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Free and Worth Every Penny - Issue 85: Deity

Oh, this is a treat.  Every once in awhile a game just shows up out of nowhere, grabs me by the throat, and won't let go until I finish it.  When the game is free, it's even better.

What if I told you that somebody had taken the isometric perspective of Diablo, the sneaky murdering of Assassin's Creed, and the bouncing-madly-between-enemies combos of Arkham Asylum, and blended them all together into one experience?  Would you want to play that?  I'd want to play that.  Good news!  We can.

Brought to us by the brilliant students over at Digipen, Deity is "a stealth action game" controlled entirely by use of the mouse.  Far from being a simplified or dumbed-down affair, though, it will tax both your brain and your reflexes with its deliberately limited control scheme.  There isn't much in the way of plot, but the basics are these:  you're a creature of darkness, harmed by light but capable of shifting effortlessly and unseen through shadow.  Your homeland's been invaded by legions of enemies, and you need to sneak through an occupied castle to take down their leader.  If you have to take down a bunch of grunts along the way, well, there's no harm in that, is there.

Those guards will never know what hit them.

Basic movement is standard Diablo-style click-to-run, but that's a great way to get killed fast, as anyone who sees you on the ground will start attacking you immediately.  Luckily, your specialty happens to be hiding incorporeal in the flames of torches, and (like the gargoyles in the aforementioned Arkham Asylum) they're all over the place.  Right-click a torch, and you'll jump to it, changing its color and hiding your presence.  If there's another nearby, you can jump from torch to torch, covering large distances almost instantly.

This also forms the first half of the combat mechanic;  attack a guard from behind from a hidden position, and you'll instantly kill them as well as regain some health.  (Claiming a torch for the first time also gives you a health boost.)  Attack a guard from the front, though, and you'll take damage.  Careful timing is paramount to success.

The second, more interesting half of combat comes from your ability to "chain" together a number of jumps before needing to get back to a safe place to hide.  Hold the right mouse button and left-click, and you'll set a chain waypoint, of which you have a limited supply.  (Three at first, more as you progress through the game.)  Any guard you hit in the chain will be killed instantly, without damage to you, even if you attack from the front.  Gargoyles scattered around the level can be incorporated in your chain jumps as well for tactical advantage and extra distance, though you may not rest on them.

Torch > Guard > Torch.  One less enemy, and no-one the wiser.

Chains replenish over time, and using a chain triggers a slow-motion effect to help you plan your moves precisely.  Any guard left alive after a chain will start attacking you, so isolating and eliminating groups is key.  As the game progresses, each level becomes a freeform combat puzzle, working out how to take down the guards without being spotted and killed.  Jump to torch.  Chain to gargoyle, guard #1, guard #2, and back to torch.  Wait for next patrol, then chain to guard #3, guard #4, gargoyle, back to torch.  Move on.  It feels great when you get the hang of it, and complications like well lit (therefore deadly) areas and invincible winged guards patrolling the halls keep things from getting too repetitive.

Also protecting against repetition is the length, which is very short - really the only negative thing I have to say about the game.  It's the work of less than an hour or so on Normal;  I haven't tried Hard yet, so it may provide more of a challenge, but the boss fight at the end was twitchy enough on Normal to make me less than eager to find out.

If you'd like to see how it looks in action, well, here you are:

Regardless of its brevity, I can't recommend downloading Deity enough.  Creative, slick and satisfying, it brings to mind some of my favorite games while still being a little different from anything else I've played this year.  Digipen frequently delivers stuff worth checking out (remember Igneous?  If you never played Igneous, go check that out too), and this is a great example of what they can do at their best.

Deity is...

  • a great implementation of stealth gameplay in an isometric perspective.
  • fast-moving and challenging with extremely simple controls.
  • further proof that Digipen is a force for good in the world of gaming.
  • over too quickly, but it speaks well of it that I want more.

A little less than 200MB for the installer, Windows only;  pick it up here.

"Free And Worth Every Penny" is a column I collaborate on with Mike Bellmore at Colony of Gamers.  This piece also appears there.  If you're done with this one and want more, feel free to browse the archives.

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Reader Comments (1)

Looks like a sweet game

February 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

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