Demon Gaze is a dungeon crawling RPG developed by Kadokawa Games and Experience Inc. for the PlayStation Vita. Released in Japan on January 24, 2013, it was published in the West by NIS America last month. Demon G is a sequel of sorts to Students of the Round, a game that never saw release outside of Japan. Thankfully, Demon Gaze is set 1000 years after the first game, and only shares a few similarities with it.
After a brief tutorial that finds the player fighting and sealing away their first demon, it is explained that they are a Gazer – a person who has the ability to summon the demons they defeat to aid them in combat. As the world is a pretty nasty place where territory has been divided up into areas by the demons that control them, this makes the player a very powerful ally to those around him because he can seal away the demons, making each area less dangerous to all the regular adventures who hunt for treasure to pay the cost of living at the local inn. This is a fact that is not lost on the player, because even though their character is making life better for everyone else, he still has to pay his way all the same.
Regular forays must be made into the various areas of the world to make money. Rent is paid once the player returns to the inn, however long they have been absent for. The games does not force the player to pay rent when it is requested, but rewards them for doing so if they do regularly. Enemies drop fairly little money when defeated, but they can drop gems. Gems are placed in demon circles that are found scattered around each map, and are the only way of collecting gear upgrades for the player’s party. What drops can be a little random at times, but anything that is not needed can be sold off for cash, or can be used for extracting Ether.
Ether is used to upgrade pieces of gear the player has, but each type of gear has its own ether associated with it. This can cause a fair bit of equipment grinding once a decent upgrade has been found, but extra gems can be bought from the inn’s item shop to guarantee that the correct type of weapon drops for the type of ether the player requires. This cycle of using demon circles and returning to the inn continues until the player has claimed all the circles on a map, then the demon will spawn somewhere for the player to challenge. There fights are no walkover, and will require the player to use all the skills at their disposal.
For the most part, combat is fairly simple. New areas sometimes offer a little challenge to begin with, bit the inclusion of a ‘repeat last action’ button allows the player to quickly dispatch of less troublesome foes. Combat is turn-based, and while there are random encounters, the are some tiles of the dungeon that are guarded by enemies on each visit to the map. Fights that offer slightly more challenge can spawn in random places, sometimes preventing the player from progressing too quickly. Demon circles also act as a save point, so should the player die, there is no real excuse for losing more than a few minutes of progress.
Similar to the Dark Souls games, players can leave messages for each other on each tile of the dungeon. This ranges from the helpful (telling others where to find hidden items), the annoying (overtly sexual messages about the female NPCs), and the annoying (major plot spoilers). The player is given the choice to receive these messages every time they enter a map, but an internet connection is required to receive them. All the hidden treasure can be found by collecting maps, but this can take time as they drop randomly.
Very little in Demon Gaze is animated. Character portraits are static during conversations, but the multiple versions to convey emotion. Enemies are also static during combat, but despite this, all the art is beautifully drawn. Art can be a little on the risqué side for some of the females at times (could be most of the time depending on the the players choice of party members), but even the odd male will try and strip themselves off now and again.
The majority of the dialogue during plot scenes are voice acted. At other times characters will throw out the odd word when talking with the player. Each area has ambient music to go with the theme of the area. There are no real stand out tracks, but each tune works well the area it is found in. The same combat music can get repetitive after a while, which is another good reason to fast forward through easier opponents.
Demon Gaze is a dungeon crawler and the first of its kind on the PlayStation Vita. Some design decisions may seem strange to gamers who are used to the Etrian Odyssey series, but anyone who has tried Class of Heroes will feel at home here.