An accessible DPRG from Experience Inc that mixes a high fantasy setting, likeable cast of characters and fun turn-based combat for an enjoyable – if slightly easy – time.

Developer Experience Inc.
Publisher
Franchise Demon Gaze
Genre Role-playing
PSTV Yes
Physical English Yes – EU/NA

 

World-building & Story

In the world of Mythrid, demons are beings of immense power that lurk in the depths of winding dungeons. You control a demon gazer whose name defaults to Oz, who is capable of subduing these creatures and using them for his own gain and when he stumbles upon an inn run by the mysterious Fran Pendoll, he begins to work with her to capture the beings in exchange for information on the all-powerful Sol, leader of the demons.

2019-03-19-182831Demon Gaze has a surprisingly interesting story for a first-person DRPG, containing plenty of characterisation and incentive to keep pushing forward. The main driving force is to capture all the demons – each one hidden in a labyrinth of their own design, while uncovering more information about Sol. It’s not a plot that will win any awards, but it’s solid and there’s a handful of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting which provided some excellent payoffs in the end.

A large amount the game’s narrative success has to do with both the setting and cast of characters. See, Demon Gaze is set in the Dragon Princess Inn, a stopping point for hunters and quest-ers trying to survive in this fantasy land and despite the game’s simplistic still portraits and 2D designs, I got a real sense of community from being there. The inn was the kind of place I enjoyed returning to and felt like my own little hub, aided by the fact that you’re given your own set of rooms for your team of warriors to rest in.

2015-01-12-180840While staying at the Dragon Princess Inn, you’ll interact with a variety of side-characters, each of whom is brimming with personality and unique quirks. There’s Pinay, a cutesy maid with a penchant for hitting on Fran, the inn’s mysterious manager who keeps it running despite the fact it makes no business sense. You’ll also come across Lorna, a helpful ex-demon gazer and the unhelpful Lulu, a treasure hunter, as well as the comedic duo of shopkeepers Cassel and Lezerem. Having them around with their often light-hearted antics kept the tone varied and I found myself growing attached to all of them (particularly Prometh, whose indifferent stoicism I found amusing).

When you venture outside of the inn, expect to find the rest of Mythrid as a harsh unforgiving place with more than a few high fantasy influences. Whether it be the races or characters you come across (cat-like Ney or traditional Elves) to the winding castles and abandoned underwater palaces, everything here has a certain air to it that helps craft the atmosphere and makes it pretty memorable.

2019-03-12-201321Nothing in Demon Gaze’s story or world is particularly mind blowing or new, but all of it is polished and enjoyable – making it a solid JRPG to check out.

 

Presentation & Sound

Demon Gaze is a fairly standard representation of the DRPG genre in terms of presentation – shining in some areas but falling down in others, there’s still an overall impressive game here.

2019-03-15-090547What’s best here is undoubtedly the 2D artwork – whether it be the vast selection of character designs you can choose from upon creating a new class or the incredibly intricate enemy designs, ranging from giant undead spectral horses to towering wolf knights, everything has been carefully drawn and looks fantastic. Most impressive are the demons, who have tonnes of detail in their standard forms but even more when they enrage (transforming into terrifying metallic monstrosities), it makes the goal of fighting and capturing all that more engaging.

Background artwork in things like the inn is also drawn to a similarly high standard, but dungeon graphics are less flashy and feature blocky 3D environments that don’t really stand out. You can expect to see lots of the same tile repeated over and over (most noticeable with doors), stretched textures and just a general lack of ambition – but this is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from the genre. At least the overall aesthetic of areas is interesting, whether it’s the imposing Grimodar Castle or spooky graveyard Slave Grave (I particularly enjoyed the twilight setting of Star Curtain).

2015-01-11-225441Music is generally superb, best demonstrated through the gorgeous opening anime cutscene (I would’ve loved more of these throughout), but is just as good in battle and exploration. There is voice acting here but it’s incredibly Intermittent, which is slightly disappointing as it somewhat kills the immersion – what is here is solid.

Soundtrack highlight – Departure

 

Gameplay & Content

Acting as an accessible gateway into the DRPG genre, Demon Gaze is an enjoyable if slightly obtuse game at times.

2019-03-08-134610As previously mentioned, Oz the protagonist has the power to control demons and he sets out into the world to capture all of them. The Dragon Princess Inn acts as his base of operations where he can rest, stock up on supplies, enhance his equipment and undertake quests. It’s nice to have a base hub to return back to like this, even if it is slightly frustrating to have to pay rent every time (although you’ll fairly quickly have more money than you know what to do with, making this a soon forgotten concern).

