King's Bounty Unit Analysis part 5: Demons



To save some space, here's the effects of the Demon Ability:

50% Fire resistance. Fights in volcanic terrain increase Defense by 50%, while fights in snowy terrain decrease Defense by 50%. Assorted Spell immunities.

'Assorted Spell immunities' can be mostly summarized as 'they're not properly treated as living units but they're also not undead'. You can't Heal them (Neither as healing nor as an attack, though curiously you can Resurrect them),Life Light does nothing to them, and several of the 'holy' benefits you can't apply to Undead can't be applied to Demons either. For the most part, these immunities are actually a disadvantage, albeit generally not as harsh of one as Undead Spell interactions. A notable exception is that they're immune to Plague -it can't ever infect them, no matter what. This is a very unusual quality, only shared with the Cyclops.

They're also collectively immune to necromancy. There's a decent number of non-Demon units you can't animate as Undead, but Demons are a bit jarring since most of them are humanoid and more or less all the other units immune to necromancy are either non-humanoid (eg Devilfish, both Beholders) or are Cyclops. (Inorganic) It's an interesting choice, but not very intuitive.

Racial Morale-wise, while Demons offend basically everybody else, they don't care themselves. If you want to include some Druids in your Demon army, the Druids will be unhappy but the Demons won't care. On the flipside, Demons actually lack a mono-species Morale bonus. As such, if you're not hanging out with Xeona or using gear that incentivizes leaning heavily on Demons, there's really no reason to run a mono-Demon army. Mix in a quality Neutral or two, or some Undead -Undead and Demons have some natural synergies anyway.


Demon
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 600
Leadership: 250
Attack/Defense: 33 / 33
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 200
Damage: 22-28 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 50% Fire
Talents: Running Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Bloody Pentagram (Charge: 1. Creates a 7-tile circle that lasts for 2 turns, in which all friendly units below Level 5 gain +2 to Morale and Initiative. This can be targeted on any normally-passable tile on the field. Does not end the Demon's turn), Summon Demons (Charge: 1. Summons to an adjacent tile a stack of Demon units chosen from any of choices below Level 5. The Leadership of the new stack will be 50-75 per head in the summoning stack. The units are not under Hero control, behaving autonomously)
Abilities: Demon, Furious (Never 'runs out' of retaliations), Domination (+50% damage against units that are Levels 1-3)

Your first experience with Demons is likely to be through the test Zerock imposes on you before he's willing to do Rage stuff for you, and in that context they act as a nasty surprise miniboss. It's actually possible to get lucky and have a very small number purchasable extremely early in the game, though it's not typical.

In any event, Demons are shockingly durable. There's units with better Leadership-to-Health rates, there's units with more Health per head, but Demons are an unusual intersection of being moderately high Leadership, having a good Leadership-to-Health rate, and even having a fairly high Defense score, not to mention their two resists. This makes them quite effective at taking advantage of Furious -unlike the Griffins I'm going to be covering later- and also makes them problematic to nuke down before they can start using their Talents. They're also one of a handful of 3-Speed Running melee in the game, so it's extremely difficult to stop them from going where they want to go. Domination is thematically cool -and contributes to their appearance in the Zerock fight making for a nasty miniboss fight, as you are very likely to have nothing they don't get the Domination bonus against.

The Summon Demons Talent really can summon anything short of Archdemons, too. It seems to usually go for lower-Level Demons, but you can even occasionally have Demons summoning Demons that can potentially summon more Demons, it's just rare. It's generally not a big problem when it happens, since the stack being summoned will be much smaller than the original stack and in turn summon something even smaller, thankfully.

... unless, of course, you've gone up against a very large battlegroup and were operating near the edge of your abilities. Then it can totally matter.

