Given that I am on an extensive blogging break this summer due to suffering from crippling writers block and studying for the upcoming exams this fall – I thought I would at least return long enough to compose a post or two starting with reviewing a few games I cleared from my list last month ago. One of which is Demon Gaze, an 1st person dungeon crawling RPG that I had being curious about and probably would of never played if I waited any later.
Title: Demon Gaze
Genre: Dungeon Cralwer, RPG
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Length: 35-40+ Hrs
Over the past few years, the dungeon crawling genre hasn’t been one to gain or let alone see too many prevalent moments as it once had it in the west. Hallmarked by a repetitive nature, erratic difficulty, and fragmented story progression there not too many reasons for creators tread on such ground that actually was so masterfully done before by forebearer series such as: Wizardry, Elder Scrolls, and somewhat recently Legend of Grimrock. Of course, where the genre is old news in the west – in the east and more specifically Japan, it is very much alive and flourishing with such offerings like: Etrian Odyssey and Class of Heroes cropping up often. Demon Gaze is no exception in that it manages to bring a few new interesting ideas to the table, however just about all it seems do with completely forgetting to make the rest as engaging.
The gist of the story puts the player into the shoes of a character named Oz (although, you can name him and design him anyway you wish) that awakes in the world Mislid with no recollection of much. After a run-in with a demon he learns of his abilities as a “Demon Gazer”, those that posses the power of a magic eye capable of controlling demons and such an ability he puts to use in journey in his quest to uncover the secrets of Mislid and himself. However, with no other place to stay, Oz is giving to residence (by paying rent) in the Dragon Princess inn, owned by the beautiful, yet thrifty Fran Pendor along with other colorful tenants that call it home. By large, the narrative of Demon Gaze isn’t the greatest and easily forgettable, albeit more than enough to contend with your interest – when it isn’t leaning too much into fanservice. Sadly, while the series does provide enough to keep interesting in the first few hours, it really doesn’t pickup again until near the end, in which the moment is completely short-lived and everything comes to a resolution. Depending on your playstyle and setup, it is a fairly medium-sized experience time wise with the main scenario spanning into 35-40+ hours and post game material an additional 10-20 hours.
As the central hub of operations, the inn has many functions: buying weapons and items, taking up quest, storing extra loot from dungeons, see story related events as you progress, and more importantly, putting together a team of adventures. Like with most crawlers, you are free to create own squad composed of many races to choose from such as: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Migamy, and Ney – as well as their classes such as: Fighter, Paladin, Samurai, Healer, Wizard, and Assassin. Some races are adept at some professions more than others (I.E Dwarfs make nice fighters while Migamy better healers) and reflected in their base stats. However, if you think you are just going to create a full team right off the bat…well you are not. In addition to requiring a fee to be created, to add them to your party your going to have to rent rooms for them that are not cheaper curiosity of Fran. The price doubles for each characters room you purchase, so buy the time you ready for your fifth member, depending on your exploration and money management skills, you might be close to coming up with the cash. In any event, you can still create them, but Fran will only be able to hold three of them in reserves. So how do make more money? Looting Dungeons, of course and something that you will be doing throughout the games entirety.
In classic crawler fashion, you navigate the various dungeons of Mislid in first person as you hunt for treasures both hidden and visible, struggle with environmental hazards unique to each area, and battle a variety of monsters. Mapping the area is akin to Etrian Odyssey, auto-mapping for each step you take, but unlike Odyssey, you don’t have cool tools to point out adventure hazards, yet it does come with a message system (a la Dark Souls style) where other players can leave behind helpful tips or often times, spiteful tricks/archaic chatter. The actual “dungeon crawling” might seem uninvolved to a degree, but does require a fair amount of participation, since their often times hidden, traversable pathways that can only be found by kicking walls – some of which that give no indication of being fake other than a faint glow, if lucky. It is nice touch to an otherwise standard experience of fighting monsters and collecting loot, but sometimes can become a chore of its own, since most pathways are hard to locate without interacting with every nook and cranny – or might seem near impossible to locate at times. The game does also come with a neat auto travel feature that lets you plot a course and the game will move the player to that area tile-by-tile, although you most likely won’t be using it all that much – unless it is an area you been to before.
