Demeo is one of those games I'm surprised doesn't exist already. Taking Dungeons and Dragons-style combat and pushing it into a VR feels like a natural move for the format - a chance to play with the toys we used to play with as children. It is a game that loves this part of our lives - celebrating, rather than deriding.
Some issues do come with this perspective, and I can't help but wonder where it could go in a year but the game we have now is wonderfully nostalgic, whilst adding just enough to feel special.
Being a PSVR2 launch title is something Demeo will benefit from greatly, getting its foot in the door early and capturing a space that many are likely to invade in just a matter of time.
To put it simply, Demeo is a VR exploration of a tabletop RPG. You find yourself in a basement, with just some sofas, a dart board, and a table. Here, you must take a band of adventurers through dungeons, defeating the big bad. The story is far less important than the journey.
Without a dungeon master present to take you through all the little intricacies, you create your own fun and your own story. In this sense, the stories that you take your adventurers on can feel a little half-hearted but here isn't where the game's best moments lie and the game knows that.
Like DnD itself, this game could exist without a central narrative, only with parts reacting to your decisions and choices. This being said, it is not DnD. Demeo is all about combat and it plays into this well.
Before you start a campaign, you have to put together a group to take it on. You can grab a bard for their cooperative capabilities, a warlock for pure magic damage output, an assassin for their high singular target damage, and more. These combine to make combat feel fun and creative. After you have picked them out and set them up on a table, you have to start your campaign. This is where the fighting begins.
In a sense, Demeo is mostly a combat game. You are placed in a dungeon, where you must physically grab your figurines and place them on the board. Each unit has a movement range and a set of abilities that you can activate by looking at your wrist.
As well as a standard attack, you are granted a deck of cards to take new skills from. Your goal is to synergise standard attacks with special moves to get the most value out of your turn.
Taking on the dungeon
Dungeon crawling is done excellently in VR. You can move and zoom around the tabletop and you can even pick up the figures just to give them a better look. This means going into a room, only to be ambushed by a colony of bugs can be quite exciting in the moment. It's especially fun when playing online.
The online element of Demeo is what will keep players coming back for subsequent campaigns. You can take on and control different party members and this always gives an element of surprise as you never quite know what your partner plans on doing next. Like DnD, every turn holds the potential for disaster.
Demeo incentivises these risks by hiding treasure and usable items behind doors around the dungeon. Your goal is to get in, look for the way out, and continue onwards. It is rarely this simple. You will find monstrous beasts and enticing loot in almost every crevice.
A social lubricant
One of the things Demeo does best is to encourage organic social moments. You can meet and talk to others in a social space and the subtle cooperation of how you spend gold earned in dungeons is a joy to experience. It does what it can to put you in a space and just let you and your friends talk things out.
Demeo sets up something fantastic but gets out of its own way to let you enjoy it. Unfortunately, it does start to lose a little of its depth as you play. Though new enemies and environments give you a fresh challenge, I felt like I stopped learning new techniques quite quickly.
It would be great to see Demeo flesh out more of what makes so many love Dungeons and Dragons but it's still an achievement in its own right.
A copy of Demeo was provided by the publisher