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Demonic forces have once again attempted to plague the land from realms beyond, tasking the Order of Wanderers with slaying these armies of otherworldly minions, and maintaining balance between the factions. Demon Skin, the latest collaboration from indie developer Ludus Future and publishers Buka Entertainment, drops players into the front lines of a challenging and unforgiving war of good versus evil. Following the interruption of an ancient ritual, one warrior of the Order has mistakenly been stripped of his memory, and physically transformed into a demon. The lone Wanderer immediately sets out on a quest to restore his humanity and seek out those responsible for these unfortunate events. Demon Skin delivers a burdensome, patience testing, yet rewarding and enjoyable adventure, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a few minor aspects that I could have done without either.
This ‘hack and slash’ action-platformer carries elements of traditional RPGs on its shoulders, as well as numerous other familiar mechanics from within the aforementioned genres. Following a brief introduction and setup for its shallow but workable plot, players take control of the Wanderer, and venture into a deadly, challenging gauntlet of enemies and other obstructions intent on stopping you along the way. For the record, I bounced between both a gamepad and keyboard/mouse during my playthrough, but found the controller to be much more comfortable.
The basic leveling system allows players to allocate skill points into health, stamina, or attack power. Numerous items are scattered throughout the linear stages to aid in boosting health and defense as well. It was noticeable quite early-on that regardless of how I would build my characters stats, the game still favored personal skill, a similar approach to titles within the Souls series. The controls themselves functioned as intended, however I had hard time adjusting to some of the mechanics. The arcade feel of the jumping and ledge catching felt stiff at times, and led to countless ‘You Are Dead’ prompts on my screen during my playthrough. Fortunately, various checkpoints are provided through the stages. Though they worked as intended, my expectations were slightly lowered when discovering that you don’t replenish health upon activating them. The survivability curve shows itself quite early on, and management of health potions as well as successful combat engagements are a necessity in order to progress.
The brutal and unforgiving ‘In your face’ combat is by far the more focused aspect of the adventure, which I found both enjoyable yet frustrating at times. There was absolutely no shortage of it either, having each area flooded with grotesque creatures armed to the teeth and ready to fight. The game does a proper job by delivering tutorial pop ups right at the start, fully explaining the numerous angles of the mechanics at hand. The combat system is quite diverse, focusing on stances that enemies also utilize in return. Players are able to choose between a low, mid and high attack range. These stances can also execute a block or parry if timed properly with an incoming attack of the same range. While useful, I still found myself struggling to land these successfully. Rolling behind the enemies also provided a means of avoiding incoming attacks for the majority of the encounters as well.
The abundance of weapons offer plenty of variety for players to bash their way through the countless hordes of vile, undead creatures along the way. Each weapon also carries its own set of crushing attacks and personal traits as well. Swords are a quicker and less stamina draining option, where as axes perform as the complete opposite. Having used a controller, I can’t say that I was keen on having a direct button mapped in order to turn my character the opposite direction. It felt out of place and proved to be more of a burden at times, especially when encountering numerous enemies at once. Regardless of these small issues that I found bothersome, the overall fluency of the combat and performance was consistent, and I never felt to be at a complete disadvantage.
Visually, Demon Skin excels in providing an adequate variety of design throughout the environments that await players in this dreary fantasy world. The background details are very much alive and I found myself quite distracted from the direct action numerous times. The physical transformation of the Wanderer over the course of the adventure was an enticing addition as well, having what appears to be a skeletal armor slowly form around his body.
Each area consisted of several levels, and absolutely no shortage of enemies, bosses, or deadly traps along the way either. The enemy designs were on mark, presenting an impressive mixture and variety for just about each encounter. Zombies, giant insects, and necromancers are just a few of the many relentless and aggressive foes determined to bring your journey to an end. The gruesome and bloody combat animations were never tiring either. There’s absolutely no shortage of blood or limbs spilling across the screen during any encounter.
Aside from a small handful of mechanical drawbacks, Demon Skin delivers an action-filled adventure worthy of attention, especially for those seeking a challenging experience. The impressive amount of detail layered into the fantasy inspired environments was nothing short of stunning either, and will surely distract you amongst the bloodshed that awaits every area. The diverse combat system was a unique approach, one of which I found thoroughly enjoyable once adjusting to it. A ton of weapons, magic, and an army of relentless creatures await your arrival, Wanderer. Demon Skin is now available on PC.