Demeo is a turn-based role-playing dungeon-crawler that actually came out last year as a virtual-reality-only title. But now it’s being released as a straightforward PC entry that delivers both VR and non-VR versions, just in case you want to pick up a headset sometime later. It also provides cross-platform play between friends with or without a VR setup.
What do you do? You crawl through online, boardgame-like dungeons, of course.
The game currently comes with three different dungeon challenges to tackle—The Black Sarcophagus, Realm of the Rat King and Roots of Evil. But to be honest, this isn’t a game of deep storytelling or dialogue. Demeo is primarily all about teamwork as players face different, blacked-out and randomly generated dungeons with the goal of figuring out how to defeat the monsters lurking there, grab a hidden key and make a way out to kingdom victory.
The game lets players choose from five classes: A sword-swinging guardian, a bow-and-arrow hunter, a spellcasting sorcerer, a stealthy assassin, and an ally-strengthening bard. Each of those classes brings something special to the party—coming with their own ability cards and unique action deck of ranged and melee attacks or party-augmenting abilities. (Those cards are refreshed at certain points in the game and rewarded in loot trunks.)
That brings us to the play itself. This is, at its core, a card-and-dice game. Players get two moves per turn before the dungeon beasties get a chance to pounce. During those moves they can move their action figure avatar within a designated range on the board or use a card. If that card is an attack, you simply roll a multi-sided die to determine if it’s a hit, crit-hit or miss. (Each character has a number of health points that’s reduced with successful attacks.)
You can play on your own in solo mode. But that kinda defeats the real point of the game: partner interaction and strategic planning in either two-player or four-player mode. You can dive into a public quick match with three other random players or host your own match as either a public or private game. (If you make it private, there’s an easy four-digit room code setup with which to invite several friends.) Gameplay can run as short as a half-hour or as long as several hours depending on the difficulty of the dungeon.
Demeo is all about teamwork and using each character’s skill sets to help aid and fulfill the team’s goals. The game is based on a dungeon-crawling foundation without being overly dark, or demanding too much, from the gamers involved.
It’s easy to pick up and fun to play.
Not a lot to note in this category: Though the titles of the dungeons sound ominous, that doesn’t really come through in the gameplay. But the boardgame action is placed in a fantasy dungeon setting. And that means that spell card and melee card zaps are delivered and evil foes—in the form of elementals, hellhounds, rats, spiders, wicked mystics and the like—attack with abandon and a desire to kill. (That said, characters look and move like plastic game pieces.)
The biggest potential drawback is that young players will likely be playing with strangers online (if they join public games) and they must be able to communicate verbally with one another. In my online interactions I didn’t encounter any noxious players, but it is possible.
But as I mentioned, the game does offer the option of setting up private rooms for friends. And if someone gets out of line in a public game, the host can bounce offending players out.
Whether you’re clicking plastic game pieces from here to there with a PC mouse or picking them up by hand in a VR world, Demeo offers gamers of all ages a lot of fun teamwork play. It’s not heavy or hard. Of course, setting up private rooms just for family or friends is always the safest way to crawl through a dungeon.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.