So what is Demigod? Picture a PC RTS where the player controls a single, gigantic hero unit--an RTS/action-RPG hybrid. Each side has an automatically-spawning horde of minor units, with the Demigod's task being to either direct them to a specific location, or impact the battle to the point that your side eventually overtakes the opposing enemy. As such, Demigods come in two categories: Assassins and Generals. The former are pure warriors, while the latter primarily take command of the minions, ordering them to capture specific control points.
At the beginning of a match, your chosen Demigod begins its life at level one. As you cause havoc, smashing enemy forces and fortresses, your hero unit progresses in level, each milestone granting one point to be spent in a branching talent tree. Talents range from passive bonuses to direct abilities, the skillsets being particular to each Demigod. For instance, the Rook, the game's poster-god, has a talent that mounts a trebuchet to its head, turning it into a literal walking castle.
Players will also pick up cash, used to buy items at the store which sits far behind the front lines. You can pick up both equipable and consumable items, from healing potions to protective armor. Potions are particularly important, giving the Demigod a quick way to heal up on the front lines, rather than wasting precious time walking to back to base.
Maps are essentially giant grids, with a clear, almost board game-like progression to battles. Your minions funnel forward through set pathways, meeting the enemy and locking in battle. As the hero units push through the battle lines, the minions gain ground in that area, like a river flowing through a broken dam.
In combat, managing your Demigod is a matter of carefully positioning the giant beast and mashing your special abilities. Some abilities are direct or area-of-effect attacks, like a mace-slam, or a bowling ball-like boulder toss. Others are cooldown spells, such as a defensive tower that can only be erected once every 60 seconds.
The gameplay may sound simple to manage with only the Demigod to worry about, but on massive maps, with several co-op players to coordinate with, each attack will be meaningful. Choosing whether to gang your gods up, or spread out and attack in multiple locations, will mean the difference between quick leveling or long respawn waits.
And while there are no direct death penalties, dying can mean respawns of up to 60 seconds, depending on how high in level your avatar is. As larger maps built for five-on-five matches will be quite expansive, a long respawn can spell disaster for your battle plans. Your Demigod can also drop loot for enemy gods to pick up, giving them an advantage while you stew.
Demigod is being designed as an online multiplayer experience, and like DotA, the emphasis is on non-persistent, 40-minute matches. However, there will be some type of persistent component to the game, something tied to a mysterious item bar that Gas Powered Games is keeping a secret for now.
In a game based on a Warcraft 3 mod, it's a little surprising, though not crushing, to learn that Demigod will not be moddable for online play. The lack of mods does seem to fit with the overall concept of the game--provide a focused, polished version of DotA for the masses.
The Demigod beta begins soon, with a release scheduled for the first half of 2009.