Also note that whatever units are summoned in this way don't leave behind a corpse when the stack is finished off. This isn't super-important right now, 

As player units, Demons are interesting, but less appealing. The fact that their summons are out of your control can mess up your plans, especially since Imps/Scoffer Imps hurl fireballs with no regard for friendly fire while Demonesses are fond of using Infernal Exchange, which can botch your attempts to keep a melee unit out of reach of the enemy for a half-turn or the like. Other Demons-the-unit and Cerberi are the only 'safe' units they can summon. (Archdemons would be fantastic, but they're not an option) Also annoying is that optimal usage of Demons involves taking casualties, and they're immune to Resurrection. (And no, you can't Sacrifice their summons to bolster them) You probably have Reserves long before you can buy Demons, so the player-inconvenience aspect can be reduced by just stuffing a bunch of extra Demons into a Reserves slot, but it's still not ideal.

They're not bad as player units, just not nearly as useful to use as they are frustrating to face.

Demons are also in an odd position with regard to buff Spells: a lot of the best ones can't be applied to Demons-the-species. No Divine Armor, no Bless... this contributes to Demons-the-unit being a bit odd to use, as what you'd most want to do is slap Divine Armor on them before throwing them in the fray, and it's just not an option. You can make do with Stone Skin and Magic Spring, but they're less consistent/impressive than Divine Armor. They're good enough it's not like they need the support, but the only reason I'm not saying you'd rather use some other unit that can take advantage is because the only competition for Furious is Griffins, which are overall a lot worse at the tank-and-retaliate role, Divine Armor or no.

Bloody Pentagram is a bit of a reversal, since AI units ignore Morale and the AI is really bad at placing Bloody Pentagrams intelligently. Unfortunately, while it's a nice effect, it's not a gamechanger, generally speaking, just a small way for the Demon to contribute before it's made contact with the enemy.

Ultimately, I'd like Demons as a player unit a lot more if their summons were under player control. I'm not even sure why they aren't. It's consistent with Demon Portal's behavior, but the vast majority of ways to generate units in combat leave you in control of the units. I suspect thematic intentions -a 'demons are tricksy creatures who will do what they want and use loopholes and so on to bypass the spirit of contracts' sort of thing- but in practice it's just this weird, annoying effect that's not even necessarily a limiting factor on their utility and effectiveness.

Still, I overall like how Demons are designed in game terms, and aesthetically they're the first time I've seen a game make the goatmandemon look work as a menacing figure. Diablo II's goatmendemons were comedic -even before their dialogue- while the Doom series has never really had any design terribly evocative of goats (Even though that seems to be the intention in some cases), both of which are fairly representative of what usually happens when I see a stab made at goatmandemon: it's either comedic instead of menacing or the goat influence is so minor I'm often only sure it's the intent because there's some explicit statement to that effect. So it's fairly impressive that The Legend pulls it off!


Cerberus
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 210
Leadership: 90
Attack/Defense: 18 / 18
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 4
Health: 90
Damage: 8-12 Physical
Resistances: 50% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Demon, Three-headed (In addition to the primary target, melee attacks strike at the tiles to the side. No risk of friendly fire)

Cerberi are the only Demon unit in The Legend I consider actively underwhelming. They're actually, in raw terms, quite impressive -good Health for their Leadership, high Initiative, one of the better Speeds of the game, free Fire resistance, and of course the Three-headed trait is nice- but they're useless until they've closed to melee, their high Speed is deceptive (frequently 2-Speed Running units will get to melee at the same time as a Cerberus, barring eg Trap), and Three-headed is only really useful if they're getting into a scuffle with a pile of units. Which... among other points, if you're getting maximum benefit from Three-headed part of what's going on is that they're getting pounded by enemy melee three times a turn (Plus likely the retaliation they're triggering!) of which only one of those do they get to respond to. As such, Cerberi have a bit of a self-defeating dynamic, whereby their best situation is still a bad one -overall I'd rather have a Demon-the-unit, which can contribute before it gets into melee, actually has equal ground-consuming ability over two turns (3 Speed+Running means they'll cover 8 tiles in the first two turns, just like Cerberi), and Furious produces a fairly similar dynamic for 'good at fighting swarms' except Furious doesn't require precise placement, doesn't lose some of its value just because the guy who attacked you first wasn't the one in the middle, etc.

