Dark Deity, the strategy RPG from Sword and Axe studio, has received a surprise shadow drop during E3 2021 and is currently available on PC, with a Nintendo Switch release still planned. The first title from the studio, Sword and Axe recently partnered with Freedom Games.
Dark Deity draws obvious inspiration from other strategy games like Fire Emblem, but Sword and Axe see it as more of an RPG than anything. There are a few key features that define Dark Deity, like its grave wounds system that replaces permadeath. Instead of losing them forever, if a unit dies during combat it suffers a random stat loss, which in turn can drastically affect its abilities in combat. “The game can be harder without not being fun. It’s more forgiving, but at the same time the consequences of playing poorly continue on your playthrough,” says Chip Moore from Sword and Axe.
There are also detailed weapon and promotion systems that help differentiate each character, and provide a lot of choice for how players want to go through the game. Another of the bigger changes from other games in the genre has to do with each unit type having skills, and in particular, the healers being able to heal indefinitely with no restrictions. “A lot of the encounters in Dark Deity are not so much drawn out over the map, it’s more about fighting pods of enemies almost like in XCOM. With the clerics, we didn’t want, at any point, inventory management or resource management to tie into the system a whole lot. We were going for sort a full-blown RPG experience,” says Chip Moore.
Interestingly, Dark Deity also allows players to alter nearly everything about the game’s difficulty, from randomizing the order units are recruited to tuning up the stats of enemies. This means that apart from the three standard difficulty settings, players can create a lot of variety for subsequent playthroughs. Many of the design decisions in Dark Deity have been made in an effort to get away from the “hard reset” tendency of other games, where one character dies forcing you to restart the entire level.
Going with a shadow release is a scary proposition for any developer, seeing as it lacks the usual marketing buildup, but Chip Moore and Sword and Axe are confident in the release. “There’s definitely a bit of fear there, and there’s stuff you lose. It’s not a guarantee that it goes well, but we’ve come so far from where we started that it almost felt like a ‘why not.’ It’s so absurd to even have the opportunity to do it.”
Retroware previously sat down with the developers of Dark Deity for a lengthy interview talking about the game’s inspirations and efforts to set itself apart from the rest of the genre.