There’s something about the classic genres of game that really appeal, even today. Mario works because it’s an archetype – we all know platformers and a lot of people love them, so Mario offers the ur-Platformer, the game that represents the concept. Likewise, Diablo represents the dungeon crawler as archetype. We’ve seen plenty of games build off that archetype, such as Book of Demons, a paper-themed dungeon crawler that’s got a few surprises of its own.
Book of Demons owes a lot to Diablo, by which I mean the original game and not the super-streamlined modern take on the franchise. Start by choosing a class – a warrior, rogue or mage, whatever you’d prefer. Poof, you’re in a town. There’s a church with a dungeon. Demons are coming out of the church! Go kill them! Collect money and loot so you can kill them even more effectively! That’s really all you’ve got and it’s really all you need. Get to work.
Speaking of the original Diablo, remember how modifications to your light radius were basically the booby prize of item enchantments? Book of Demons turns that on its head; here, your exploration is constrained to particular paths and you can only interact with items and enemies within your light radius. This makes your positioning extremely important, since you’ll want to carefully maneuver around foes to get in hits while avoiding damage yourself. It also means that it’s easy enough to get through each level – just follow each path, pay attention to what’s on it and when you’re done you get a free trip to the exit.
It’s RPG adventuring with most of the fat trimmed off, though don’t go thinking Book of Demons is easy; it’s more than happy to kill you, and it is a rogue-lite game with permadeath, after all.
Exploration leads to levels, allowing you to customize your stats, and cards, which act as your equipment and skills. Your cards are powered by mana and can be enhanced to your liking with runes, but you can only hold a certain number at a time. Carefully managing your cards, then, is vital to success. Are you willing to take a risk by getting rid of your health potions so you’ve got an additional damaging skill available, for instance? Maybe you’d rather be able to hit multiple enemies at once? Upgrading your deck slots is always a big deal, since it allows a greater degree of build diversity and options.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the game, though, is that you can customize how long each session is going to run. You can modify the game’s dungeon generation based on how much time you have to play. Longer dungeons offer more experience and loot, while shorter dungeons can be finished more quickly. This sort of casual-to-hardcore slider system is an absolutely fantastic idea for those of us who have other things to do, as much of a sad existence as that is.
As for Book of Demons’ presentation, well, just take a look at those screenshots and you’ll get the idea. There’s a papercraft vibe going on here that’s hilariously effective and endearing. Between that, the comical NPC dialogue and the just-scary-enough sound design, Book of Demons hits the Gothic aesthetic of the original Diablo while adding in just enough humor and levity to keep things from getting too serious.
From gameplay to presentation, Book of Demons is a game that would very much like you to play it. It’s an easy game to understand, you can determine how much time you want to spend playing and you’re going to have a good time doing it. What more could you want, really? Oh, you want it to be cheap, too? $25 is a pretty reasonable ask for this one. Check it out.