Demeo is the closest thing to playing D&D in an Oculus Quest
A new tabletop VR game makes me wonder what the future of board games could be.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
For the past year, I've been playing D&D every weekend with a bunch of kids and another dad who is the DM (or Dungeon Master). We use Roll20, a remote-play website where we chat in windows, move characters around a map, and do a pretty good job projecting our imaginations.
Virtual reality seems like a match made in heaven for tabletop role-playing. I don't use Tabletop Simulator, which has a VR mode on PCs. But a new multiplayer game called Demeo, which I played on an Oculus Quest 2, does the next best thing to capturing a role-playing/board gaming feel in a headset.
I played a session of Demeo with three people from Resolution Games, getting a sense of how the game's first campaign works. Demeo is almost like a game-in-a-box: There are a series of dungeon maps that figures move through, discovering treasure, fighting monsters, casting spells. Characters are moved by picking them up. The players hover over the 3D play area, represented by glasses and floating hands. The world can be made larger and smaller by pinching and zooming my hands: I float far above the board, and then dive down and let myself stand next to my figure as the walls climb above me.
My floating hands end up being pretty clever interfaces -- player turns are shown around the wristband like a bracelet, with indicators for who goes next. Turning either hand brings up action cards that can cast spells or affect gameplay. Cards and turn-based combat are how the game flows, but one nice part is it's all truly cooperative. Finding treasure or killing monsters distributes the rewards evenly to everyone. The goal is to survive together.
If anyone needs reference guides, a manual for the campaign (which looks like a classic D&D book) can be opened up for everyone to glance at. It's a fun touch. And through everything, there's audio chat. It gave me a lot of my D&D vibes.
Demeo's total campaign is designed to last several hours, but the developers expect players to die frequently at first. The maps remain the same each time, but creature and treasure locations get shuffled. It's a little bit roguelike. Game saves aren't currently available for multiplayer, but that would be nice. Right now the game is VR-only via the Oculus Quest and Steam VR, but Resolution Games is releasing a PC non-VR version in the next few months that will cross-play with VR (plus a Rift version).
A second campaign (with another cool-looking D&D-like cover) is coming in the summer as a free expansion. I don't know how much replay value the game truly offers, but the design of Demeo is pretty brilliant. It basically feels like an adaptation of one of my favorite board games that doesn't exist.