As with any good gridder, he’ll be able to customise a party to his liking to accompany him – this is done by renting extra rooms, after which you’ll be able to pick the race, character class and appearance of your companion. There’s a variety to choose from and figuring out your perfect lineup allows some nice experimentation, although it’s more simplistic than something like the developer’s own Operation Babel, not allowing for sub-classes or anything to deviate from the norm.

2019-03-13-150119The way this is gotten around is with equipment – you can choose to build some of the classes however you like, so for example a Samurai can wield dual blades, one slow-swinging sword or a ranged weapon like a crossbow. It’s not exactly deep, but it works – you an also collect artifacts which allow access to another class’ skills which can be a powerful tool if used correctly.

Once you venture out into Mythrid, you’ll find a familiar setup to many DRPG’s – you choose from a handful of pre-set locations from a map then start exploring, which is done methodically moving square by square via a first-person view. You’ll be mapping out the inside of each dungeon and there’s plenty of traps and pitfalls along the way, meaning you have to be careful where you go at all times.

2019-03-15-155950One neat feature Demon Gaze introduces, somewhat lifted from Dark Souls, is gazer memos. These are little notes that can be written by anyone and shared online, the idea being that you can leave small hints for other players or check them yourself if you’re stuck. I really loved these, as they saved checking a wiki when struggling and were fantastic for helping me find hidden doors and collectables – of course, there’s plenty of idiotic notes left as well, but somehow these just added to the game’s charm.

Aside from traps, there’s plenty of combat in dungeons too, which is shown from a first-person perspective in a very traditional manner. Everything you’d expect is here – you choose whether to attack, defend or use magic with each character, turn order is dictated by each unit’s speed, you can miss and land critical hits depending on certain stats etc. It’s a tried-and-true formula that works and it continues to do so here.

2019-03-15-162507Demon Gaze differentiates itself due to its titular element – demons. Oz can summon them in battle and they act completely independently of the party, choosing to attack or cast spells at random. Having them out drains a gauge and allowing this to deplete completely means they’ll enrage, attacking both allies and enemies at will – this means that you’ll carefully have to manage the rate this goes down and adds a nice risk/reward mechanic to the battles (it can be refilled by attacking, or by using a risky skill that Oz has access to).

You can also choose to purposefully enrage your demon (which drains the gauge even faster, but they won’t attack you during this mode) or use their battle skills (learned as they level up) which are independent of whether they’re summoned or not (such as a passive 10% healing per turn). All of this adds some nice strategy to the combat and you will need to pay attention during the boss battles as Demon Gaze certainly doesn’t skimp on difficulty, but it’s a lot more accessible than something like Stranger of Sword City aside from a few cheap-feeling deaths (such as when I was slaughtered by monsters that ambushed me during a section where I had to play as Oz solo).

2019-03-08-135414Elsewhere, you will spend a lot of time engaging in visual novel sections in the Dragon Princess Inn. Oddly, there are conversation choices but these do nothing other than add a few comedic sentences here and there – there’s plenty of lewd moments too, although there’s nothing as bad here as something like Moero Chronicle. It certainly won’t be for everyone, although I found the light-hearted antics broke up the sometimes-monotonous dungeon crawling quite well and was personally a fan of them.

To be fair, the game does offer some nice quality of life elements when in dungeons, such as the ability to automatically map a route to a location in a dungeon that you’ve already visited, or to auto-battle with every character using the ability they last chose. Still, the encounter rate is tuned way too high sometimes (especially in every location from Grimodar Castle onwards) and although you can use items and spells to reduce this, I was still frustrated with how often I was stepping into battles I wanted to avoid.

2015-01-04-140726It’ll take about 25 hours to see the game through to its conclusion and there’s some optional content you may wish to check out after that. It’s a mostly enjoyable ride although there were a few frustrating moments along the way (mostly either getting lost or getting killed by silly RNG) meaning I did have to step away from it occasionally, although I always found myself coming back.

 

Conclusion

A polished and enjoyable dungeon crawler that distils the basic gridder experience down perfectly and ensures it stays fun and fresh, Demon Gaze is a great addition to Vita’s library thanks to its pick-up-and-play nature. Its story mixes more serious elements with light-hearted humour (starring a lovable cast of characters) and there’s plenty of content here too – just be prepared for a couple of frustrating bumps along the way.

8.0/10