Book of Demons is the first installment of developer Thing Trunk’s series Return 2 Games, which is creating a “Paperverse” of games inspired by the “early golden days” of PC gaming.
Return 2 Games is planned to be made up of seven Books where the game world is a pop-up book, paper style. Book of Demons kickstarts the series with a tribute to and parody of a true PC gaming classic, Diablo.
Like Diablo, Book of Demons is a hack and slash ARPG and shares a similar theme. Here, you’ll make your way down through the depths of Hell and slay the Archdemon.
Book of Demons is not a traditional hack and slash Diablo like game. It’s again paper craft, like a pop-up book. It’s linear. Your character moves only on the path laid out and the game shows footprints that will glow gold so you’ll know when you’ve fully explored a section.
While you’re on your path, the enemies have freedom of movement. They’re not constrained like you are. That sounds rough, but even as a warrior using a sword your attack has ridiculous range. Move your cursor over the enemy and either get to clicking or hold it down. You don’t need to worry about where the enemy is positioned so much, because the game is extremely generous with the attack and item pick up radius.
Book of Demons also doesn’t have the traditional ARPG skill system. You level up and you can put a point into either Health or Mana (but you can still get the other point through the Cauldron). Your skills come in the form of cards earned via RNG drops. It’s a looter, yes, but it’s also a deck builder.
You collect the cards, upgrade them, and of course there’s different rarities. Your character is built and defined by your cards and the deck that you assemble. The beauty of this system is that you’re never locked into a deck. You’ll be making adjustments to your deck even in the middle of a map based on the enemies that you’re encountering.
This also means that there’s high replayability here. You won’t get the same cards to drop at the same time on every playthrough. This combined with the fact that the dungeons, or levels, are all procedurally generated in both layout and enemy population, and you have a really varied experience from playthrough to playthrough. There’s also three character classes to help make it even more varied. You start with the Warrior, and through leveling up you’ll unlock the Rogue and Mage classes to start a new game with.
The story is, as Thing Trunk would say, a familiar classic. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented here. You’re the good hero out to save the world from the evil that will destroy it. It’s played for laughs as a parody of sorts, and to that end it succeeds very well. It’s a pretty funny game at times.
You can’t talk about the humor without mentioning how well the voice overs are. It’s an independent Polish studio without a big budget so you’d be forgiven for assuming that voice acting probably wouldn’t be a big plus for the game. But all four characters in the town, plus the additional voices, are all really well done and help to establish interesting characters that you don’t mind returning to town to listen to the latest gossip.
Book of Demons also has really good sound and a great soundtrack from Paweł Błaszczak, who has done composing for The Witcher, Dying Light, and Call of Juarez. His music adds to the already oddly charming environment and atmosphere.
It has a solid story and is really good in the audio department, but the star of Book of Demons is the gameplay and the graphics. I’m meshing them together because if you were to strip away one then the game wouldn’t be nearly as good or unique. Leave the gameplay the same and set it in a full 3D open world and it’s just not going to be compelling.
We’ve seen “paper” games before, certainly Paper Mario comes to mind as one of the better examples. But the pop-up book style that makes up Return 2 Games’ “Paperverse” is pretty unique and looks really good. More importantly for someone like me, as far as PC goes, this isn’t a graphically demanding game. I don’t have a gaming PC; I game almost exclusively on a console (PS4 these days, sadly not the console this game is come to). I mainly play old PC games like Age of Empires or Rise of Nations on the PC. Book of Demons runs like a charm though, and I didn’t experience any issues with it despite playing on a PC that was only $500 six years ago.
The gameplay looks deceptively simple in the beginning. Point and click, or point and hold. Drag your cursor over items to pick them up and click to where you want to move. But different enemies will require different strategies. You may need to tap their shield before you can damage them. You may need to click and hold the icon above their head to stop a spell. Easy in the beginning, but eventually the game will throw more and more enemies at you that all require something different. At that point, you’re using your skill cards the best you can and trying to time and prioritize what you’re doing because you simply can’t click and hold everything at once. So some strategy comes into play, and I like that.
Don’t let that last paragraph scare you off. Book of Demon’s isn’t a punishing game, but the difficulty does ramp up and if you’re trying to treat it as a run of the mill hack and slash game you’re going to get overrun and eventually overwhelmed; especially in the depth of Hell and beyond.
More than anything, Thing Trunk respects your time as a player of their game and as a result Book of Demons features a really awesome system called Flexiscope. We’ve all been in the situation where you have 10 minutes to play and you just want to make a little progress, but you start playing and realize there’s no way that you’re going to make any progress in 10 minutes.
With Flexiscope, you can choose to play a session from very small to very big. Of course the longer the session the more progress you’ll make, the more rewards you’ll earn, and the more gold you’ll acquire. You can’t always go for an hour though, sometimes that session is going to have to be 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Flexiscope allows you to select that small session; the map is smaller and there’s less enemies. More likely than not, because it is just a prediction that the game is learning from your playing, you’ll complete a session under the time the Flexiscope predicts it’ll take.
I’m a huge fan of this system. It’s not something that would work for every game of course, but it is something I’d like to see more of. It’s great to see a developer think outside the box to respect their audience’s time rather than taking the micro-transaction booster approach that so many do these days with their “time savers.”
The campaign length is going to vary depending on your Flexiscope settings and the mode you’re playing. There’s a casual mode that has no dealth penalty, the normal mode, and a Roguelike mode that has more randomness to it and of course permadeath.
You could be done with the game once you beat it, but again there’s three classes to experience the game as in addition to the procedurally generated content making no playthrough the same. There’s even a deep endgame after you finish the campaign called Freeplay.
Freeplay continues your adventure going deeper and deeper with the difficulty ramping up the further down you go. Freeplay also has an additional four difficulty modes that you can select. Hardcore players will be really challenged.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s also over 200 achievements to acquire and leaderboards (both monthly and all-time). In short, Book of Demons is packed with content and those who get into the game will find that their replay value extends for as long as they find the game entertaining. The replayability here is simply off the charts.
Replayability wouldn’t matter so much if the game weren’t but, but Book of Demons’ simpler (but not mindless) approach to hacking and slashing is at its core fun, satisfying and kind of addictive. It’s the kind of game that you’ll want to play more and more of, even if only in short chunks.
Book of Demons asking price is $24.99 and I think that’s more than fair for the amount of content that you’re getting. It’s an excellent game and would be worth that plus some if you get into it. Of course it isn’t for everyone, despite being super accessible. Some folks will be turned off the strict linearity of only being able to walk on set path. Some will casually glance at it and write it off as a mindless PC clicker.
Thing Trunk seems like a developer that is very much pro-gamer friendly, and it’s no surprise then that Book of Demons features an extremely generous demo that will end right before the first boss battle. I think it’s a great game and that if you like ARPG’s and hack n’ slash that you should buy it ASAP. But your taste may differ from mine, so I highly encourage you to go download the demo and spend some time with it (Warrior only for the demo) and see what you think. Odds are, you’ll come away impressed.
Book of Demons may be a tribute to and parody of Diablo, but it stands on its own as a highly unique experience packed with humor, some strategy, customization and practically endless replayability. Return 2 Games is off to a very strong start, and Book of Demons stands as a testament to what a small team (only seven people) with a small budget can do.
Book of Demons is out now on Steam and is coming to mobile devices and Xbox One in 2019 (begging for a PS4 version here).
Book of Demons gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.
* A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review.