Review: Demise – Ascension (PC)

By Drew Wilson

Demise – Ascension is a dungeon crawling RPG game and is supposed to be an expansion to the 1999 game, Demise – Rise of the Ku’Tan. How much does this game add to the original game?

Demise – Ascension is an expansion to the 1999 game Demise – Rise of the Ku’Tan. The game hasn’t been fully released, however, an ongoing beta is being sold and was even featured in an indie bundle package to players at one point.

Story-wise, the expansion picks up where the original game leaves off with the introduction of the tavern keeper. The tavern keeper basically replaces who you originally went for to complete story-line quests. That’s not all this expansion offers, though.

The expansion also offers an expansion to the playable area you originally got from the original game. Instead of a 45×45 grid, you now get an impressive 80×80 grid. Also, the game goes all the way down to level 36 whereas before, it only went down to about level 32. So, this opens up a huge amount of potential area to explore.

The expansion also introduces new monsters – and even new skins for monsters so as to increase the potential for what you can see. There is even new bosses to face down and new items to acquire in your adventures through the dungeon.

The expansion also fixes some of the glitches the original game had. The biggest glitch this (sort of) fixed was the numerous magically locked chests appearing in anti-magic rooms (thus, making them impossible to open). However, in my last play, the game still tosses a few locked chests in anti-magic areas in spite of various fixes the developer put into it.

Another pitfall is that the graphics have remained the same. No real major improvement were made to the original Demise game which might not deter a more old school gaming crowd, but will be a sticking point for players who think GameCube games are ancient.

A further pitfall was, when I was playing this game, the internal cap for highest number of maximum “hits” a player can get is still 999. The expansion basically extends the length of the game and introduces substantially more difficult enemies, yet the cap remained at 999. Some enemies can damage you for several hundred hits which means you can die in about 2 or 3 hits. There’s not a whole lot you can do to change that and, to me, this restriction doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the expansion.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I have about the expansion was just how much the nature of the game was changed between the original and the expanded. In order to continue the plot, you had to kill a monster, retrieve a certain item or charm a certain monster and drag it back to the surface. The only major problem solving the player faced was maybe the teleporter maze, how to find large stockpiles of gold part way through the game to prevent “gold pinning” and finding the Tea room. Non of the above was absolutely necessary for completing the game. In order to make your way through the storyline of the expanded version, you had to track down a certain part of the dungeon and find a way to unlock certain doors or find the secret entrance ways to certain area’s (often a tall order depending on the searching skills of the player) or figure out how to carry a special item through the dungeon by completing certain steps that were never even hinted at for you at the beginning of the quest. In that respect, the game went from a dungeon crawler to a puzzle solving dungeon crawler. In my view, it doesn’t transition all that well when you’ve been used to grinding, levelling and exploring all this time.

The second biggest complaint I personally have about this expansion is that as you explore, you realize that the expanded areas gradually become less and less of a feature. Sure, some area’s spread into the expanded portion of the dungeon, sure the game has a fully explorable 90×90 grid to explore on level 1, but half way deep into the dungeon, you quickly realize that most of the “new areas” are actually large area’s of solid rock that can’t be explored outside of a powerful “map area” spell. When you get to the new bottom dungeon levels, yes, the map is suitable for a 90×90 area, but some of it is still large areas of rock. When you actually get to the expansion part of the story, you’ll eventually see that once you fully explore level 1, Erik’s tower, the training area, the new basement levels and find the “games room”, the new area’s are little more than a few one square thick tunnels running around – a few of which I could never figure out how to access. While the potential new explorable area is four times the original grid plus a few new levels, the actual expanded area amounts to, at most, doubling the play space. I say this with a lot of respect for the developer in question because I know that there’s a lot of effort involved here in making this and he does do a great job in developing games in general, but I did get a feeling I’d been a bit fleeced because the game seemingly promises a massive amount of potential new game, and delivers a lot less in the end. Some of what is new did give me the feeling it was quickly tacked on even though a lot goes in to making new areas. In the end, I think that the game could be expanded in a better way – like maybe just adding more basement levels instead of expanding the x and y axis of the map, just expand the z axis instead.

In addition to that, you are discouraged from exploring the new areas, yet, some of the randomly quested monsters you are asked to kill appear almost exclusively in the expanded areas. So, that also becomes a bit of a catch 22.

It’s not all bad, though. I thought the addition of Erik’s puzzle (ala Snakes and Ladders) was a fun and humorous element that was added. The new design concepts were quite novel (namely the aquatic tanks concepts). The swamp and the desert were interesting additions. The tribute to the original Mordor game in the new area was a very nice touch. The additional music was nice – even though it still proved to be a neusense after a while and I just shut the music off and played my own in the background.

Still, the expansion does introduce numerous new bugs that the old game didn’t (namely, various error messages that now pop up). In its defence, the game is still in the development stages, but it’s also been in the development stages for years and is also being sort of commercially sold even though it’s in development still. A fair amount of development effort was used for the game to be compatible for Windows Vista, then Windows 7. Now, even more development effort is being used to make the game compatible with Windows 8 which does speak to how long it’s been in development.

Overall, if you want the feeling of a complete game, try to stick to the original Demise – Rise of the Ku’Tan. If you are curious to see what was expanded on after beating the game, then try the expansion. I don’t see simply buying the expanded version first as the best way to enjoy the game. The developer did say at one point that this is really two games in one, but I’d say that is, unfortunately, being a little overly generous to what you would get here. In the end, the expansion adds a few more cons than it does pros, so that is why the expanded version scores lower than the original version of this game.

Furthest point in game made: Beaten the game in it’s expanded entirety.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 58%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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