Dark Deity Review – A Retro Light Shining in the Dark

    Title: Dark Deity
    Developer: Sword and Axe LLC
    Release Date: June 15, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Freedom Games
    Genre: Strategy RPG

The SRPG genre requires a lot to fully invest players into the adventure through narrative and party customization. Still, the hit-or-miss nature doesn’t stop me from trying new releases within the genre. Developer Sword & Axe’s Dark Diety borrows elements of classic SRPGs and introduces them in a way that doesn’t come off as intimidating. The inspiration pulled from Fire Emblem and Langressor is recognizable, but there are a few unique features that Dark Diety brings to the battlefield.

Dark Diety revolves around the main protagonist Irving and his group of classmates as their country drafts them into a war. The neighboring country of Armora has begun to invade Delia, and the king needs more troops to fill the ranks. However, as they take part in the battle, they realize that not all is as it seems. I know this premise is familiar for a fantasy setting, but it moves at a pretty good pace. Each mission begins with dialogue explaining the story and sets up the next battle. These vary in length but can sometimes be nearly ten minutes of reading before you start the mission.

During the dialogue, the game takes a more visual novel approach using high-quality character illustrations. This is also found in the bonding scenes where characters interact further, but there’s a lack of voice audio, hurting some of the more emotional beats.

That said, one battle can take up to 45 minutes to complete, so it makes for a decent balance of gameplay and narrative. I felt these scenes were necessary to expand on the characters and situation. I know what these characters are fighting for. Interestingly, while the game doesn’t feature permadeath, it does have a wounded system where characters who fall in battle receive a stat decrease which is almost just as bad.

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The problem with this feature is how it affects some characters more than others. Characters have higher weaknesses to specific attacks, and some more than others. For example, Elias frequently fell in battle, slowly making him useless in later battles. After a while, I chose to leave him out of battles.

Each character has an inherent skill that only they can utilize in a fight. These range from skills and passive traits that give you agency over the battle with options for strategizing your approach to victory.

A character class gains levels through actions and can be promoted at level 10 and then again at level 30. Each unit’s class has an archetype, so a thief can’t become a knight all of a sudden. Levels increase even if units suffer a stat loss from falling in battle, but they can be promoted once at the proper level regardless of their stats.

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Each character has their preferred class, but changing classes never affected their usefulness in a fight. This allows a bit more depth when creating your party, and you can also preview their growth before making any tough promotion choices. The weapon triangle is also changed up a little bit. Each character has a damage type they do, from piercing to magic. What damage type they do gives them advantages against certain classes.

Each character can equip up to four weapons, which helps when you encounter an enemy you don’t naturally have an edge. This also allows you to defend against specific attacks, so you don’t meet an early death. Additionally, there are equipable gems that take a spot in your inventory but provide additional abilities that act as a third skill.

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The battlefield and combat scene’s design reflects the 2D pixel graphics that influenced the game, which has a certain charm. Every map is unique, and the full character models look gorgeous without appearing out of place. However, when using a wide-screen monitor caused the sprites to look a bit stretched.

I ran into a glitch where a unit was stuck in place even after I moved it—further, some intrusive pop-ups during battles, along with unorganized menus that extend past the screen.

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Dark Deity manages to be a competent and entertaining SRPG by offering a decent narrative fueled by the influences of classic entries of the genre. It utilizes systems that fans love while introducing quality-of-life mechanics to provide a seamless and enjoyable experience. There are many familiar elements about this adventure, but it’s one that I found to be approachable and full of charm.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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