As the game story progresses beyond Volume I there is more interaction with the monsters, the occasional appearance of a Non-Player Character (NPC) and a broader picture of the environs of the Mines and City of Dejenol emerges.
The game is played with characters whose attributes have been determined by the player and with the aim of making your character or characters stronger, more capable and able to survive in the rich environment that will progressively unfold. In both single player (SP) and multiplayer (MP) you can explore the dungeon in a group of up to four characters. In SP these characters are all created by you and you have complete control of them. In MP, you can only play one character at a time, and must join with other on-line players in order to make a party. Of course you can also choose to play with only one character, but a party has a greater chance of surviving the many perils that lie in the dungeon and beyond.
There are 9 different humanoid species which you may select for your character. Think Human, Elf, Dwarf, Giant ... you get the idea! Your choice determines how long you live, your basic characteristics (some are faster/stronger/smarter than others), your starting resistances to any special forms of attack (such as poison or acid), what alignment you can be (Good, Neutral or Evil), and which "Guilds" you can join. A Guild is an organization dedicated to a profession ... but all characters start out as an 'Artisan' - a "Jack of all trades and master of none".
There are 12 guilds in Demise, and your standing in these guilds represents how powerful your character is. Some Guilds only accept certain species, and some will not admit certain alignments, so think carefully about making these choices.
Guilds represent a way of life, and gaining levels as a member of each Guild you choose increases the skills your character has related to that particular Guild. The Warriors' Guild teaches characters how to fight, the Thieves Guild teaches characters to open chests without setting off traps, and the Sorceror's Guild teaches characters how to cast powerful spells at enemies. In Ascension, a character can be anywhere from level 1 to level 1499 in a Guild to which they belong, with a level 1 character being a wimpy NOOB, and a level 1499 character being extremely knowledgeable and powerful in the ways of the Guild ( and perhaps a PITA on the forums ;-) ).
A character may be a member of more than one Guild at a time, but they can only learn (gain experience) from one guild at a time, and may switch their "active" Guild at any time. However, since Guilds represent a way of life, certain Guilds are forbidden to use some types of weapons, armour or other items. The Sorceror's Guild will not allow their member to swing a huge sword at his enemies as he or she may as a member of the Warrior's Guild, but similarly, when actively enrolled in the Warrior's Guild, he or she may not be able to use that powerful magic item that was 'won' in the last battle.
The original dungeon in Demise was limited to a little over 30 dungeon levels. In each of these levels there are multiple areas or rooms, which are in turn mapped to square cells (think of each cell as a 10' x 10' area or 9 square metres). Note that the original dungeon was limited to 45 by 45 cells on each level. Ascension 'includes' the original dungeon and game of course, but has more than doubled the area that may be explored with the addition of access to the regions beyond and further below. Ascension levels may be up to 90x90 in area.
An area or room may (and usually does) contain monsters that are increasingly more treacherous the deeper you travel in the original dungeon or the further 'abroad' you travel in the new regions. Monsters can come in up to four groups. Each monster in a group is of the same type, but there may be four groups of different types of monster. There could be four groups of slaves in a room, OR there could be a group of 2 slavers, a group of 12 slaves, a giant centipede, and two black bears in a room. If they delight in killing or think the characters have something useful or valuable on them, monsters will likely be hostile, but if the character or party look powerful, they might be warily peaced and possibly even run away.
Every time a character damages or kills a monsters he or she gains experience. If a character gains enough experience, and are able to afford the fee, a level may be gained in their current guild, making them more powerful, and more likely to survive the dungeon. When a character defeats a monster they may also find some gold, possibly an item and perhaps even a treasure chest. As the characters grow more powerful, they can defeat stronger monsters, who will have more gold and better items. The characters may also come across books of magic, which they can give to the magic using Guilds (who will pay them well), to allow research into powerful spells. Characters can then learn these spells, provided they are a high enough level.
Eventually, after many, many hours, the characters may become powerful enough to face any monster in the dungeon, so you might consider then, that you have beaten the game. Other players might consider that it is time to play a new character, a different race, or a member of different guilds, which offer different skills to the characters, and might repeat the process over and over and over ... of course you could always pay heed to those in the City who may have Missions or Quests, after all, the game does have a storyline that you may be well rewarded by following!
But, you don't need to go overboard - and remember you have different SP & MP characters, just because your single player party can beat the strongest monster in the dungeon, what's to say there aren't players or parties in MP that can do it without raising a sweat?
If you HAVEN'T played the game - what on earth are you waiting for? Check it out now!
(Revised in February 2013 by Decklin - The Twisted Dwarf)