In the swampDaemonica, the language of demons. Known only by an elite few called Beast Hunters: semi-vigilantes who track down and eliminate the worst killers. They can also speak with the dead. Nicholas Farepoynt is a Beast Hunter.

Nicholas is summoned by the mayor of Cavorn to investigate the disappearance of the Greers. He arrives to learn that a murder has occurred, and the suspect is already executed, blamed for both the death and the Greer disappearance.

The mayor is nervous, however, and wants Nick to find “additional proof” that the right man was hanged. He isn’t going to get his wish.

So begins Daemonica, an action-adventure with a quasi-medieval setting somewhere in Britain. The time is circa mid-1300s, when the Popes were in Avignon. Despite occasional references, though, religion is more a backdrop than a factor, even with a monastery nearby.

Cavorn is a village in decay. Darkness prevails even in daytime, rainfall is almost constant, crops are poor and hardly edible. Many have already left this dismal hole, and it’s a wonder the place hasn’t been deserted entirely. Yet, there are plenty of people to talk to, and that constitutes an important part of the game.

Much of the puzzle-solving is based on clues from conversations. Talking to the inhabitants, usually several times, is vital to success. Skip a person or a topic, skim over a speech and miss something, and you could find yourself stymied very easily. That includes speaking with the dead. This special talent of the Beast Hunter will be used several times in the game.

Sparring with the blacksmithNick has a diary for keeping important notes on people and quests, but it doesn’t record every little thing. Paying attention when people talk is a must.

The conversations are exclusively text, with occasional voice-overs by Nick at various points in the game. These are also presented as text. Players with hearing difficulties will have no problems here.

Of course, it takes more than chat to solve puzzles in an adventure. Various items must be found and used in the right places. Unfortunately, the game is weak here, allowing only twelve slots for inventory, and two of those are taken up already. Between grabbing objects and making potions, space can become tight very quickly.

On the other hand, items can be dropped any time to make room, and picked up again later when a slot is free. The trick is knowing what you need to keep for the moment. This is not the best way to handle things, but it’s better than nothing.

For all that, Daemonica is set up fairly. The puzzles are constructed logically; no wild leaps of intuition are required. What needs to be done is often apparent. The steps to the solution are based on what you’ve heard, having the right items, and your ability to deduce the proper actions.

Potion-making is another important part of Daemonica. It is also one of my big gripes. Potions are made by combining herbs, and these have to be gathered by running around the town and environs, looking for them. So every once in awhile, you have to break off whatever you were doing to search for plants. This gave the game a very annoying stop-and-go feel.

Map of CavornThe view is 3D, with Nick on the screen at all times. Motion is the full 360 degrees, you can go in any direction, and the camera view can be swung around as in Neverwinter Nights.

Moving around generally is easy. The in-game map shows the whole area from the start. As you visit important areas – the tavern, the blacksmith, the swamp, etc. – a red X appears at that spot on the map. Mousing over it tells you the place, and clicking takes you there immediately. This is one of the better features in the game.

As usual these days, the interface is point-and-click. The cursor changes to various icons as it passes over hot spots, allowing you to talk, exit an area, pick something up, use something, or fight. It’s all quite simple.

Speaking of fighting, here is where we get to the “action” part. Combat only happens when someone hostile is nearby; Nick cannot start a fight himself. This is purely “console style”, and depends entirely on the speed of your reactions and your sense of timing.

Only two keys are used. The spacebar puts Nick into a defensive posture, and left-clicking on an opponent makes an attack. So you alternate between the two, and your enemy does the same. You have to be fast enough to block, and equally fast to strike when your opponent is vulnerable.

My first time through the game, this gave me a lot of trouble, as you may already know if you followed the “Game In Progress” for Daemonica. Every fight except the last was agony, and required several restores, because Nick was losing too many hitpoints. He has only 30 and that never changes.

In the Temple of SacrificeHowever, on my second pass through the game, fighting was a breeze. Just like that, I was chopping enemies with little or no trouble at all, and taking little or no damage. Only one combat really gave me a hard time, and even there I needed to restore just once. Why this big difference from one play to the next is a mystery, especially given the way I struggled first time through, right to the end.

So it is difficult for me to make an accurate assessment here. On the whole, I’d say that fighting is likely to be hard for anyone not used to the console method of alternating keystrokes and timing. However, it is certainly possible to improve. Fortunately, combat is not a major part of the game, although there is certainly enough of it, and you never fight more than one opponent at any time.

Regarding the story, it is something of a disappointment. The concept of the Beast Hunter is interesting, and a bit out of the ordinary. Anyone who stores bodies in a basement is not your everyday hero. However, for all that he does, Nick doesn’t seem to accomplish a lot after clearing the wrongly-executed Roger.

As the game progresses, people keep disappearing, dying, or both. He never learns who killed the Greers or Eleanor. Even the ending is of the “deus ex machina” school, where someone else takes care of the main menace. It is all very unsatisfactory.

I should mention that there are three possible conclusions to the game. However, two of them are so obviously the wrong ones, that it hardly matters. There is, at least, an epilogue in the Fallout manner, which describes what happened to the survivors in Cavorn, and Nick himself.

Overall, Daemonica is one of those “iffy” games that could have been better. It has its interesting points, but also enough annoying ones to make playing it less satisfactory than it might have been. At best, it’s something to fill in the time when nothing else is available.miniscorp

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