"My initial impressions were lukewarm and I fought hard not to treat this title like a discount-bin toss away, but after a while, the charismatic characters, the pacing and the game’s overall old school dungeon crawling feel kept me engrossed."
When I put Demon Gaze into my PS Vita for the first time a couple weeks ago I was just excited to have a reason to turn the darn thing on. It’s been a while since I’ve even touched it and it’s looked mighty sad sitting on my dresser gathering dust. What I didn’t expect was for this game to consume me. It took a few hours, but once Demon Gaze got going, the game sank its claws into me and would not let go. My initial impressions were lukewarm and I fought hard not to treat this title like a discount-bin toss away, but after a while, the charismatic characters, the pacing and the game’s overall old school dungeon crawling feel kept me engrossed.
Demon Gaze is simple in premise. You play the role of a Demon Gazer, a person that can capture demon souls and use them to your advantage. With this utility in hand you venture forth into numerous dungeons to gain levels and loot before returning to your town to heal, sell and ultimately start the whole process over again. The presentation is rooted in the point and click RPG’s of old – think more about the old Might & Magic games on PC, or Final Fantasy on the original Game Boy. The gameplay is relatively simplistic and any RPG veteran ought to be able to pick it up and immediately feel at home. Though the game doesn’t really bring any new elements to the table I still found that I was enjoying myself, almost reveling in the familiarity of it all. I guess nostalgia really is powerful.
The one thing that Demon Gaze does right is its incorporation of plot. Being a rather rabid fan of dungeon crawlers, albeit a tad more interested in the ARPG side of things, I’m used to not being exposed to much of a plot or just ignoring it outright in an effort to push forward into deeper uncharted territory. But Demon Gaze does a wonderful job of including a delightful cast of characters that really lend charm and a flamboyant aesthetic to the world in which the game takes place. The writing isn’t always perfect, but it’s interesting enough to contribute to the overall experience and that’s more than most dungeon crawling veterans can ask for.
"When the game finally sets you free upon the world it’s easy to feel confident in your actions, letting you focus on your ultimate goal, which is of course capturing demon souls."
As I’ve previously stated the gameplay is relatively simplistic. Party members are created, not found, allowing you to tailor your team as you see fit and menus and interactions are very easy to navigate. It doesn’t take much to grasp the core combat mechanics and Demon Gaze’s tutorial does a wonderful job of clearly explaining the more in-depth combat options. When the game finally sets you free upon the world it’s easy to feel confident in your actions, letting you focus on your ultimate goal, which is of course capturing demon souls. This leads me to the demon system, which is arguably Demon Gaze’s defining feature. The demon system allows you to link demons to your character offering special abilities for each one equipped. These abilities include, but are not limited to, a form of truesight (the ability to see hidden objects and passages) and the ability to increase your resistances to harmful environments. There is, of course, a limit to how much demons can use their abilities in combat, but it’s easily kept track of by a demon gauge which allows players to quickly note just how long it will be before a demon decides enough is enough. When a demon gauge expires, the demon grows violent and irritable, beating on both allies and enemies without regard. This makes demons a bit of a double edged sword, but with good management most players will find themselves running into this situation with hardly any regularity.
"In the end Demon Gaze is far from triple-A game material, but if you push beyond initial impressions you’ll find something of a treasure, a diamond in the rough well worth your time."
The game’s graphics are arguably where it’s weakest. The dungeons are poorly rendered, the characters are crudely animated, and the combat windows feature some truly absurd enemy designs, but eventually this stopped bothering me. In fact, I found this to be more and more endearing as time went on because of the way it lends to the game’s overall sense of old school intrigue. It’s definitely going to be the hardest point of entry for people more used to triple-A blockbusters, but it’s something that can be overlooked. Character design is obviously geared towards a male audience, and features some truly revealing armor types painted on incredibly busty female characters that really makes me question how any of these designs would be practical in combat, but that’s neither here nor there. Sound is well captured and features a relatively decent cast of voice actors. I found the game’s music to be quite irritating, but there are options within the main menu that allows you to tweak every last aspect of sound to your liking. Controls are fluid and intuitive and menu navigation is a breeze. I found no problems with the game in either of these aspects.
In the end Demon Gaze is far from triple-A game material, but if you push beyond initial impressions you’ll find something of a treasure, a diamond in the rough well worth your time. So go on, pick up your lonely Vita and give it a go because in spite of my initial impressions this game more than won me over, and I’m sure it will do the same for you. If you’re a fan of dungeon crawling RPG’s, or you crave a nostalgic trip down memory lane then this title deserves your attention and will be well worth a purchase when it’s released on April 22nd.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation Vita