Friday, May 2, 2014

Demon Gaze (Vita) Review

Demon Gaze is dungeon-diving first person RPG where players must defeat several powerful demons and seal them away in keys.  The game is very old school, and is a lot like Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey or Class of Heroes.  Admittedly, I don't really like those game, even if my wife absolutely loves them.  However, a strange thing happened when I spent time playing the game...I actually started liking it.

The game starts out by picking a character graphic, voice and name for the main character, then you are thrust into the story.  Compared to other similar types of RPGs, this one has a lot more focus on story.  While the main character (the Gazer) and his or her party aren't very outspoken, they added a bunch of other characters to move the story along and provide all the dialogue.  I also appreciate that there are lines that mention your other party members, making them feel like part of the story.  Considering the other similar games that I have some very limited experience with are very light on story, it's refreshing to see it included in Demon Gaze.

Dungeons are basically laid out on a grid, although the environments don't look like it.  Each dungeon has a different motif, be it graveyard, underwater city or castle.  There's also several hidden items, secret passageways and traps to make it all more interesting.  The damaging floors are really annoying until you beat the second boss, Chronos, since equipping her will negate those.  And sadly, there are damaging floors you have to step on before fighting both bosses...yuck.  The first demon you acquire will show most hidden passages when nearby, so it's helpful to have her equipped early on, or your first run through somewhere.  I do like that there is some focus on exploration and not just combat.

So how are the fights?  Well, they are turn-based old-school goodness.  You select every party member's action at once, and then the turn will play out.  You have to plan in advance, which can make things harder depending on what the enemy does.  Abusing class skills really helps the fights go faster, especially the ones that allow you to hit entire rows of enemies at once.  Artifacts will allow characters to use skills that aren't native to their class.  If there's a particular skill you like (like the various "Slash"es), make sure to aim for those to increase your damage output.  To add other characters past the first two, you will have to fork up cash to rent the room for them.  This also increases your rent, which is due whenever you return to the inn.  At least you get fully healed!

The most unique mechanic in the game is the demon keys.  The bosses you fight are usually the "raging" form of a demon, and beating it will allow you to equip the demon's key and use them in combat.  There's a meter that shows how long you can keep them out before they go out of control and slaughter your party instead, to keep you from needlessly throwing them out there.  The skills they provide are very useful (especially Chronos' immunity to damage floors), and you can eventually equip up to three at a time.  Learn when to use them, and fights become much easier... sometimes even the boss ones.

Each dungeon contains several magic circles that must be purified before the boss appears.  You place 1-3 gems that will determine the type of loot you get and then fight some monsters.  Winning will purify the circle and allow you to save there.  Any time you leave the dungeon, the circle will stay purified, but you can place gems again to do another fight.  Take advantage of this, since you can better control what types of equipment you get as loot at the end of the fight.  You get plenty of gems, so use them frequently, and either sell or break down the extra weapons and armor you acquire.  The artifact gems are limited, so use them sparingly.  Be warned, that one of the unpurified circles will contain the normal form of the demon boss.  These fights are obviously harder than normal ones, so be careful when doing them for the first time.

Demon Gaze is hard, make no mistake about it.  Regular fights are usually painless, especially when you have a full party and some good equipment and skills.  Sometimes, enemies will summon other enemies, and battles can quickly get out of control.  Bosses are a different story altogether.  They are strong, fast, and have a lot of HP.  Even if you can quickly dispatch all enemies in the dungeon, the boss is a big challenge.  Add in that most have little minions (I call them bits for some reason... probably because of Lavos) that will take hits for them, the boss' ability to summon them as much as they want, and the frequent auto-heals they do can drive you up the wall.  At least it did that to me.  It felt like trying to stop a waterfall with your bare hands.  Most times you end up hacking away and hope they either stop summoning the bits, or get knocked out for a few turns so you can make actual headway in the battle.

The game will take awhile to beat, but most of that is because it takes a lot of grinding to be able to purify all circles in the dungeon and beat the boss.  There are several dungeons to complete and even some extra content after the main story.  Most of the trophies will come while just playing the game.  Things like beating each boss, reaching certain points in the story and killing certain amounts of enemies will reward you with various trophies.  You'll also get some for doing various side quests.  All in all, nothing more difficult than actually beating all the bosses.  So, probably pretty hard, or at least long for all the grinding.

Demon Gaze was for me, the easiest and most enjoyable old-school first person dungeon crawler game I've played.  The demon key mechanic was fun to use and added a new twist to the old formula.  Bosses are frequently frustrating, but the game was oddly engaging, despite me not liking the genre.  If you are a fan of games like Wizardry and Etrian Odyssey, like my buddy DTJAAAAM is, you will really like the game.

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