Waking up in a dungeon with no memory of who you are or how you got there, Demon Gaze – a grid-based, first-person, RPG developed by Kadokawa Games and Experience Inc., throws you in at the deep end. You are introduced to the gameplay mechanics as you trawl this tutorial dungeon on the hunt for your first demon.
As a Demon Gazer, your character has the power of an evil, magic eye. This eye grants you the ability to capture the demons once you have defeated them so that you can use them to assist you in your task to complete the various quests and missions that are sent your way.
You will accept missions and quests, and converse with the game’s multiple characters in the Dragon Princess Inn, which is run by Fran Pendoll – a mysterious female who is a little obsessed with money. The Inn plays the role of the game’s hub location, where you can go in-between missions to rest, upgrade your weapons and armour, buy and sell loot and accept new missions.
The thing that aggrieved me about the Inn is that Fran is very strict when it comes to paying your rent. She will collar you as soon as you return to the Inn from battling in the dungeons, and she seems to make up the rent fee each time. Alongside paying her a few thousand gold if you want to take on an extra room so that you can add an additional character to your party, you will pay her a couple of hundred gold each time you set foot in the Inn. This put me off buying items and weapons as I didn’t want to fall behind on the rent.
Once you have decided upon your party, and customised your appearance in the Inn’s bathhouse, it is time to leave in search of the demons that are causing mayhem in the world outside. When customising your own character’s appearance you are told that even if you chose for your character to be a female, you will always be referred to as a male. This struck me as quite unusual; if this is to be the case, why offer the option?
Outside of the Princess Dragon Inn’s walls is where all the action is. There are a variety of areas located on the world map that are each inhabited by a demon. Tracking down demons is done by capturing Demon Circles, these circles require gems to activate them and will throw a wave of enemies at you to defeat. Once defeated, you will earn weapons, armour and items for your troubles and will be one step closer to revealing the demon’s location. The option of being able to choose the gems that you use to summon the enemies from the circle means that you can effectively choose what you want to receive from the battle, which I thought was a nice touch.
As you explore each area of the game’s world, you will find new pathways and even entrances to other parts of the world map. Demon Gaze features an online function whereby players can leave notes on the dungeon’s grids. I found this feature very useful in the game, as players who have explored these areas before me left messages to prepare me for any upcoming threats or to advise of secret doorways to new areas.
One thing that I did find quite frustrating when I first started playing Demon Gaze was the game’s difficulty. The first few hours of my time with Demon Gaze was spent grinding through the first two areas to raise my characters’ levels. I made my first mistake when I tried to take on the game’s second demon with an underpowered party and watched them get wiped out within seconds. The dungeon layouts don’t help much either, you could end up fighting many battles before you get to the demon – meaning that your party could be on the verge of death before a ‘boss’ battle begins. Once I had levelled my characters up the game was still challenging, but it was a challenge that I enjoyed as it meant I had to think tactically about each battle.
The battles are turn-based and can see your party facing a wide variety of enemies, a lot of the time all at once. These battles can be either randomly encountered or activated by walking through a grid that has an enemy marker on it. The battles do seem to drag on a little and, when it does seem like you are about to emerge from battle victorious, the enemies you face can call for backup.
Luckily, the demons that you catch can be used to even the sides in battle, with each demon effectively acting as an additional party member at your disposal. You do have to be careful though, as each demon has a counter that will deplete with each turn. If this counter reaches zero, your demon will erupt in a fit of rage and attack everything in its sight – including you and your party. Although this does mean you have to think carefully before deploying a demon into battle, this does seem a little harsh as if you get caught up in a big battle, you could find yourself facing two demons at once!
Demon Gaze is a great looking game when you are not exploring the dungeons on offer. The art-style and soundtrack are inherently Japanese, with great care and detail given to the characters, enemies and areas that you encounter. The mixture of these elements combined with the well written interactions that you partake in, make the story and sections in between the dungeon crawling a joy to behold.
It’s a shame that the dungeons themselves don’t look all that great. The grid based dungeons do look very blocky and do not do the rest of the game justice. This may seem like a minor niggle but you spend a lot of your playing time exploring these dungeons, and with Demon Gaze requiring 35-40 hours plus of your time to see it through to the end, an extra bit of attention to detail in the dungeons’ design would not have gone amiss.
But these niggles do not detract from Demon Gaze, and overall the game is a solid, fun RPG with an interesting story to boot. If you’re a RPG fan, then this grid-based game does offer a slightly different approach to a tried and tested formula and is a welcome addition to what is already a well-stocked genre on the Vita. If you are a newcomer to the RPG genre, you can’t go too wrong with Demon Gaze, although there are other games available that offer that little bit more.