Tutorials. Storylines. A gamer needs not these things. Or at least that's what Gas Powered Games assumes with their new real-time strategy game Demigod. It ignores both in order to plunge you directly into a multiplayer fray of godlike proportions.
The Windows-only Demigod plays like a stripped down Warcraft III, with none of the resource management headaches and all of the advancement possibilities. You control one of eight Demigods, who come in two varieties: Generals, who rely on summoning followers for their combat strength, and Assassins, who focus on single combat. Each has talent trees granting them special powers; for example, the walking castle known as the Rook can augment his devastating hammer attack, rebuild his strength by tearing down enemy structures, or construct shoulder-mounted war machines.
There are eight battlefields filled with defensive buildings to avoid or destroy and special flags that grant boons like bonus experience or extra damage when captured. Augmenting both sides are AI-controlled grunts who stream from portals to attack preset targets. They provide an ebb and flow to the fight that you can leverage or ignore depending on your battle plan.
The lack of a tutorial leads to some early stumbles, but they're quickly overcome through gameplay. Similarly, the lack of a campaign mode will frustrate some, but ultimately multiplayer is where the action is, and it doesn't disappoint. The Demigod's talent trees and purchasable magic items, coupled with similar upgrades for buildings and grunts, let you formulate an attack that fits the needs of the battle. Playing the "godkiller" mode? Pick powers that let you slay your opponents. Need to destroy enemy fortifications? Focus on earth-shattering abilities. It's a dynamic mix, and a lot of fun to play through.
Demigod ran into connectivity issues when it launched, apparently because of pirated software connections (like all Stardock-distributed games, it has no DRM), but the developers appear to have solved them. My connections using Demigod's peer-to-peer networking weren't instantaneous, but they were stable.
The game's not perfect—it could use more maps, and I wouldn't mind another Demigod or two—but it's a solid RTS game that should help genre fans stay busy until Starcraft II comes out.