And unfortunately there's not a lot in the way of supporting tools to bias things in favor of Cerberi, not yet. A Skill that boosted the number of retaliations units get would help tilt things in their favor... and such a Skill exists in Armored Princess! Not The Legend. (Also, that Skill is actually only in Champion of the Arena. And doesn't apply to Cerberi...)

It's kind of a weird flaw, and completely understandable. Prior to writing this post, I honestly didn't know why I was so underwhelmed by Cerberi, because they seem like they have a unique advantage -only Phoenix have an Ability equivalent to Three-headed, and they're summon-only- and it hadn't occurred to me before that game mechanics mean Furious ends up being rather like Three-headed+ in practice. If I hadn't sat down to think it out explicitly, I would never have thought that the issue the Cerberus has is that it's basically a bad Demon. It's not at all intuitive, and yet it's true.

They also suffer from Imps existing, which are another 4 Speed Demon melee unit that can inflict splash damage, only Imps can attack at range and have No Retaliation...

So... I'm not going to talk about strategy regarding Cerberi. Basically anything that works well on Demons-the-unit or Imps probably works just as well on Cerberi, other than the caveat that you don't need to try to shut off their (non-existent) Talents. They're easier to Blind than Demons, for example...

Demoness
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 400
Leadership: 160
Attack/Defense: 26 / 24
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 2
Health: 80
Damage: 10-18 Physical
Resistances: 50% Fire
Talents: Distant Attack (Reload: 1. Attacks an enemy 1 tile apart through a free space for 10-18 Physical damage, with no retaliation), Charm (Reload: 2. Attempts to take control of an enemy male humanoid troop, which can be adjacent or one tile away. If the target stack is 128 Leadership per Demoness or less, the attempt will succeed, lasting for 2 turns. If they're above that but otherwise valid, the Demoness instead does 10-18 Physical damage to the target with no chance for retaliation. Units immune to mental effects can't be targeted), Infernal Exchange (Reload: 3. Swaps the positions of any two units)
Abilities: Demon, Beauty (30% chance to evade attacks from male humanoids)

It's worth commentary that Beauty and Charm don't fully overlap. You can't Charm Archmages due to their immunity to mental effects, but a Demoness still has a chance of dodging their attacks anyway. I'm not sure, for example, whether Archdemons are actually considered to be male humanoids for Beauty's purposes. You can't target them with Charm, but that may be the game basically going 'yeah, they'd just instantly purge the charm, let's not even go there'.

Infernal Exchange is worth noting as being one of those Talents that's treated like a Spell: you can't affect Black Dragons with it. This isn't huge, but it does mean that for instance a Mage run can't use Demonesses with a Soaring unit to swap a Black Dragon onto their powerful Traps.


Demonesses as an enemy unit are tremendously frustrating. They're very fond of swapping one of your fragile ranged units with a beefy melee ally of theirs, and since ranged-heavy forces tend to be the smart way to play for the player, the net result will often be that you've got a melee unit on top of most of your other fragile ranged attackers, while the swapped ranged unit is surrounded and in very obvious trouble. There's basically no easy way to handle this other than locking down or killing the Demonesses, and there's an aggravating tendency for enemy Demonesses to be split into two stacks. In conjunction with their impressive Initiative and the fact that they first start showing up in Kordar ie where the game is starting to ramp up the size of battlegroups you're expected to beat, it requires fairly specific setups to completely prevent their shenanigans. At minimum, you need a reasonably high Initiative unit and Distortion Magic 3 so you can mass-cast Magic Shackles, which is more demanding than it might sound, or a Necromancer to lock one down while you use the Spell version on the other. (Luckily, Necromancers go before Demonesses by default)

Even though they're actually fairly fragile units -their Health is 50% of their Leadership- a Mage struggles to actually nuke them down, thanks to Demonic Fire resistance; the overall best damage spells in the game are Fire damage, by quite a margin. And unfortunately the point at which they start showing up is well past the point where Rage's damage output is impressive, so you're not going to Evil Shoal them out of existence before they move...

