Fire Emblem has always been one of my favourite franchises as far as SRPGs go, and God knows, there have been countless mediocre clones of it. Conceptually, making an RPG is not that difficult. You just need a world, some characters, some enemies and a linear plot. However, making a good RPG is another matter entirely. For Sword & Axe and Freedom Games’ first try at the genre, Dark Deity hits all the right notes and is the best Fire Emblem clone on the market.
‘‘The setting immediately plunged me into the fantasy world of Terrazael; full of magic, wars and calamity.’’
The game begins with a plot summary that establishes the context for the story’s conflict. When summaries become a wall of text that’s when they pose a problem. Luckily, Dark Deity‘s introduction was concise. It provided just enough information to the player without recounting Terrazael’s entire history. This allows the player to piece together the story progressively as they play. The setting immediately plunged me into the fantasy world of Terrazael; full of magic, wars and calamity.
Staples of fantasy are also present, such as elves, dragons, dwarfs and monarchs. The modern fantasy genre is almost entirely plagiarised from Tolkien with some minor tweaks each iteration, but following the playbook is generally a good idea.
‘‘The art and graphics of Dark Deity are amazing, combining modern textures with the retro combat phases..’’
Visually, the characters are well-drawn with distinct looks. Every landscape in the background is incredible, and during the combat phases, the sprites utilise combat poses. Dark Deity also doesn’t play into the over the top fanservice that many other games of this genre have been guilty of. The art and graphics are amazing, combining modern textures with the retro combat phases.
‘‘The combat phases are the core of the game and they bring a lot of good ideas for future RPGs.’’
The battle portions of the game are the most interesting and complex parts of the game. 54 different playable classes branch into four choices when a character reaches level ten. There are also four more when a character reaches level 30. Moreover, each character has a choice between four different variants of their weapon. This includes bows, swords, magic staffs and so on. Each variant focuses on a different trait, namely focus, finesse, power and balance.
You can level up the strength of each weapon using tokens won in battle or with coins at the shop. Coins can be obtained by defeating enemies. The same applies to the enemies. There are no generic goons in Dark Deity as enemies can also level up, evolve their class, and choose between the four weapons. The combat phases are the core of the game, and they bring a lot of good ideas for future RPGs.
”The music is often random, off-topic and completely out of place.”
The ambience of a game usually depends heavily on its music. Part of why I had trouble enjoying the serious or feel-good moments was because there is cheerful music playing during a sombre scene or vice-versa. Beyond the placement of the music, the soundtrack itself is quite repetitive, both in and out of combat. The most present background music is what I would call “thing_that_sounds_vaguely_RPG.mp3”.
The plot of Dark Deity is nothing special. I’ve played many RPGs, and many emotional moments have brought me to tears, but this game just doesn’t develop characters in any significant way for me to get attached to any of them. They do go through serious hardships from betrayal and loss, but those scars are simply not reflected subsequently within the characters. Subsequently, this made it difficult for me to take their pain seriously.
‘‘Dark Deity is a game I recommend checking out if you are a huge fan of Fire Emblem.’’
It’s a shame too as the developers clearly focused on character development with the bond mechanics. This unlocks additional dialogue between individual characters as they fight alongside each other. While I do appreciate developers putting effort into the lore, there needs to be more work on the foundations before getting into the backstory of every character.
There are some genuinely funny and interesting conversations between characters, but unfortunately, the game hasn’t done enough to make me care about each side character. Character development works hand in hand with the plot, but as it stands, it is a little too obscure and jumps a lot from one place to another with little to no transition.
Sometimes, less is more; less characters and less plotlines, but more focused. Dark Deity is a game I recommend checking out if you are a huge fan of Fire Emblem. If you are looking for a fleshed-out story, you might want to look elsewhere. You can pick up Dark Deity right now on Steam with a 20% discount.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the publisher.