Combat is a turn based affair, so it doesn’t stray too much from tradition, yet whether you are a newbie or harden veteran, Demon Gaze isn’t afraid to show its sadistic side, in the guise of making one battle fairly easy and the next tough as nails as it pits you against juggernaut enemies to hard for you too handle, despite the ability to toggle the difficulty level. It does make the game slightly alarming for players to be ready for almost anything, but by same token most harrowing surprises can be dealt with by having a sufficiently equipped party and most battles are fairly underwhelming. Of course, as unapologetic as the game can get, it does a softer side when it comes to items, with drops in the game being fairly bountiful and the demon circle system, makes it possible to get some for free…providing you have gems that is. Basically, your main goal of any dungeon visit for the first time is to defeat each areas boss and sealing circles is the way to do that and to do that, you need gems, special items that you either purchase or find in encounters. Each gem represents a specific item type and by placing it on a demon circle, if you beat the enemy that appears, you get an item. So place a katana on a seal and you might get a very rare weapon for your samurai or bow gem nets you nice and expensive bow for archers. There is risk and reward system to this, since higher-end gems invoke stronger enemies, but worth the payoff if you pull it off. Once the circle has been sealed, you will be able to use it as save point and will have to move on to others – yet you can still use seal to get items on subsequent visits. If you manage to seal all giving circles in that area, you will then face the area boss and winning against them allows you to use their powers and abilities in combat. As one of the series highlights, boss demons are sort of an double edge sword in combat if they happen to run out of command turns, they will rage and turn against your party. With each demon having different abilities that consume a set amount of command turns and able to bring to three in battle (once you reach a certain level), they do tend to become intricate pieces in future boss battles and can either can mean the difference between winning a losing battle or shifting victory to utter defeat.
Once you finally return from long session of demon busting, Fran awaits at the entrance of the inn with open arms wanting you pay up rent for each time you go out and return. Paying Fran your frequent dues isn’t too terrible as along as you sell off your useless items and fairly competent with money management, but if you are bad steward with cash and not able to foot the bill, she will slap you with an IOU as a penalty, that makes the rate of payment double. Of course, paying on time, she will reward you ever so often with cash or useful items, so it pays to pay on time. When are not taking on optional quest, hunting down bosses, or scrapping together money – you most likely be in at the inn interacting with the other residences as you learn of their personalities and backgrounds. Most you will come to like for their little quirks or downright find annoying, especially when it comes to the juvenile diagloue some will spew for the sake of comedy. There is the item shopkeeping elf Lezerm with his ridiculous pranks, the weapon shopkeeper Cassel that usually angered by said pranks, Prometh, who lives in the basement and goes around the inn half-naked without a second thought, and the Pinay, the Ney maid who has an unhealthy infatuation with Fran. While the game does offer both Japanese and English voice overs, I have to say that I find the English is just good as the original and just matter of picking your poison .The soundtrack for the game should be real treat for Vocaloid fans, with a majority of the vocal pieces used in battle tracks and elsewhere. It does time to get use to, if you unfamiliar with it, yet in the end, lends itself to a variety of nice pieces. The graphics for Demon Gaze is somewhat bare, utilizing static images that seem like it belongs back in 80’s, but the art style does seem to make for that failing as you venture across the many dungeon environments that are engrossing visually as they are physically taxing
All-in-all, unless you are seriously yearning for a dungeon crawler of any kind and don’t mind putting up with the standard thoroughfare the genre presents, Demon Gaze isn’t that different from crowd, but also isn’t nearly as enjoyable. It doesn’t demand that much from the player expect their time and effort – yet doesn’t nearly give enough in return as far as the storyline is concerned. I would hard-pressed to recommend this newbies due to the inconsistent difficulty settings or even veterans for how bare things can get, although sure a minority of players from both sides won’t mind. Dungeon crawling itself provides some nice scenery, if not to be quickly ignored by the slogging exploration to just finish one. In the end, Demon Gaze is not as bad as I make it out to be and certainly nowhere close to being the worst – however, they are better titles you can contend time with before even giving this one your attention.
Pros: Demon Circle system, nice soundtrack, in-game message system is useful, appealing artwork, easy to understand battle system.
Cons: Inconsistent difficulty settings, lacking advance party customization, bland graphics, dungeon crawling is fairly tedious, too much juvenile humor/fanservice.