If there was ever a poster-child for the table top wargaming experience on mobile devices it would be the original Demon’s Rise, a game that saw a slew of post-release content that quickly fleshed it out into one of the more satisfying and varied tactical experiences of its generation. Now, Wave Light Games Inc. are seeking to better it with a sequel.
Wave Light Games Inc. have an eye for detail that’s not simply confined to the visual appeal of their titles. Whilst many tactical games choose to produce a series of stock character tropes such as ‘soldier’ and ‘mage’ with which to arm the player, their games go out of their way to produce an experience where every unit acts and plays differently. Similarly too, environments take on a kind of character of their own, and where the original title perhaps over-played its dungeon setting, this sequel takes full advantage of different locals. It’s worth mentioning however that, like the original, the game features a reduced roster at launch with will likely swell as new content is added to the game. Try to see this as a reason to replay once you’ve completed the title, rather than an excuse to wait before you purchase it.
Graphically this game has a very impressive engine that allows the action to zoom in or out and in to an intense degree. Want to take in the field of play from above and have a bird’s eye view? That’s easily done. Want to zoom in so close that you’re one to one on the action and able to see every detail of a character’s model? That’s also within this engine’s capacity. Character models are well made, textured and executed across a broad variety of body types, with the heroes/villains under your command visually distinct from each other. Environments, as mentioned above, are more finely crafted and make for great set pieces for encounters, with attention to small details. There’s a similar UI in place to the original game that can feel a little cramped given how many options are presented to the player, and this does mean that larger screen sizes are preferential for this title. It feels very reminiscent of a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ campaign that the DM has focused around a series of combat encounters.
As high as the standard of the Graphics, the audio is something of a mixed bag, at least on the Apple devices we tested the game on (iPad and iPhone 5C). Sound effects are seemingly recycled wholesale from the original title, or do little to differentiate themselves enough to stand apart, this isn’t a deal breaker by any means because those sounds worked just fine for the action, but the games music simply failed to play. Initially we thought that this was a design choice, but upon examining the menu in-game there was clearly a dedicated volume slider for music that was separate from audio effects. As such we were unable to suitably score the games soundtrack.
The game features a crafted campaign mode that sees you band of monsters and villains standing on the threshold of beating down the Human forces at its outset and continues to evolve from there. We won’t spoil the flow of the story, but it is given out before each battle (and used as a framework for random encounters) in a text based style that gives a snippet of how things are progressing. Due to the player’s ability to select a party of 6 from a larger spread of options there’s little character-specific focus, but the narration makes good use of broad terms to take the group in as a whole and avoid confusing itself. The writing itself is well written and the story does feel suitably epic in scope.
Gameplay is perhaps at once both the most and least changed aspect of this sequel. That might sound confusing so stick with us as we explain what we mean. The bare bones of how the game works are unchanged, you move a group of 6 characters strategically in turn-based fashion around a hex-based grid and take on enemy forces. Characters gain experience for their actions in battle and can be equipped with loot you’ve found or purchased between fights, each with their own unique set of moves triggered by a series of hot-boxes. The campaign unlocks in chronological order with the player able to dive in or take a break to fight randomly generated battles and grind to his/her heart’s content. Battlegrounds also feature items and gold scattered about to collect. This is the structure of the title and in of itself is very similar to that of the original. Where it feels wildly different is in the new selection of characters at your disposal, who each play in their own unique fashion and quickly make the title feel fresh and new. However you look at this title, it’s an extremely strong system that doesn’t feel as if it’s aged at all and plays beautifully.
Overall, there’s a lot to love about Demon’s Rise 2 that elevates it to the same level of accomplishment as the original title. The below score reflects that, but would be higher were it not for the issues with the games ability to play music at review. At this time it remains to be seen if it will see as many expansive additions as its younger sibling (we at MBU would love to see a return of the literal Glass Cannon!) but even without those trappings it’s a title we can whole-heartedly recommend to fans of the Tactical RPG genre or of board gaming in general.