Dark Deity - Switch Review

Dark Deity
by developer Sword & Axe LLC and publisher Freedom GamesNintendo Switch review written by Hayden with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Dark Deity by developer Sword & Axe LLC and publisher Freedom Games has made the jump from PC to a format where it feels truly at home. This battle-tactics RPG garnered positive attention when it released on PC in June last year, but its classic pixel-sprite 2D graphics and posed-art dialogue sequences feel like the great console games of the NES / SNES era. On the small screen of the Nintendo Switch in portable mode, opening up Dark Deity really felt like it brought me back in time to the heyday of tactical RPGs on console.

Coming from a PC release last year (Pierre-Yves' Review), many of the details of the core of this game have been reviewed and hashed over before, but for those experiencing it for the first time I’ll step through the broad outline. Dark Deity places the player in control of a party of military academy students rushed from school to the front lines as their kingdom’s war demands ever more soldiers to fight. The story is presented in a series of static tableaus, with dialogue boxes presenting the narrative in text.

Once in control of characters, the player will enter a 2D battlefield where they must consider positioning and abilities for their team, controlling their individual sprites to try to maneuver for best advantage and preventing the enemy from singling out any one member of your team. Progressing through the short chapters (each generally consisting of 1-2 battles in between dialogue sections) will net the player additional characters to use in the team, as well as the RPG standard of ever-increasing levels yielding more powerful abilities. Once the team is big enough, rest periods between battles can also be used for inter-character chats that seek to show the character’s background and personality while building up bonds between characters that buff their abilities at later levels.

Dark Deity got a lot right in how the game presents itself, tapping strongly into the legacy of tactical RPGs from previous console generations. Both the in-battle 2D sprites and out-of-battle static artwork scenes feel like they could have come straight out of an early-generation console tactics RPG, and the control scheme on the switch is simple enough that it feels as though playing it with just a D-pad and four buttons would be enough. While 2D, the battle maps are unique enough that each provides a feeling for your surroundings, and often provide enough terrain to consider that you don’t end up with the sensation of every battle being the same.

While a great source of nostalgia and inspiration, Dark Deity’s emulation of old tactical RPGs is also in some ways the source of its greatest weakness. The art style is a throwback to earlier generations, and while there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this it can leave the game feeling like it is 20 years behind the times once the nostalgia begins to wear off. The static tableaus used to tell the story are similarly interesting and impressive at first, but after nearly wearing out the “A” button on the joycon paging through seemingly endless amounts of dialogue windows I was longing for a change in scenery. Finally, while Dark Deity presents varied map layouts for its battles, the 2D format and the low-detail sprites feel constrained and dated when coming from games where the player can see details about an enemy through the visual representation of the gear they are carrying.

The single largest flaw that can be found with Dark Deity is one that will only annoy players once - the complete lack of a tutorial or other explanation of game systems and mechanics. Like most RPGs, Dark Deity has information sheets for each character, showing a myriad of stats for each one. Unfortunately, these stats are completely unexplained within the game, leaving it for the player to puzzle out what stats influence particular behaviors or may be more desirable for particular characters. For a game that casts the player’s starting characters as students at a military academy, it seems like a major oversight to not have offered them an optional “refresher class” or similar excuse to run through at least the basic systems before throwing the player straight into their first team tactical combat with no idea of the controls.


A modern homage to the tile-based TRPG’s of the late 1990’s, Dark Deity will land solidly as a nostalgia hit with older gamers who grew up playing these games. Unfortunately, two decades of progress in game design have left elements of this format feeling dated and behind the times.

With excessive reliance on static tableaus behind endless text dialogue windows, limited visual information during player-controlled battle segments and a lack of any tutorial or introduction to the game’s mechanics, Dark Deity simply doesn’t stack up favorably against other modern offerings.

Score: 7 / 10