As player units, they're more useful for Charm, generally speaking. In particular, it's one of the best ways to 'cheat' with Sacrifice: Charm an enemy, Sacrifice them to bolster your own numbers. Tada! You've used Sacrifice without any, you know, sacrifice. You can use Hypnosis for the same result, of course, but having to cast a Spell to open up the ability to Sacrifice an enemy unit is clunky, Hypnosis has Level limits (Charm does not), and Hypnosis is scaled to your Leadership explicitly while Demonesses using Charm is also scaled to your Leadership, though implicitly. Note in particular that Level 3 Hypnosis is using 80% of your Leadership... which is the effectiveness of Charm on Demonesses, in terms of how much Leadership they can Charm for their Leadership. There's still specific units you can use Hypnosis on but not Charm -the various ordinary animals, for example- but overall Charm is actually a much more effective way of pulling off this Sacrifice trick than Hypnosis is.

The other nice thing about Demonesses is that they're very close to being functionally a No Retaliation unit, even though they technically don't have that Ability. Distant Attack reloads very fast, Charm is a free/safe attack (assuming you don't steal the unit outright, which is usually even better, and of course still doesn't involve retaliation), and Infernal Exchange, though not nearly as useful for the player as it is obnoxious on the enemy, can still be used to shunt enemy melee away from a ranged attacker of yours so they can actually do their thing, or swap a Soaring unit hanging over a trap with an enemy actually susceptible to Traps, as well as any number of more creative/reacting to the situation tricks. (eg say there's a massive enemy melee stack that's in reach of your forces, and a much smaller ranged stack way in the back. Swap them!)

About my only real complaint/criticism on a design level is that Beauty's swingy randomness is frustrating -it's not really worth trying to take advantage of it in your hands, but depending on your army composition and pure RNG it can be incredibly frustrating in enemy hands. Strictly speaking it's already cropped up with Dryads, but Demonesses bring out the frustrating elements much more strongly. For example, if a Dryad attacks on of your units... it doesn't retaliate. Period. If a Demoness attacks one of your units with its regular attack, the targeted unit will try to retaliate... and 30% of the time (In the case of male humanoids...) the Demoness functionally has a super version of No Retaliation, because they actually waste your retaliation for the turn! But then the other 70% of the time it doesn't do anything. Similarly, Dryads are a lot more practical to nuke down with Spells, and are also easier to keep 'suppressed': if a Dryad spawns Thorns, you may be able to instantly kill the Thorns before they do anything, possibly even taking the opportunity to get an attack in on the Dryads. (eg through Fire Dragon/Black Dragon fire breath, or by using Fury Attack from a Sea Dog stack, etc) In that case, the Dryad hasn't really accomplished anything important, and even if eg your Fury Attack gets dodged, it's annoying, but not an immediate problem. A Demoness dodging an attack can easily lead to them Charming a stack when they should've been too injured to do so, or Infernal Exchanging to create problems. The only strongly comparable thing Dryads can do is to Lullaby your army, which demands you be using low-level units that lack Persistence of Mind -the majority of such units are dubious in the player's hands in the first place!

Still, Demonesses are one of the most interesting melee units in the game.

... I just try not to think too hard about how their clothes are supposed to work. (Presumably: demonic magic)

Curiously, Infernal Exchange can't target Spell-immune units... nor Archdemons. The first is reasonably consistent with Infernal Exchange using Teleportation's animation and sound effects, but Archdemons is just surprising. I assume it's connected to Archdemons being teleporters.

Archdemon
Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 6000
Leadership: 1600
Attack/Defense: 52 / 52
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 9
Health: 666
Damage: 88-99 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 80% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Demon, Teleportation (All travel ignores all intervening everything), Immunity to Fire (80% Fire resistance and cannot be Burned), Restoration (Negative effects are automatically purged at the beginning of the Archdemon's turn)

For most purposes, Teleportation is indistinguishable from Flight. The two main exceptions I'm aware of (Well, in The Legend) are that it doesn't provide immunity to the Earthquake Talent on Giants and that conversely the Archdemon always travels by teleportation. This is significant when it comes to Traps: an Emerald Green Dragon told to move a couple of tiles will gladly lurch right into a Trap, triggering it. An Archdemon will still insist on vanishing and reappearing at its destination instead of bothering with this pedestrian 'walking' thing mere mortals do, bypassing the Trap.

