore in the neck, but it also provides some fantastic accessibility to be able to enjoy the tabletop experience no matter the orientation of your body – a very forward-thinking option for Resolution Games to provide in my opinion.
Game night with friends like never before
I had high hopes for Demeo coming into the session I played with Resolution Games. My game session exceeded those expectations easily. I was highly delighted with the aesthetic and interaction of the game. The card, action, turn, and exploration proceedings of its gameplay loop made for a fun and cooperative strategic experience and left me wanting to play it all the more with my friends and colleagues. What’s more, the accessibility and comfort settings of the game alongside the promise of post-launch content mean Demeo seems like it will be a rewardingly cozy experience to come back to for quite a long time. I’ve missed tabletop gaming quite thoroughly during the previous year’s pandemic precautions and care. With Demeo, I feel like I can finally go on new and fantastic dice-rolling adventures in the safety and comfort of my VR playspace. Simply put, Demeo truly feels like one of the must-have apps for VR players in 2021.
These impressions are based on a hands-on demo session with the developers of the game played on an Oculus Quest 2. Demeo is available for play on VR headsets through the Oculus Store and SteamVR as of May 6, 2021.