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Hands On with a Half-Devil

Gareth Harmer Posted:
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At first glance, Devilian looks like your typical isometric hack-and-slash action-RPG. But, beyond the Diablo-esqe art style lies an approachable MMO, with hints of a deep itemisation and ability system that promises to keep theorycrafters busy. As I went hands-on with the title at Gamescom, it quickly became clear why Trion Games decided to pick up the title from Korean studio Bluehole Ginno: satisfying short-burst gameplay.

That said, Trion’s timetable for launching Devilian in western markets is surprisingly aggressive. The studio’s first localised build was delivered just before Gamescom, comprising some 60 pages of patch notes based on changes suggested by internal playtesters. Alpha and beta (in English) is planned ‘soon’, but there are plans to add German and French support at launch. It’s that release date that’s the most surprising of all, with Trion aiming for full launch before the year’s out.

But just what does Devilian have to offer? Guiding me through the first story dungeon, Producer Andrew Sipotz and Program Director Victoria Voss were on hand to give me advice, and explain a little more about the systems and features that make this a full-fledged MMO.

Devil in the Detail

The story behind Devilian is straightforward  enough. You play as the titular creature, a half-demon hybrid that vanquished an evil entity known as Kavel some 200 years ago. Since that time, evil has returned to the world of Nala, so you’re being broken out of storage to defeat it once more.  The action starts with a single-player story instance that acts as a tutorial, helping you learn the ropes as you follow your rescuer thorough an underground labyrinth.

True to the genre, Devilian offers four different classes to bring about the carnage. There’s the Evoker for ranged spellcasting; the whip-wielding Shadowhunter with a balanced blend of attacks; the mobile Cannoneer with a bagful of traps; but I went for the Berserker, a dual-wielding melee class with a high amount of mobility. 

Character creation was straightforward enough, but with one interesting twist. As I studied my final choice of hairstyle and so on, I could preview them in both mid-tier and endgame armour. I could also try out my character’s Devil form – a super-charged metamorphosis that levels up independently and has its own set of skills. Although I didn’t get the chance to try it out for myself, I’m told that the Devil form is predominantly for PvP, which helps to avoid the PvP/PvE skillset balancing pitfall that many other MMOs fall into.

While on the subject of PvP, I’m told that Devilian has three styles to choose from: classic 3 vs. 3 arena, massive 20 vs. 20 capture-point style battlefields, and even larger guild vs. guild combat. Guilds can even band together to form alliances, and there are incentives for declaring guild wars. Apparently there are even spots in the open world where bosses can be summoned, which flags everyone in the area for PvP, although everyone in the same alliance stays green to each other.

Pocket Dungeons

Back to my berserker, and the rescuer that broke me out of the ice now needs rescuing, which it’s time to dismember some monsters. All of my character’s abilities are aimed, and I can choose which ones are triggered from mouse buttons and which ones are tied to a keyppress. I can hop between standard WSAD controls or mouse navigation, but I quickly favour my clicking hand for dealing damage.

As I progress through, a winged demon directs a telegraphed attack at me, but the fixed perspective viewpoint means that I easily spot it and tap the spacebar to dodge out of the way. Indeed, moving out of the bad stuff is a recurring theme, with a later bossfight bringing some of the classic mechanics. Apparently, Devilian also contains three-player dungeons and 9-player raids, as well as solo story mode dungeons like the one I’m starting out in. That said, Devilian is intended as a drop in, drop out game, where meaningful progress can be earned in as little as 15 minutes.

One of the handy tools to speed progress up is the ability to autorun to quest objectives, although this doesn’t remove your ability to aggro every monster you pass on the way. Get a mount, however, and your threat radius shrinks, letting you sneak by monsters that would otherwise chase you down and eat your spleen. Companions will also be present – I’m told that the Trion corgi comes with saddle bags, increasing your inventory space and selling items for you when needed.

Demon Skills

My trip through the opening phases of Devilian didn’t really touch on many of the systems, but I did get a chance to discuss the skill system. Much like with other skill trees, points can be invested in skills that you like, which can then open up mastered versions. Gear can also have skills attached to it, and it’s possible to combine gear together to get the stats from one merged with the skill from another. It’s the type of thing that’s likely to have a min-maxer frothing with anticipation at the possibilities.

Devilian also has a special type of gear, called Talismans, which come complete with their own upgrade system. It’s possible to sacrifice unwanted talismans to boost the ones you like, and merge your favoured ones together to create something even more powerful. There is a crafting system in Devilian, but I’m told that it’s primarily focused on building talismans and consumables for use while adventuring.

While I only scratched the surface of what Devilian has offer, it’s likely that we won’t have long to wait before getting a much closer look. Trion is planning to roll out alpha and beta quickly –possibly as soon as the end of the month – with full launch planned before the end of the year. And, as with other games in their line-up, it’ll also be free-to-play. Founders packs are planned for those interested in getting in on the ground floor, and a patron subscription will be offered for those interested in a little convenience.

Now, it’s over to you. Will you be unleashing the devil when Trion’s latest hits servers? Sound off in the comments.


Gareth Harmer

Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.