What sort of fresh Hell is this?
With the re-emergence of classic first person-shooter tropes, the sub-genres of arena shooter and horde shooter have been thrust into the spotlight yet once again. They’re very niche in an already extremely niche genre, being kinda shallow and mindless but nonetheless good, old-fashioned, primal fun. And why not? After a long day at work, it’s great to just fire up a braindead shooter and brainlessly mow down ugly creeps. And one of the most recent games to afford us that luxury is Demon Pit.
Demon Pit takes its cue from 1990’s FPSes, especially Doom and Quake; the senimal titles of the fledgling genre. It’s a low-polygon affair complete with an occult theme, demons and zombies, and trademark weapons such as shotguns and grenade launchers. Your objective is simple: kill all the bad guys and advance to the next round. It would be easy, except it isn’t.
The road to Hell is paved with gun extensions.
What sets Demon Pit apart from its contemporaries – indeed, even its imitators – is the configuration of the arena itself. There’s really only one level, a simple box, which changes as each new session rolls around. Before too long, you’re fighting not just the demons, but the environment itself. The floor sinks into a pool of lava. Searing lasers sweep the arena. It’s a fabulously stylish death trap that keeps you on your toes.
Another interesting addition is a grappling hook. The arena is filled with weird, glowing, floating sigils that highlight when you move your mouse over them. Hit the right-click button and you’ll whip out a chord that will attach to the sigil and reel you in at incredible speed, all regardless of your distance or arsenal. Learning to use this ability and rapidly switching between shooting and swinging is essential to getting further in this game than just the first few waves. It’s fast-paced and you’re expected to be moving constantly.
But not all is well in the Land of the Damned. The arena changes its configuration without much of a warning as to what exactly it’ll become. For example, the first time it became a pool of lava, I was unprepared and promptly got burnt to death. Trial and error is fine in a game, but when there is no precedent, it’s jarring. The lack of configuration options is also kinda off-putting, while the instructions giving in-game could be better explained; all we get is a simple graphic explaining the grapple mechanic, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until you get into the arena and start doing things. It’s also very, very hard. Enemies don’t have one-hit kills, but they can ruin your day very quickly. Especially when they attack you in their typical pack formations.
It’s still a good time, though. I enjoyed the dark, hellish, occult theme. I absolutely adored the simplistic yet effective gun play. And I kept wanting to replay it to get further and do better. That drive, that quintessential need to have one more go, is one of the most fundamental triggers in gaming and this game nails it pretty well. Whenever I needed to blow off steam during one particularly stressful week, I loaded up Demon Pit without any reservation, and that’s a pretty damn good thing. It’s all rounded off with an appropriately retro look, complete with low-quality textures and simple polygons for the weapons and enemies. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a Quake mod or one of its contemporaries. The only drawback is that you can’t escape the feeling that there could have been so much more to this title. I mean, it’s all there: the weapons, the enemies, the mechanics. You’ll wonder how it would work with a full set of maps and complete campaign. Oh, well.
Demon Pit is a fun little budget title that’s great if you want a mindless shooter fix or if you’re just a sucker for FPSes with hellish themes. It’s shallow as anything and you kinda wish that they’d expand the game into a more beefy shooter experience, but there’s a certain satisfaction to killing without a second thought (much less of a first thought, for that matter). Best of all, it has that “one more try” charm which is all that really counts for this kind of title. Interested? Then shoot on over here to snag a copy of your own for Steam on your PC or Mac. Hell, yeah. Damnation was never so kick-ass.
Available on: Windows PC / Steam (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch ; Publisher: Digerati ; Developer: sychic Software, DoomCube ; Number of players: single-player only; Released on the 17th of October, 2019.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key for Demon Pit purchased by the reviewer.