Not so massive: RPG meets RTS in Dark Envoy’s demo

A while back I stumbled across the Steam page for co-op CRPG Dark Emissary and figured it might be fun to play with a fellow gamer. I’ve kept it on my wish list ever since, and when developer Event Horizon Massively OP offered demo code ahead of the demo’s release, I jumped at the chance.

It was with both excitement and trepidation that I entered Dark Emissary‘s demo. CRPGs are one of those genres that I really like in theory, but rarely in practice.

On the one hand, I like how story-driven CRPGs tend to be. I’m also a big fan of the fact that they’re more party-based. I think it’s much more exciting to control a whole group of characters than just one. Commanding an entire squad is such a power rush, and who doesn’t love a few good party banter?

On the other hand, I find the gameplay and especially the combat in most CRPGs to feel like a chore. Things like turn-based combat and dice roll decisions make sense in a tabletop environment, but when I’m playing a video game I want something more dynamic and immersive.

Like many modern CRPGs, Dark Emissary offers a choice of real-time combat or a slowed-down “tactical mode” that gives you much more time to react to the battlefield. (The Steam page also mentions a full pause option, but I didn’t realize that while playing through the demo. I may have just overlooked it; since I prefer real-time combat anyway, I wasn’t very motivated to dig for a pause option.) My experience After all, the real-time mode offered by such games feels half-baked at best, so that didn’t put me much at ease.


What piqued my interest was a login pop-up that offered a choice of RPG or RTS controls. I might be lukewarm about traditional CRPGs, but I love RTS, so I turned this mode on right away.

The RTS control scheme isn’t very different from what you’d find in a typical isometric RPG, but the RTS DNA is visible. Left-click to select a character, right-click to command them, abilities bound to letter keys, and so on.

While the difference may have been small, it was enough to get me in my RTS brain and I found myself enjoying the gameplay a lot more than I usually do with games of this nature. The ease of switching between characters and the need to plan a strategy for the entire party rather than just one character felt a lot more like playing one of the dungeon crawl missions Warcraft III – for me that’s a good thing, although your mileage may vary.

I found I could get by well enough without using tactical mode, although it definitely looks like you’ll need it if you want to play on the highest difficulties. I also have my doubts as to how viable sticking to real-time will be at higher levels once you’ve unlocked more abilities and party members.

I think it would take away what makes Dark Emissary unique if you could fully automate the party members you don’t currently control, but I’d appreciate the AI ​​being a little more self-sufficient than it is. From the looks of it, your party members will attack automatically, and that’s about it. Everything else requires direct player intervention. Some abilities have an auto-cast option, but they only activate that ability when it’s off cooldown, even if you’re not in combat.

This is one area where I could see co-op being a real boon. I’ve only played the demo solo, but I imagine it could be really helpful to have a second player to help manage your party.


I suspect this mix of RTS and RPG gameplay could be divisive, but right now I see the biggest problem Dark Emissary is its severe lack of polish. I didn’t encounter any serious game-changing issues, but a certain level of jerking permeates the entire game.

Most frustratingly, the controls didn’t seem entirely reliable. I’m not sure if they were really bugged or if they just required more precision than my hitting fighting style would allow, but I often found I didn’t swap characters when I thought I would, or that Abilities I had activated were. do not fire for nebulous reasons.

Nothing feels right Dark Emissary. Even the character animations are often stiff and awkward. One could attribute its lack of polish to the fact that this is a pre-demo and hopefully the launch version will be better, but in my experience a game is unlikely to change if it’s this choppy during a public demo The much to start.

Like the rest of the game, the story has potential but is definitely rough around the edges, at least from what I’ve seen. The central conflict of the setting is between a technologically advanced human empire and an alliance of older races that rely on magic. In the middle of this conflict are siblings Malakai and Kaela, adventurers from a neutral frontier town.

The magic vs. technology angle isn’t very original, but it still has potential. I enjoy the hint that people in this setting could be refugees from another world, and I hope the main story explores that more – what were they fleeing from? I also enjoy the sibling dynamic of the two main characters. Again, it’s not super original, but I like having characters with pre-made stories and relationships. This makes them feel more like real people.

But again, the lack of polish can also be an issue with the story. Dialogue can be a bit shaky at times, and voice acting quality is very inconsistent. Malakai and Kaela’s acting is competent enough, but another main character sounded like they pulled a rando off the street and had him mumble his lines into the mic.


In total, Dark Emissary‘s demo feels largely inconsistent. It has a lot of that indie game feel to it, in both a positive and negative way. I usually find I can tell within the first hour or so if I’m going to enjoy a game with a reasonable level of accuracy, and yet after I’ve spent about two and a half hours on it Dark Emissary‘s demo, I still don’t know what to think of it. But I find myself wishing the demo was longer, so maybe that’s a good sign.

blankThe world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between singleplayer and MMO widens, Tyler Edwards of Massively OP in Not So Massively, our bi-weekly column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter shooters, and other multiplayer online titles out there, dives into this new and expanding border a ‘T quite MMORPGs.

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Curtis Crabtree

Curtis Crabtree is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Curtis Crabtree joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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