With a fully playable demo on Newgrounds making some noise for quite some time now (in fact you can play it right now within the comfort of your web-browser), the full version of the game just recently dropped on digital outlets. Deity Quest is referred to as a Pokémon-inspired RPG by its developers and community, and after spending a lot of time with the game I’ve come to appreciate that game is so much more than just Pokemon inspired. The inspiration is barely on the surface as the game really does its own thing, and is in fact more similar to another Japanese RPG series .
If anything, Deity Quest feels more inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei series. That’s a good thing, and a far much more fitting comparison in my view. It has most of the right elements of a classic Shin Megami Tensei title (no not the tween antics of the Persona series): celestial god-like beings battling over the universe, dark grotesque creatures to do their bidding, the element of having creatures follow you instead of being captured, and finally the good/evil dynamic. Right from the start of the game you’re asked to choose your alignment, and depending on what side you choose you’ll be able to take effective control of a certain set of creatures. Right from the start you’re thrust into the game world, exploring its many areas in search of monster minions to help you battle other gods for supremacy.
The game really takes the “god” conceit quite seriously as you quite literally assume the role of a passive observer who merely supports and guides his/her followers. The game overworld has you control your chosen party of creatures to explore environments, collect items, and more importantly to battle/recruit new monsters. The game has a rather streamlined design and much of it appears to be rather lazily and hastily put together, but it becomes clear that the real meat of the title is the battle system.
The battle system, involving teams of six monsters each, is unusual because it again plays off the whole “god” premise and has you play a support role. You don’t choose the attacks or anything, your role is to assign monsters to ideal positions (back row or front row), provide support in the form of items and spells, and leave all the dirty work to your gang of beasts. You sit back and watch them duke it out, but your role in deciding their battle position plays a big part in their success and how they develop. It’s a very interesting approach to a RPG battle system that feels a little unusual at first but you soon grow to appreciate how unique and deeply strategic it is. When it comes to recruiting monsters, that’s done by casting a spell which if successful, will have that monster under your permanent command. There is plenty of variety in the monsters, but they’re not really original in their designs as it’s just a whole bunch of large insects, sea monsters, centaurs, dragons, and whatever stereotypical mythical creature.
Battling enemy brutes is easy, and the game certainly encourages you to grind for higher levels and new skills, but when the time comes to battle a Pokemon Trainer… I mean “god”, that’s when things get really difficult. Even the very first battle with your rival god will wipe your party out in a matter of seconds. This is a game that doesn’t really hold your hand through its systems and intricacies, leaving you to experiment and discover things by really reading into the stats of the many monsters and figuring out the best composition for your team and their placement during battles. With you actively supporting them with items and spells.
It can take some time to really delve into the battle system and stats, where you need to pay attention to the detailed attributes of each beast, and of course the strategic rock/paper/scissor dynamic involving elemental alignments also play a big part. While you may not directly control the attacks performed by beasts, you are still able to develop skills and decide which skills should be enabled/disabled during battle. It may be a little confusing at first, but luckily there are some useful online resources and guides from the developers to help you get grips with it all.
Visually and musically the game is rather simplistic and doesn’t really try to be lavish, the visuals in particular can appear to be quite lazy and limited, especially when you’re exploring the bland areas. That said, with independent games like these they need to prioritize their resources, which they appear to have directed towards the unique and layered battle system.
Deity Quest’s strength is making you feel like you’re a god that passively supports and influences their followers, and translates this feeling to the battle system in a rather interesting manner. There’s all these little intricacies and details in the battle system that are most likely not going to be apparent the first time you delve into it. It’s a tough and challenging game, where the only selling point is the battle system as everything else is rather bland and simplistic, especially the aesthetics and monster designs. It may appear to be a little minimalist on the surface, and the game doesn’t really teach you all you need to know about its battle system. But for those who enjoy this kind of passive and vague role playing experience, especially with a battle system that has you assume the role of a chess player and nothing else, then Deity Quest might be your little niche.
Version Reviewed: PC