I’ve never been really good at dungeon crawlers. Despite having picked up every Etrian Odyssey game on release for the last seven years, picking up every copy of Wizardry I can find, and dabbling in some of the more lesser known games in this genre (the oldschool Rance games, Unchained Blades, The Dark Spire, Evolution,etc), its a genre that really doesn’t like me as much as I like it.
What I’m getting at is this: Demon Gaze may not be the best dungeon crawler out there, but I enjoyed every hour of this game to its completion.
Demon Gaze is the story about a Demon Gazer, someone who is a mix of both human and demon who can seal demons with the power of their eyes. He finds himself lodging at the Dragon Princess Inn who is run by a mysterious and penny pinching girl who tasks him with capturing Demon Gods so that he can eventually halt the resurrection of a Great Demon God know only as Sol. It may not be the most awe inspiring story, but there were a number of twists that I did not see coming and it kept me interested all the way through.
While the game has its standard classes you’d expect from a dungeon crawler; Tanky Paladins, crowd controlling samurais, healers, and wizards–the game’s protagonist, the Gazer, is a unique class who can summon the Demon bosses they have captured to fight along side them. However, they are drawbacks to summoning these demons. The Demons run on a chain-like gauge at the top of the screen and each turn that a demon is out, the gauge slowly decreases. Once the gauge is completely empty, the demon becomes berserk, attacking enemies and allies alike. While this may seem daunting, I never lost the gauge completely since it seems that whenever you attack an enemy, the gauge fills more than it decreases by the end of each turn.
While Demon Gaze is probably easier than most dungeon crawlers out there, the game does a pretty good job at keeping you on your toes thanks to a number of proficiency hurdles sprinkled throughout the game. Just when you think you can power through yet another boss, one will pop up where you actually have to pay attention to what you’re doing. For example,theres a boss right near the end that heals a good chunk of it’s health every three turns and targets the Gazer character attempting to seal their ability to use demons in battle rendering your team’s biggest damage dealer utterly useless. The final boss is also pretty tricky if you don’t fully pay attention and prepare ahead of time. The fluctuating difficulty may actually be the game’s biggest strength, really. By the time the game got pretty difficult, I was so far into it that I didn’t want to give up and chalk this up as a win for the Dungeon Crawler Genre for the umpteenth time. It eventually made beating this game feel that much more rewarding.
Demon Gaze’s dungeons themselves are pretty simple in structure, but one of the more interesting aspects is how the dungeons work: Demon Gaze isn’t about running to the end of a dungeon and just beating the boss. Instead, the player has to run around the dungeon looking for Demon Circles, small landmarks where the player can summon enemies to receive equipment and other loot. Each dungeon can have anywhere from 7 to 16 of these points– capturing half of the points rewards you with fighting the Demon God in their regular form and once all of these points have been captured the boss will finally show itself in its true form;only then can you seal the Demon God for good. I really liked how the game organically made you search out the dungeons. You weren’t rushing through the dungeon just looking for the big bad and the exit, you were meticulously mapping the dungeon for all of its demon circles.
There was one aspect of the dungeon crawling that was a pretty big doubled edge sword, however. Much like games like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, players can leave messages for other players in these dungeons. This was great when you were stuck in a dungeon or wanted to find hidden treasure, but it was a complete fail at the same time because many players used these messages to subtly spoil some of the game’s more shocking plot twists. You can turn off the messages if you want to, which is nice, but its just too bad a small portion of the community were dicks.
Another small disappointment I had with this game is that the first half of the game throws you a lot of unnecessary busy work after each Demon God you capture. I understand most of the busywork you did after each Boss was done so that you got to know the characters of the game’s Inn but it just wasn’t done well. A lot of times you would capture a demon and have to do a seemingly unrelated quest before a character would finally grant you access to the Demon you had captured.
Demon Gaze may be easier than some of the more hardcore dungeon crawlers out here, but it still ended up being such a great game in its own right. Complaining about not having anything to play on the VIta? Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this game.