My last playdate was 4 days ago, so this doesn't include your update from 2 days ago...if it's a minor change, it shouldn't affect the review XD Anyway...
If you don't read any further, I implore you to do this one thing:
Make more levels.
You've spent so long on trying to get the intro level "right", and it's hindering fleshing out the game. Building and trying out a variety of levels will help figure out what really clicks and what doesn't.
OK, that's off my chest. Now to comment on the latest demo:
Would it be reasonable to say RotA feels like it's trying to do a roguelike from a different angle? I mean this in a great way! You're trying to meld chaos/randomness and having strategy still matter. It's going to be tough to get just right (this is why testing a ton of levels is important), but you can do this!
I do like the change to the chaos meter, although I didn't know it could generate meat! (Doesn't tell the player in-game yet, unless there's a trigger for that I didn't hit)
Having the starting area caged works perfectly fine. Helps prevent wandering mistakes and it's really obvious "yo, you have to do something here".
No obvious gameplay bugs.
1. On one run, I won, but all my demons had been dead for about 5 or 10 seconds? It could have been a double KO kind of thing, which is hard to replicate.
2. Not 100% clear what constitutes a win. Do you have to destroy both the building and the boss? I think there was a time I did both, and victory wasn't triggered. But the keep guards had also seen me summon a demon, so maybe that had something to do with it? I'll have to start videoing this stuff next time to show you XD
3. Still have no idea what "Did you hear that ding?" means. If I were forced to guess, it means the keep alert level went up, but not sure. Can you make that meaning more clear?
4. If being stealthy matters when you fight the keep, it's so hard to tell. One run, I got to the keep with a maximum red !!! alert, and out poured a TON of enemies. That makes sense, because I wasn't stealthy. But a different run, I managed to get to the keep with a yellow ? alert only, and...out poured a TON of enemies. If there were fewer guards in the stealthier run, I couldn't tell the difference.
5. Is there a way to do a regular jump with the jump shoes instead of the long bouncy jump? There were times all I wanted was a quick hop (to grab food before demons could), and the bouncy jump was more of a hindrance than a bonus.
6. One of my runs, I got rival demons multiple times, so was stuck on 3 demons for a while. It would be kind of frustrating for a new player. Suggestion: the intro level only has a limited set of demon types, none of which will hate each other. Introduce more demons and the hate mechanic in the second level.
7a. I'm having a hard time phrasing this point, and breaking it into a few parts, so I hope it's clear enough.
It seems an important signal to the beginner is missing--how to gauge army strength. Remember that the player is just learning the game. They'll have no idea how strong the keep will be. Although it's clear one demon is stronger than one or two enemies, the newbie has no baseline to tell how many demons they "should" have before attacking the keep. This information becomes even more unclear, because the keep will vary in strength based on how stealthy they were.
A possibility would be to move the stealth mechanic to the second level. The first level will give the beginner a baseline on what a keep will look like if they stealth correctly.
7b. An "average" beginner will have about 3 summons after clearing the bottom and approaching the keep. Is this planned? Do you want the player to be confident or unconfident of their army's potential by this time?
7c. There are 2 branches to the starting area (meaning, hanging left or right to avoid fighting the keep right away). It gives an unclear signal to the beginner. Are these important areas, or are they just bonuses? Or maybe it's designed to teach how far to stay away from a keep to avoid triggering it?
In combination with point 7a, it feels like these are too many decision points to be made by a new player.
It's a fair level design, but not so suited for a tutorial level IMO. There's already enough being taught without giving the player the additional burden of trying to figure out if tucked-away areas are optional. So kind of like point 6, it feels some mechanics/ideas could be introduced in a later level.
8. Final point, and this might be more due to my inexperience with the game. A design reason to have different demons is that some are better in certain situations--a layer of strategy! But there are things working against this. Summoning a demon is basically random for a long time, until the player learns the language. (I haven't tried to learn the language in order to emulate a beginner better). This COULD be fine if
a. The player can learn what demons are better in which situations. (In RotA, this is hard, because it's possible to summon ANY demon from the very start of the game. It makes the learning curve really tough! Most RTS campaigns unlock unit types over multiple scenarios to make things less overwhelming.)
b. Even if the player doesn't have full control of the type of demons summoned, the player has some capability to nudge the game state to play to their demons' advantages.
c. It's not important in the early scenarios to have the most suitable demons, as long as you have a lot of them.
Most demons don't seem very different in effectiveness right now. The big bug's stun/air throw might make it the most desirable? Besides that, I haven't really cared whether I got a frog, or lightning, or twin...having enough demons was way more important than the types.
I do expect you have plans to make the demon types more impactful beyond the hate mechanic. But this ties back to the beginning point--simply making more levels, and seeing how all these things tie together. I'm eager to find out what more you have in store!
9. You may have noticed a recurring item in this feedback...all the game mechanics and units are being introduced in the tutorial level. Spreading them over multiple early levels will:
a. Reduce the chance of a beginner feeling overwhelmed.
b. Allow the player to digest and master the mechanics.
c. Give the player something to look forward to in future levels. This could also be enhanced by dialog. eg, The narrator mentions in the tutorial he only picked up a few demon words at first (so he could only summon a couple demon types). This would feed into the player's anticipation that there's more awesome stuff later.
Anyway, that was a mouthful. I hope I didn't come across as harsh/too negative, or telling you that I know better than you how to achieve your vision. I'm positive you have additional thoughts and plans, and I'll be around to watch them come to fruition!