Archdemons are also unique among Demons for leaving no corpse behind on death. They're also immune to Infernal Exchange (Probably due to Teleportation), and are immune to most mental effects by simple virtue of purging them with Restoration. The game won't actually let you even try to have a Demoness Charm them, for example (Which is actually inconvenient in terms of barring you from using it as a source of free damage or using them as Sacrifice fodder), nor allow an Evil Beholder to Mind Control them.

By default, Archdemons will win turn order. Only a handful of units share their Initiative tier, nothing beats it, and nothing equals or beats them in Speed unless you count eg Fire Dragonfly's Haste effect (Which does nothing to help with turn order), placing them at the top of the heap without external modifiers. This makes enemy Archdemons a colossal pain to nuke down before they've started tearing into your lines, and on the flipside makes them a useful unit if you want to ensure turn order advantage without being forced to run Undead backed by Zombie Rina and/or Dark Commander.

Sadly, while Archdemons make for really cool, brutal opponents that are nearly impossible to Shenanigans your way past -too high Level for most lockdown Spells to work on them, would purge them anyway, insanely fast and impossible to wall off, Fire resistances make them difficult to nuke before they move even if you got turn order advantage- they're fairly lackluster as player units, especially since the game tends to be stingy with access to them. They're one of the more fragile Level 5 units in the game, they don't have No Retaliation, they don't have any way to restore their Health on their own or undo casualties (And as Demons, healing them is difficult), and their melee damage output is actually pretty lackluster. Purging negative status effects isn't nearly as useful in the player's hands either, since the vast majority of units can't inflict status effects in the first place! And since being a Demon bars you from eg slapping Divine Armor on them, your options for minimizing their flaws are surprisingly limited, as are your options for maximizing their strengths. It's pretty disappointing.

They're gonna get better, thankfully.

Imp
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 80
Leadership: 40
Attack/Defense: 16 / 12
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 4
Health: 24
Damage: 3-6 Physical
Resistances: 50% Fire
Talents: Fireball (Charges: 2. Throws a fireball at an enemy target in the distance, doing 3-6 Fire damage to the target and all adjacent units. Like normal ranged attacks, cannot be activated if an enemy is adjacent to the Imp)
Abilities: Demon, Strike and Return (Returns to its original position after performing a melee attack), No retaliation

Note that Fireball has unlimited range,

Strike and Return can actually animate as the Imp taking a different route on its way back, but thankfully the game is nice about how it handles this: Imps can't trigger Traps on the way back, regardless of whether their animation takes them over a Trapped tile or not.

Imps are basically the Demon idea of an archer. Like with Dwarves and Orcs, Demons as a whole are really melee-oriented, but Imps are actually an interesting version of this (Where Goblins are basically just bad ranged units in general and Catapults are basically just bad Cannoneers. Dwarves are sort of wonky too, in that they're clearly meant to be melee-focused but their only good/great units are their ranged units!), in that they've only got two shots and then they're out, but then they're actually fairly competent in melee and in particular Strike and Return is like a pseudo-ranged effect in terms of letting Imps get in damage on enemy melee without ending up in their reach. (Nor do they have to worry about a retaliation)

Imps are another good example of the AI struggling to intelligently use Talents that aren't 'move and attack' Talents; AI Imps won't advance on your forces while hurling Fireballs, which is really what they ought to be doing 99% of the time. Assuming you don't drop a unit next to them or anything, what they'll actually do is hold position and hurl Fireballs for two turns, and then spend another couple of turns getting across the battlefield to start trying to fight your units in melee.

... for that matter, the AI isn't very good at taking advantage of Strike and Return...

