A dark forest, scattered objectives and a bloodthirsty killer; this is the tried and true formula for most horror games. Daemonical takes the typical method and tries its best to make a fun multiplayer experience out of it. Players assume the role as one of five survivors with only two minutes until sundown as they begin their search. However, one of the five survivors will turn into the demon come sunset, whose goal it is to hunt the remaining four players before the sun rises at the end of the game timer. Meanwhile, the players are tasked with searching for parts to complete a ritual; this is meant to compel the survivors to not just hide, but instead, explore the island with the demon on the prowl. With these objectives in mind, Daemonical leaves the rest up to the players.
Immediately upon spawning, the players begin together with one survivor primed to become the demon in a moment’s time. Already the game has started as survivors begin searching for parts for the ritual. The survivors can look at their hand at any time, a scar on their palm will glow when facing the direction of a part, and will flicker rapidly when there’s a part nearby. This is a big help as the island is big and has few landmarks, fog and darkness also make it difficult for the survivors to see. The demon doesn’t have as much of a problem with visibility as he’s able to toggle night vision off or on as it suits the player. The demon can also track down players when a certain distance away the demon can see the souls of other players. These white motes of light will disappear when the demon gets within a certain radius of the soul, but it’s enough to help the demon know the general area a survivor might be hiding in. Despite the demon’s ability to chase down souls, the players don’t make very much noise and the radius is large enough that finding a survivor can still be difficult. At the moment, survivors still win even if there’s only one survivor alive, despite the ritual being incomplete by sunrise; this may change in future versions.
The game runs smoothly which is expected of the Unity engine, but with all the soft particle effects like fog, the game felt more visible in low graphics settings. Having the game set to low impacts gameplay, with edges feeling cleaner and objects standing out from one another. The movements of the characters also feel sluggish and the demon, in particular, loses substantial momentum when jumping. The game has other bugs as well with floating corpses, and closets players can get stuck in. Some survivors even intentionally jump in closets and get stuck before shutting the door, using them as hiding spots or even baiting the demon into getting stuck himself. The game is playable in its current state, but attention needs to be given to details and potential exploits.
The game has almost no soundtrack to speak of, there’s ominous music in the game lobby, but during matches it’s silent. Even though it’s a horror game it feels too quiet, there’s not even a periodic violin or piano sound to keep the tension. This might be an intentional design choice but ultimately doesn’t serve the game well as the silence is more awkward than creepy.
Daemonical has a dedicated and vast community of gamers on their Discord server. There the developers engage with and encourage their community with tests of the game arranged ahead of time for a viable player pool to be online at the same time as each game requires five players to get started. The developers regular announce upcoming changes, address bugs and glitches and highlights streamers and content creators.
As a multiplayer game, the replayability of Daemonical is virtually endless. However, when a player dies in the game, they’re stuck as a ghost that can give light to survivors until the round ends. For a player that dies early, this can be over ten minutes spent in what amounts to the game’s spectator mode. With potentially long waits during the round and, with long wait times between rounds even patient players may quickly grow frustrated. Engaging with the community is where long-term interest can be found. In its present state, the game is more fun with other players who are active on voice and can make the time pass by more quickly. Alltalk is enabled allowing survivors, ghosts and the demon to all talk with one another. This can cause issues if a ghost warns a player that the demon is coming –as ghosts are invisible to the demon– or the ghosts tell the demon where other survivors are hiding. Despite this, Alltalk makes the game feel more like a party game where friends can laugh and play around and encourages the game’s community.
When not being strangled by the demon, the game manages to keep its scares toned down, and a lack of random jumpscares is to the credit of Daemonical. The demon itself is a frightening figure and when attacking a survivor the player is forced to watch the demon scream in their face, but this isn’t an unexpected feature. The rooms on the island are creepy but also nonsensical, small and narrow cottages rise up in random positions and shipping containers are strewn about. The furnishings are mostly wooden desks, but mannequins are also stored in many of the structures and serve to both frighten survivors and distract the demon since it can be difficult to distinguish them from survivors unless up close.
In its present state Daemonical is a noticeably unfinished game, but the game is still being worked on and will continue to improve. The XP system isn’t implemented so there’s no reward for performing well in-game, and the ritual isn’t necessary or rewarding for the survivors to complete. While there will be customization options for survivors, at present they’re few. With the game’s Early Access launch on August 15, it remains unpolished and feeling incomplete.
Daemonical is available on Steam for $14.99.