Dark Deity is a tactical roleplaying game that very clearly wears its Fire Emblem inspiration on its sleeve. Don’t count it out as a soulless clone or a cheap knockoff, though, because Dark Deity is a title worthy of your valuable gaming time. The story is set in a world called Terrazeal and begins in the Delian town of Brookstead, home of the prestigious Officer Academy and our woefully forgettable main protagonist Irving and his three fellow trainees; Garrick, Maren, and her younger brother Alden. It’s just another day of training for Delia’s best and brightest when emissaries of king Varic arrive to conscript the entire academy for his unjust war with the neighboring kingdom of Amora, which he started over a petty border dispute. Traditionally, only the year’s graduating class is pressed into military service, but the king believes the Amorans assassinated his father a decade earlier and he’s desperate for vengeance and in need of more troops. I feel that Irving makes for a bland protagonist; he’s the typical heroic swordsman trope and he doesn’t really get interesting until around chapter 20, which is about 2/3rds into the story. Fortunately, there is a huge roster of quirky and interesting characters that pick up the slack in his stead.
Much like its muse, Dark Deity contains a Bonding system. Compatible allies strengthen their bonds while fighting within a radius of a few squares. In between chapters, you’ll have the chance to engage in special conversations between allies who have bonded enough to up their relationship rank. In some cases, you won’t be able to view certain conversations until you have progressed further into the story. These scenes go a long way towards fleshing out the eccentric cast of characters, and hooo boy are there a lot of them. There were instances where I’ve spent 15-30 minutes between missions on conversations alone, which started to make me itch to get back into action. They are completely optional, however. Since bonding units doesn’t offer any advantages in battle, you can safely ignore them if you’re just in it for the gameplay.
Graphically, you’ll be staring at some sweet, retro-flavored pixellated bit-style graphics most of the time, which is MORE than fine with me. I’d say the quality is comparable to late gen SNES/GBA titles. The field of battle is viewed top-down, and when your units make their attack you are treated to a closer side-by-side view of the units exchanging blows. The attack animations are nice and you get to take a better look at the detailed pixel-work of your characters. The character artwork shown during conversations is hand-drawn, showcasing some great-looking designs. Most of the characters are fun and unique, although there are a few generic-looking turkeys in there. If you happen to be a fan of cute anime ”waifus” (Like one of my fellow reviewers, you know who you are!), there are plenty to be found here as well.
If you thought the battle system was going to feature a rock paper scissor type of strength/weakness mechanic, you thought right...sort of. It isn’t as cut and dry as other games. Each unit will have one of four armor types: leather, rune cloak, chain, or plate. Your unit will also deal a specific type of attack damage, such as slash, stab, and holy magic. The damage inflicted is either reduced or enhanced by a certain percentage depending on the matchup. You can see the exact percentage from the unit menus. It can be a bit hard to remember exactly how effective an attack may be (for me, at least) but the game will notify you with a green or red arrow to give you a general idea of how effective it will be. Aside from that, you get a detailed info panel on your hit chance, damage dealt, and the usual when you attack a unit so it’s nothing to worry about unless you’re playing on the higher difficulties where you need all the cunning and strategy you can muster. I bet you were thinking “does this game feature permadeath?” Don’t start diggin’ holes in the ground yet, because instead of dying, your units will receive permanent stat reductions whenever they fall in battle, thanks to the ‘Grave Wounds’ mechanic.
The developers took a different approach than you would expect when it comes to weapons. Each character has four different weapon types to choose from, usually with a focus on one stat over another, or a balanced approach. This is a neat idea and it allows you to specialize your units in your own way. Maybe you’ll want your squad to have a bunch of heavy hitters, or you could mix and match by throwing in a couple of members with more accurate weapons to hit those annoyingly speedy enemies who like to dodge. The cool thing is that during battle you can switch between a unit’s weapons during their turn without penalty, so you can change on the fly and still get an attack in without having to wait til the next turn. You can’t buy new weapons, per se, but you can find weapon tokens on defeated enemies or you can buy them in the shop. These tokens can be spent to increase the level of one weapon, increasing its stats and tier level. A weapon with a tier 4 designation, for example, can only be upgraded with a tier 4 weapon token.
Later on in the game, you will begin to come across powerful mystic artifacts referred to as Aspects. They tie in to the story, but also have real gameplay implications when carried into battle in a unit’s inventory. They essentially function as passive buffs and can have a wide arrangement of abilities, some much more useful than others. Sure, you’ll find the basic “increase x amount of stat” or the “reduce x amount of damage”, but others require a little more thought to be useful. A good example of this is taking one of your fastest allies and giving them Zeltar’s Flight: an aspect that swaps the speed and power stats, turning them into a lethal weapon. Others are more of a gamble, like the aspect Manos’ Fury, which boosts a unit’s attack by %50 but also sets their hit chance to %50. It’s a nice idea that gives you a bit more strategy to play with. A unit may only carry one aspect at a time.
There are quite a few different character classes, and once you reach level 10 (and again at 30), you can promote them to a more powerful version. Each time you promote, you will have three different specializations to select. Each one has a unique look, stats, and passive skills. The best part about the whole deal is that whichever class you choose does not lock you into a certain path when you reach your final promotion tier. Since you will come across quite a few characters during your game, you will have plenty of chances to try other classes and stick with what you think works best.
There isn’t much else to say, so I’ll leave you with this: playing Dark Deity feels like catching up on an old Fire Emblem entry that you missed out on the first time around. It’s a solid title with a nice roster of characters to battle alongside. I really don’t have anything negative to say about it, so go grab yourself a copy and sharpen your tactical prowess!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 8.5/10
+Cool roster of characters
+Non-restrictive promotion system
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