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Game Info:

Dark Deity
Developed: Sword & Axe LLC
Published By: Freedom Games
Released: June 15, 2021
Available On: Windows
Genre: Tactical RPG
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $24.99

Thank you Sword & Axe for providing us with a review code!

There are many games created that are inspired by older properties, whether the team behind it are AAA with employees that number to the thousands, or small indie groups with as little as six or less. Some are rather subtle with their inspiration and others can be very blatant. Dark Deity by the small team of Sword & Axe is of the latter.

Anyone familiar with the Fire Emblem series will immediately see the obvious inspiration the team takes from it. In many cases, Dark Deity sells itself as “Fire Emblem, but on the PC”. My knowledge of the Fire Emblem series is very limited to basic knowings of the mechanics, a handful of characters, and whatever is featured in Super Smash Bros. So for better and worse, I mostly judge Dark Deity on its own merits.

If it wasn’t apparent, Dark Deity is a tactical RPG where you the player control a small and varied army of individuals on a grid-based map accomplishing certain objectives through chapters. Some of these objectives can vary greatly such as “kill the boss of the area”, or “survive a number of turns.” Combat is executed in turns where the player acts first and gives orders to all characters able to act. After every character takes an action or the turn is ended early, the enemy turn starts and they do the same thing. Characters are split into classes such as the typical knight, thief, cleric, and so on. These characters each have their strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities.

Controls can either be used by mouse and keyboard or gamepad. Mouse controls can take some time to get used to as there are some misclicks and awkward camera panning that happen every once in a while. I would give mouse controls a shot because once you do get used to them, they can be better than the gamepad.

Actions can be canceled at any time before attacking or choosing the “wait” command. Whenever two combatants fight, a menu on the side pops up showing how much damage each character will take, the chance of a hit landing, the critical hit rate, and so on. In battle, experience is gained with attacking and defending, as well as certain actions such as healing. Large amounts of experience are achieved if a character successfully deals the killing blow to an enemy (no matter how little damage they did to them prior) or by surviving an encounter with a high-level enemy. Whenever a character levels up, random stats are increased. Classes can be further enhanced at levels 10 and 30 to powerful classes such as dragon knight and trickster. Dark Deity uses an interesting weapon and armor system where weapons do more or less damage depending on the armor the enemy is wearing, as opposed to the weapon triangle system Fire Emblem follows. It doesn’t take long to understand the system and is one of the ways Dark Deity manages to differ itself from Fire Emblem.

Dark Deity
Highlights:

Strong Points: Smooth battle animations and vibrant art; nice homage to the Fire Emblem series with its gameplay and mechanics
Weak Points: Long loading times (even on an SSD); a poor tutorial assumes the player is already familiar with the genre
Moral Warnings: Violence depicted in a war setting; some CG art shows blood; a few characters dress provocatively; fantasy magic; polytheistic setting

One failing of Dark Deity is that the developers assume the player is already familiar with the genre and throws you right into the action. It’s somewhat nice for people who have played a tactical RPG before, but this one could potentially be a person’s first time with the genre. Throwing a person into the fray without even explaining the controls can lead to confusion as there is quite a lot to learn, and many characters are thrown at you at once in the beginning chapters. A tutorial can be accessed through the menu with the right click of the mouse, but most of it is explained through tooltips. No matter the game or genre, it is important for a game to ease its player into the setting and mechanics.

In Fire Emblem, there is a permadeath system, and depending on the game played, it can be very strict. If your character falls in battle, they are gone forever. Dark Deity softens this somewhat as permadeath can be extremely punishing. Having a powerful unit suddenly vanish because of some untimely critical hits you couldn’t prepare for can turn a lot of people away. In Dark Deity, “permadeath” in a way still exists, but the blows for failure or reckless strategy are much more forgiving. If your character falls in battle a random stat will be permanently decreased, If a character falls too many times in subsequent battles, they will be benched permanently. There is still a sense of punishment as falling in battle is effectively a “level down”. Stats can be brought back up with purchases from the shop during the preparation phase at the beginning of certain chapters with the gold earned through battles, but it can technically lead to wasted resources as you’re just getting your character back to what it used to be.

A standout feature of Dark Deity is the art style and animations. The art style uses very bright and vibrant colors with an interesting mixture of both western and eastern (Japanese) visuals. The more cutesy and attractive characters tend to lean more towards a “moe” anime aesthetic with their large round eyes and chipmunk-like teeth or “ecchi” aesthetics with more alluring physical features. The serious characters lean more towards a sharper Dungeons & Dragons style with more anatomy-correct features. The backgrounds in cutscenes are drawn with a great amount of detail showcasing a different usage of colors and shading that the characters are drawn with.

On the battlefield, characters are displayed in 2D sprites, and in the attacking phase, cut to a different scene. There are animations for attacking, dodging, critical hits, and for specific weapons. The animations are fantastically done and I always enjoy seeing them. Even when enemies are slain, they took a further step, showing the health bar (displayed as a vial) being destroyed in various ways. If the enemy is killed by a mace, the vial will be crushed, while if the enemy is killed by magic, the vial will burst into flames, or break apart and disintegrate via magic. In terms of the map, most of the maps look good, although some can be straining on the eyes due to misuse of sprites and colors.

Dark Deity
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 74%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The soundtrack of Dark Deity is pretty simple. Most tunes are soft and soothing, which can be a mismatch during the more intense moments. It can be generic at times, but none of them are bad. Voice acting exists through grunts, yells, and certain one-liners during dialogue or battle. With the few moments of voice acting, the direction of it is done well as the actors convey the correct emotion during every moment.

Some stability issues are present. I’ve heard of bugs and glitches existing, but luckily enough for me, I wasn’t able to run into any of them. Although the more concerning matter is the lengthy loading times. Even on an SSD, loading times are strangely long, taking as long as 40 seconds to load a map. I’m not familiar with the GameMaker engine, but I’m assuming these long loading times are simply due to engine or poor optimization.

In terms of morality, it mostly tends to stick around the same concerns as any war-based tactical RPG. Violence is ever-present given the setting, while in combat, enemies fade away when killed. However, in some scenes, as the tensions rise, blood is present when characters are mortally wounded. Language can be a little strange. As the setting takes place in the past, it uses old-world sayings. Words, such as “*ss” are used in their original meaning (the name of a donkey) but also uses uncommon words like “cur” to distastefully refer to people. Most characters dress simple enough, but a few female characters do have low-cut shirts that show off some cleavage. The supernatural elements start small with the typical mage character and the world being generally polytheistic but ramp up as the narrative continues with enemies called undead using necromancy, and the typical villain wanting to achieve godhood.

Dark Deity is an impressive tactical RPG as both for the team's debut game, and for paying a nice homage to the classic (2D) Fire Emblem entries. Although the main narrative is mostly a battle between good and evil, and the many playable character’s motivations and development are tied to the bonding system, the story is decent enough to care for—once multiple characters stop being introduced in every chapter. It’s not the deepest system out there, and the progression is fairly straightforward with zero sidequests to partake in, but there is a menu that can be messed with before starting a new game that changes the amount of gold, experience, stats, and even recruitment progression. The various amount of options can make the experience worth multiple playthroughs. Morally, it isn’t any better or worse than its brethren in the genre. Anyone who likes tactical RPGs will see a competent entry in Dark Deity.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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