Diablo was a groundbreaking title within the video game medium. As you would expect from anything as influential as Diablo, it is ripe for parody. Enter Book of Demons: a parody of Diablo that….well, it tries it’s best.
Book of Demons is a pretty much a one to one copy of Diablo’s story. An evil arch bishop (now a Pope) consorted with Diablo (now simply the Archdemon). As a result, demons are swarming from a cathedral (once a place of god now corrupted). The difference between the two properties is quite simple. Diablo was a serious, disturbing journey into darkest corners of human sin. Book of Demons is that, but everyone is snarky and references outdated pop culture. It is not a bad thing per say, but I cannot that here it works particularly well here. Book of Demons is less akin to Young Frankenstein and more to a tame Scary Movie entry.
The difference between parody and reference
A skeleton is slowly sinking into larva, giving the thumbs up as it disappears into the larva forever. “I think he will be back.” Declares my character (Bob McMann) out loud. “I see dead people, no literally; there is a cemetery behind my wagon .” Cheerfully says the Fortune -Teller. These references are only a taste of the many pop culture references that have absolutely nothing to-do with Diablo, or the source material that inspired it. None of it is partially funny or mocking towards the Diablo, in fact it’s rather lame. There is some mockery however, like the Archdemon playing with his ducky or the Antipope being a whiny child. But none of it really has much bite; they are surface level jokes, with little thought put into deconstructing the flaws behind the Diablo’s narrative absurdities.
The Sage and the Fortune teller don’t like each other, and they will call each other names whenever you interact with the other. At first it was funny, but it quickly became repetitive as it never grew from insults. There was no escalation in the joke, maybe if it turned into a boss fight where you had to side with one, while the other insults your game skills, that could have been an good joke if it was delivered well. Sadly Book of Demons never goes far enough with its comedy to raise more than a chuckle. Instead it keeps itself content with pop culture references and surface level jokes.
The problem with comedy
I need to stress that humour is very subjective, I am very certain that there will be people who find Book of Demons’s humour funny. I can respect that even if I don’t get it. However, there is one point I want to make regarding repetition and comedy. The feud between the Sage and the FortuneTeller consists of the one making snide remarks against the other at any opportunity. They quickly stop being clever, devolving into “much like X over there.” Or “not to say any names but he/she is dumb.”
Repetition and comedy (much like horror and jump scares) rarely maintain their respective punches. Other examples would be “My cards foretell a steamy romance, what a coincidence that you are here!” First time the Fortunteller said this, I chucked because it was so out of place. But after the third time I barely registered it. Telling the same joke over and over again is a sure-fire way to make the joke lose the little bite it has, Book of Demons has multiple examples of this, from the warrior complaining about the stairs, how every day for the monks was leg day to the Sage repeating “Stay awhile and listen” over and over again. Book of Demons ‘s humour is too weak to be punchy and too repetitive to be memorable.
However, unlike Sacred 3, Book of Demons is too bland to be annoying. There are some moderately funny scenes but it lacks the intelligence and pacing to be continuously so. There is a lot of promise within Book of Demons that simply is not used effectively. The voice acting is very good as well. There is sincerity to Book of Demons that Sacred 3 lacks. I urge you to check out Book of Demons for yourself to see if the sense of humour is right for you.
Book of Demons is a Diablo parody, so the gameplay is very Diablo in spirit. Dungeon crawling, loot gathering and great satisfying combat were all part of Diablo’s core, so Book of Demons should have all of these things right? Welll…no. At least the latter was not for me, I really dislike the core mechanic.
Click are forever
The core mechanic of Book of Demons is clicking, you click on the ground to move, you click to pick up stuff, you click to attack, you click to clear debuffs and buffs. Almost every single game interaction is done through the mouse button. This in of itself is not bad, hell you could say the same for the original Diablo (and most Dungeon Crawlers in general). The difference comes in with how important the mouse is as an interaction. Even as a melee character, you can still attack from a distance, so you click on enemies until they die, sometimes they might have amour which needs to be broken, so you have to click that until it’s broken.
The combat turns into a glorified clicker, only made slightly more stimulating by the weak threat of death and overwhelming numbers. Because the clicks have feeble audio visual feedback, it cannot cover up the sensation, that you are just playing a clicker. Consequently, it’s boring. Even with the presence of other abilities, there is not much strategy involved. I got through by mashing the buttons whenever they were on off cool down. As a result, both button mashing, coupled with the mediocre audio visual feedback, insures that Book of Demons is a boring gameplay experience.
The card system
As you go through the game, you will collect a number of cards which act as your skills. You are only allowed a certain amount at any given time; you have share space between your healing potions (red), your passives (green) and actives (blue). All of these can be ungraded for a sizeable fee. There is nothing really bad about this system. But it does discourage experimentation, as once you find the ideal set there is little incentive to try anything else, because (asides from some slight monster weaknesses) clicking and spamming got me through everything unchecked.
Healing: a problem with difficulty
I only ever died twice in the entire game. Now, if I were an egotistical man (which I am most certainly not) I would simply claim that I am just a pro gamer being pro at Book of Demons. However that would be a lie, there is a rather bad imbalance in terms of the distribution and availability of healing items. When you do a dungeon run, you are allowed to take in (once the card is maxed) about 15 health potions. Monsters drop potions sometimes when they die, you can get a piece of amour early within the game that drops hearts when you get hit.
Theses hearts can also be picked up to restore a single health point. It is a little tricky as you have to click them (thus not clicking your foes to death). But as long as you keep your wits about you, you can keep healing. Then there are the healing wells, you have ones for mana, health and special ones that restore both. All of these wells instantly restore their respective resources 100%. As a result of all of these healing opportunities, Book of Demons throws most of the challenge and threat of failure out the window. Because you always have the opportunity to fully recover from punishment almost all the time, gameplay only becomes less involving. Granted it is not completely mindless (you can still die if you glaze over) but it does make the experience more boring.
Allowing the player to choose the length of their play sessions is a rather interesting idea that I wish more games would experiment with. Giving the player the option allows them to play for as long as they want without having to leave a session for whatever reason does have potential with older gamers. It keeps them playing and engaged while not wasting the player’s time.
In theory it is a good system, but in practice it is a little weak. Playing longer sessions will net you more experience and money ( you are covering more ground then in shorter sessions) so if you have to do something else for a while, you can still pick up where you left off. Players might take advantage of the system at first. But I suspect that they will gravitate to whatever is the most effective way to make money and progress. For me it was to always to take the long sessions, reaping the extra rewards without worrying about losing any progress should something in my life arise.
Art style and graphics:
I adore the paper craft style, I dare say it’s Book of Demons most unique selling point. There is an undeniable cuteness to these little dolls like figures, moving in their limited animation. There are many things I dislike about Book of Demons. But the art style is most certainly not one of them.
The frame rate drops like a terribly whenever there are a lot of animations or partials on screen. The product of bad optimisation I suspect.
I don’t like Book of Demons, however I will not condemn it per say. I suspect that it simply is not for me considering how high the user and critic scores are for it. Please don’t consider my opinion the only one before you buy Book of Demons. I might just be in the minority in this case. Consider both sides and then decide if you might like it.
Like a strange entity that consumes far too much media I go by many names, some call me Stuart, others call me FrozenDoom and the rest call me (among others)….Good Hunter. I am a part time game reviewer and writer. I will be uploading my reviews and other content here. I also have another blog that will work along with Rockslide Media in terms of uploads. Both sites will get the same content, Imaginative Ramblings will be the place where you can support me if you desire. Please enjoy what we have to offer and take care.