I have played a lot of dungeon crawlers and I have played a lot of card games, so when I heard there was a game that wanted to combine these two things, I jumped at the chance. While Book of Demons focuses more on dungeon crawling than deck building, deciding what cards I have in play does have its own importance.
Book of Demons is the first of seven titles in the works for a series called Return 2 Games, each title based on a different genre. Each one looks to bring a story to life, almost literally. Book of Demons has a pop-up book feel to the artwork, from the introduction, to chatting in town, to the actual dungeons. The battle animations are lively, but the sprites themselves are stiff, like they have been cut out of paper.
After the introduction, I'm presented with a small town with adorable cardboard-like characters to talk to. However, they don't actually know what's going on. No one who has explored the dungeons just outside of town has returned alive. Without much more explanation than that, I'm left to explore this ominous place. It should be noted that it doesn't take much exploring for the rest of the town's options to open up, which I'll explain later.
While exploring the dungeon, the player's portrait bounces along the paths, slowly opening up more and more of the dangers ahead. Movement in dungeons is limited by a set layout of paths. For the warrior class, anything that can be seen in its light sphere can be attacked, even if it's far away, or around a corner. This is very advantageous when dealing with monsters that can spew poison clouds, or who attack in hordes. Even in just the first few levels of the dungeon, multiple types of foes come at the explorer. At first it's simple skeletons, but soon poisonous zombies and gargoyle statues leap out of the darkness, with some archers thrown in as well.
These are simply the normal monsters. The bosses each seem to bring a unique challenge. They use various mechanics, such as shielding themselves with spawns or regenerating, and many other tricks. On top of that, each boss has phases: once a portion of life has been depleted, it are immune to more damage as they prepare a special attack, after which the boss employs a new tactic.
To combat these baddies, other than basic attacks, there are cards awaiting discovery in the dungeon. All these cards can be found in chests. Regular cards can be seen and used right away, but rare cards have to be brought to town to be identified before they can be used. These cards vary from special attacks to equipment-like abilities, putting a permanent drain on the mana pool.
Each time players level, they have a choice between increasing hit points or mana points. Whichever is chosen, the other is placed into a magical cauldron. Special items also end up in this caulderon, which can be retrieved for gold. Each time this happens, the price for the next pull goes up. However, should the adventure end prematurely, these special items are lost. The hit/mana points are safe, however. In addition, all cards that were equipped, as well as the gold being carried, end up in a makeshift grave. Other than the archdemon laughing more each time the hero falls, there's no other major penalty to dying. All tems in the graves can be recovered and cards equipped immediately.
After the first few levels, a new option opens up. This is a feature I've never seen in a dungeon crawler before. With the Flexiscope, I can decide how much time I have for my next adventure. Some dungeon sections can be completed in as short as seven minutes, or as long as over an hour. Selecting what's a good fit for my current schedule allows progress to be made even if I only have twenty minutes, while I can pick the most complex option if I have all night.
There were be two other classes available for me to try out as well: Archer and Mage. Unlike the Warrior, attacks are ranged, but can hit walls or the like. I'm honestly not sure what the advantage of this is, since the warrior class can already reach anything that is visible, the other classes feel like they are at a disadvantage, and also have fewer hit points than the Warrior class. To be fair, these classes could still have changes coming.
For a game still under development, the gameplay feels solid and people shouldn't be worried about buying an incomplete game. I was able to put in over twenty hours of gameplay without any issues. Book of Demons is now available on Steam, through the Early Access program, for $19.99. Until August 4, 2016, it's discounted for early birds at $14.99.