Anyway, for the moment Imps are pretty darn good, but tend to fall a bit short of greatness. They don't have any special utility effects -as in, effects that aren't essentially pure damage- which means they're often actually one of the lower-priority enemies in a battle formation. (Unless everything else is boring melee, of course) By the same token, when used by the player they're often losing out in effectiveness compared to eg Bowmen, who can do damage at a distance but can also slow down problematic enemies to enhance the effectiveness of the rest of your forces.

It's especially problematic that their 'ranged attack' is a Talent. They can't get crits, damage enhancers usually don't effect them (Not that you can Bless Imps anyway, admittedly), etc. As such, their ranged damage is a bit deceptive, since if you compare them against eg Necromancers (Who have a 'real' ranged splash damage attack) on average Imps hurling Fireballs are a bit worse off than a direct numbers comparison would suggest.

Imps are also actually one of the lower-Level ranged attackers in the game, with no special protections against various lockdown effects. (Demonic protections don't really include warding off any lockdown effects) This is most relevant for contributing to them being lower priority as enemies -Blind, Magic Shackles, Fear, etc make it trivial to ignore them for a few turns- but it does factor into them being a little less awesome than they might first seem in your own hands, even when you're not fighting enemy Heroes. (eg they're susceptible to Dryad Lullaby, Beholder Paralyzing Ray, and Devilfish Fearing on melee, all of which are effects that the lower-Level ranged units in The Legend -Skeleton Archers and Thorn Hunters- are actually immune to!)

The latter end of things is actually going to get more pronounced in later games, too.

Still, Imps are useful enough, and if you don't yet have Tolerance 2 your options for Demon-friendly ranged units are a little limited. (2 Demon choices, 2 Undead choices, and 5 Neutral choices) Depending on how your unit sources are doing in a given run, you might not have much choice at a given moment.

One final flaw with Imps: they don't benefit from Bowman Commander. (Or any other Skill that reduces Leadership requirements) This exacerbates my prior commentary about how 'real' ranged attackers will often out-compete them in utility.

Scoffer Imp
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 120
Leadership: 60
Attack/Defense: 16 / 16
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 45
Damage: 4-7 Physical
Resistances: 50% Fire
Talents: Fireball (Charges: 2. Throws a fireball at an enemy target in the distance, doing 4-7 Fire damage to the target and all adjacent units. Like normal ranged attacks, cannot be activated if an enemy is adjacent to the Scoffer Imp), Sneer (Reload: 4. Targets a single enemy below Level 5 which hasn't moved yet and isn't immune to mental effects. The unit attempts to target the Scoffer Imp with a basic attack, ignoring all other units)
Abilities: Demon, Strike and Return (Returns to its original position after performing a melee attack), No retaliation (Enemies don't retaliate against melee attacks)

The choice between Imps and Scoffer Imps -assuming you don't just take both- is basically about Sneer vs damage and Speed. The two of them are even the same Level, which is unusual for a pair of variation units like this.

Sneer itself is a nifty Ability whose utility is a lot greater than you might first expect. It can be used to pull enemies into Traps, prevent enemies from using problematic Talents, and with some support it can make ranged units waste their entire turn: just like a regular attack, a Sneered unit can't perform a ranged attack if there's a hostile next to them. Unlike what they'd do on their own, a Sneered ranged attacker with an enemy unit adjacent will end up trying to walk to and potentially melee the Scoffer Imps, as opposed to stepping out to where they can perform a ranged attack and doing so. So just plant a unit next to a ranged enemy, and Sneer will waste their entire turn.

Of course, it doesn't work on Level 5 units or units immune to mental effects, which can be a bit limiting. It's entirely possible for a battle formation to include no units susceptible to Sneer, at which point Scoffer Imps are basically flatly worse than Imps. (They have an Initiative advantage, but this won't often be a gamechanger)

Overall though, Scoffer Imps can be treated much like Imps, but actually a little less threatening. As enemies, the only real caveat is that they really like to Sneer at units you've had Wait, which is pretty clever since usually a big motive in Waiting is that heading out toward the enemy will somehow mess up your plan.

