Demos are always a welcome, crucial step in researching a purchase. They can also be fun games in themselves, whether you’re a fan hungry for a taste of an upcoming title, or a starving student who just wants to nibble at some gameplay before you dig out your wallet. Properly made, demos are excellent for grabbing players’ attention, then getting them hooked. The flipside is that badly put together demos can expose flaws in a game’s mechanics, give away too much of its substance, or misrepresent its actual quality.
A good demo should be all about giving players a feel for the mechanics, perhaps while playing the role of a prequel to the coming adventure.
When you have fans as voracious as those of the Final Fantasy franchise, you want to give them something that they can really delve into. It’s not about hooking them—their loyalty to the series, its worlds, and its creators is already more than enough to bring them to the table. Instead, it’s nicer to reward them for that anticipation.
Bravely Default is a smart reinvention of a classic RPG system; it gives standard genre battles a modern twist by implementing an open job system that offers players freedom to build their team of adventurers and battle with them in their own way. Bravely Default is a great game with a demo that gives players a very good sense of the real product, while remaining distinct in a few ways. Those looking to play around with the game’s mechanics early on won’t be disappointed, as the demo lets you sample characters’ jobs and abilities. You can also earn rewards within the demo to bring into the full game, always a great incentive for those who have already set their sights on a title.
The Stanley Parable
Few games as narrative-driven as The Stanley Parable ever receive the demo treatment, and those that do usually offer only a short introductory section or a single unimportant scene from midway through. A good demo should act as a prologue, getting players interested and ready, and in this respect, The Stanley Parable shines. It is a first-person game in which the player simply acts as they wish while their actions are dynamically narrated. It may seem unambitious compared to its big-budget grandfather, Half-Life 2 (from which the game was originally modded). However, it is an incredibly successful player-driven story in its own right, both insightful and fun. By billing itself as a demo, when it is actually distinct from the game it represents, it showcases the larger work in a refreshingly overt and honest way. Nothing is spoiled or made redundant; only the true greatness of the experience shines through.