Demon Gaze Review
Handheld gaming systems have found no shortage of dungeon crawler RPGs as of late. With Conception II now available, Mind Zero releasing earlier in the week, and more games to look forward to such as Persona Q, there are soon to be several titles to choose from. Demon Gaze is a first person dungeon crawler, developed by Kadokawa Games, which shares some similarities to Etrian Odyssey. Among all these titles, is Demon Gaze worth selecting from the group?
The game begins in the Dragon Princess Inn, where the main player character mysteriously wakes up. This place is a home base of sorts where the majority of the game’s characters will hang out at all times, where you can buy items and equipment, and where most of the storyline takes place. Each NPC here has a different role, from offering quests, storing items, or selling equipment. You can form a party with any character types of your choosing from several classes and races, and can even adjust their appearance and name. Initially you can only start with 2 party members and you can unlock more as you gain money to rent out rooms.
Early on, your character learns that he has the power to subdue powerful demons and to allow them to aid you against the swarms of monsters that now inhabit the world. From the Inn, you take a party to various ‘dungeons’ in the world to find ten of these demons to convert to your side. This is essentially the premise for the entire narrative of the game, as well as the primary goal for all the crawling around you’ll find yourself undertaking. While there are other plot elements that make their way into the story at times, it’s largely uninteresting, throwaway, and in the background.
What is certainly not in the background is the plentiful ‘fanservice’ you can expect to find in Demon Gaze - from a preteen-looking mortician who is too aloof to remember to put on clothes all the time to a catgirl-maid who loves to smell underwear. At one point one girl asks the player to touch her in places because…….I don’t even know. Those with low tolerance for these kinds of hijinks should definitely be aware that game is not subtle at all when it comes to things such as these. It definitely irritated me on more than one occasion.
As for the actual dungeon-crawling aspect of this dungeon crawler, you move around a grid step-by-step with a first person viewpoint. In these dungeons you can find items lying around, switches to open paths and doors, and of course enemies to battle. There are both random encounters and enemy icons on the map that will initiate encounters as well.
Battles are also in first person, and your party can be arranged into a front and back row. Each class has different equipment types they are allowed to wield, as well as special abilities that can be used to deal damage or bolster your team. These aspects of the combat are fairly typical and don’t really need any more explanation than that. The basic set up is satisfactory and allows for a fair bit of customization in how you pick classes and roles to build your team. However, once you pick a team, you'll probably want to stick with it for the long haul.
The most unique aspect of Demon Gaze’s battle system is how you can use one of your captured demons as a tertiary party member. Of the ten demons you can acquire during the game, you can bring up to three (depending on what point of the game you find yourself in) to accompany you in battle. Simply having certain demons will affect stats passively – for example, having the demon Mars in your party will boost attack power without you having to do anything else. However each demon can also participate in the battle, separate from your character party. The demons will act on their own, with their own HP pool as well as an attached Demon Gauge. Some of these creatures are useful for big hits, some are better at tanking and diverting damage from your character team. Each Demon will also have a handful of abilities that can be used at the will of the Demon Gazer. However, using Demons will drain their attached Demon Gauge, and if it falls to zero they will go berserk and start attacking your own party. The bonuses given by the demons and their general attack patterns directly impact the course of battle, so at times strategizing which demons to bring out and when is crucial to succeeding, especially in the more difficult boss battles.
In the dungeons, you are tasked to close portals scattered around in order to ultimately get to the demon you are looking for. This is another primary aspect of the game, which is how you obtain the vast majority of your equipment. While you can buy some gear from a shop back at the Dragon Princess Inn, oftentimes it’s far too pricey to be useful. Instead, you can use ‘gems’ obtained from enemies to place on portals to obtain specific types of equipment you are looking for. For example, if you need new swords for your samurai character - you can find a portal, place some Katana Gems on it to initiate a battle, and once the battle is finished you’ll be rewarded with some new katana to use, hopefully good ones. These portals are abundantly found in every dungeon of the game. Keeping track of your equipment and gems – making sure everyone’s gear is up to snuff – is always something to pay attention to. As your equipment treasures are randomized, sometimes it’s up to luck when you’ll get excellent gear or subpar gear.
That’s about it for the main systems of the game. The last thing to say here is that Demon Gaze does not pull punches at times. Trying to brute force your way past every enemy with relentless attacking is going to get you killed sooner than you think, even on the easier difficulty modes. A few boss monsters require not only a smart battle strategy but some pre-battle set up to conquer effectively. In addition, a few dungeons in the game are accompanied by a significant boost in difficulty, where you might find yourself barely squeaking past regular encounters. While these tricky moments were sometimes frustrating, in the end these moments can be appreciated as they force the player to understand the ins and outs of the battle system. Every portal in the game can be used as a savepoint, so there isn't too much to worry about if you get overwhlemed. Ultimately the difficulty is very fair.
There are some ways to make things easier on yourself - check out our Tips and Tricks feature for some tidbits here (hint: Paladins are fantastic).
As with some dungeon crawlers, you can find yourself spending a lot of time exploring and fighting battles without too much to look at other than similar looking rooms and many monsters you fight again and again and again. Visuals aren't great and the battle music did nothing for me, and there isn't much substance to keep you going at times. Sometimes that just comes with the territory, so be aware that sometimes you’ll feel the ‘crawl’ in dungeon crawler as you approach the later areas of the game. The game is mostly battling monsters after monsters, and unfortunately since your tasks throughout the game don't change much from start to finish, playing can feel tedious and dragged out. Once you get a hang of things a few hours in, there's isnt much else to find in the game other than getting stronger equipment and higher stats to fight stronger monsters.
In the end, Demon Gaze has some interesting dungeon-crawling ideas mixed in with eyeroll-worthy fanservice, a forgettable narrative, annoying soundtrack, and some displeasing artwork. If dungeon crawlers are something you can’t get enough of, Demon Gaze is probably a game you can enjoy. Otherwise it’s a little more difficult to recommend. Some of the ideas behind demons and equipment were interesting, but they can’t hold up the rest of the game on their own.