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A non-obvious, really interesting aspect to the Demons as a whole -which to some extent overlaps with dragons, who also are most prominent toward the end of the game- is that The Legend very carefully uses them to break up cookie cutter strategies.

The quickest, easiest example: their widespread, significant Fire resistance. For a Mage, much of the game is spent slinging Fireballs to nuke armies down quickly, only really ceasing once Fire Rain displaces it as your source of mass Fire damage. There's other ways win with Spells, but nuking armies is an easy answer to so many problems. Then a Mage hits Demonis, and they find they can't just wipe out 60% of the enemy army on the first turn before any of them get a move, because their nuke Spells are primarily Fire Spells, and Demons laugh those off. So now a Mage has to pay attention to all those Spells they've been ignoring as 'why Sheep a target when I can kill it outright for less Mana?'

But it's not simply that Demons force Mages to diversify. There's tons of army-based cookie-cutter strategies Demons shake up. Ranged-heavy armies that lack real meatshields are safe, reliable armies against any vaguely reasonable encounter for much of the game... until Demonesses start swapping your painfully fragile ranged units in among the Demon forces while also dumping a nasty melee unit right on top of your ranged units you thought were nice and comfortable far away from the enemy. Not even touching on Archdemons just BAMFing right into your ranks!

Archdemons purging negative effects just closes off a lot of ways to lock down problem units and ignore them, a strategy that's worked on basically everything prior to Demonis. Your army can't really duke it out with some insanely oversized Fire Dragonfly stack, which of course will close to melee almost instantly and hit painfully hard in melee? Meh, Beholders can keep it asleep indefinitely, Blind can be used every other turn, etc. Meanwhile your army can murder the threats they can handle, and come back to the Fire Dragonflies at their leisure. Archdemons will probably move before any of your units and do damage, and even if you do get first turn, unless you can nuke them down before they move they're going to do something. And thanks to the increasing size of enemy battlegroups relative to your Leadership as you advance, that 'something' will often be pretty problematic even though their actual stats are a bit lackluster.

Imps and Scoffer Imps provide Demons with ranged fire support you can't shut down by dropping durable or disposable melee on top of them. They have more than enough Speed to get clear if somebody is adjacent, and even if they didn't they have innate No Retaliation and do the same damage at range or melee, assuming damage type doesn't matter and ignoring splash. Sneer on Scoffer Imps also interferes with Wait-based shenanigans, often forcing units out of position early, very possibly into range of dangerous melee!

Even Demons-the-unit get in on the action. They're a generic Running melee unit, like so many come before... but they have 3 Speed (Making them far less affected by eg Ice Arrows -it only costs them a third of their generic speed, not the half a unit like Ancient Bears suffers) and two Talents that let them contribute to a fight even if they never personally get in melee. If you've been leaning on disposable units (eg summons) or exceptionally durable units (eg dragons, Cyclops, Giants, Ancient Treants...) to eat a counterattack with no cost to yourself and then do a melee dogpile with other units lacking No Retaliation, Furious laughs at your 'strategy', too.

Plus, Demons-the-unit means any of these other threats can pop in, throwing wrenches in your plans that hinged around how the enemy army lacked Demonesses or whatever.

About the only unit that doesn't support this busting of cookie-cutter strategies is Cerberi, who... can punish swarming tactics? I guess? (They get better in later games)

It's a really nifty, clever, subtle way of forcing the player to stop playing boringly, and unlike so many games that try to break up cookie-cutter strategies in the late game, Demons aren't even really super-units. Arguably they lean below-average, in fact! It's nice, because super-units being used to break up cookie-cutter strategies can, in a context like The Legend's, just encourage a different kind of repetitive, boring gameplay, wherein the player just throws a core set of super-units at the exact same set of super-units, because nothing else is meaningfully competitive with the super-units.

It's probably the single most impressive thing The Legend does, and there's a lot of good things about it.

Next time, we talk about the Undead.

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