The dungeon crawler genre blossomed in the 1980s with excellent showings from multiple regions. Wizardry, Megami Tensei and others set the groundwork for what would become a staple in the video game industry. Demon Gaze is the most recent of dungeon crawlers out there and one of the few available to Vita players so far. The experience provided is solid but also makes a few unusual decisions that may lure players in or push them away.
First off, the title requires some explanation. Demon Gaze thrusts players into the role of a “Demon Gazer”. As one of these Gazers, you have the unique skill of being able to defeat and control demons. This incredibly convenient story crutch works itself into gameplay by allowing a host of demonic pets to be called into battle as you see fit. Being such an important character in the plot also means that everyone relies on you to get anything done. Everything is might be expected from a typical RPG.
Players have little time to get acclimated to the world as they’re forced to make important party decisions. Unlike some games, adding a new party member to the team is a commitment. You see, the Demon Gazer is cooped up in a boarding house of sorts and there are only so many vacancies. Each party member takes up a room as does the lead character. There’s even a requirement to pay rent! Once choosing between a variety of races and classes it’s finally time to seriously dive in.
The meat of Demon Gaze is meandering through copious dungeons in order to complete a laundry list of quests. Only certain ones are required for story progression, but there’s little harm in picking off others along the way. Because there’s so much grinding required, it’s suggested to just tackle every mission anyway. Enemies spring forth randomly as well as on special Demon Circles displayed on screen. Circles are special because placing special items on them will guarantee drops of armor or weapons.
Each trek through a dungeon might seem easy at first until you realize how expansive each area is. Secret doorways, mission-based unlocks, and more mean that any level is actually much larger than initial exploration suggests. Make sure to look over every area and see if skills obtained later open up new sections in old stages. Don’t expect to make loads of cash off average enemies though as they are generally worth a pittance. The key to becoming wealthy is summoning enemies from Circles, as well as defeating special boss demons.
Special demons rage against the player and even take multiple battles to pin down. They pose significant challenge to underleveled players since they’re always much stronger than the surrounding creatures. Successful defeat and taming is required and nets them for your team. From then on, you may call them forth during any normal or special battle. The longer they remain in play the more dangerous things become. A timer counts down every turn, and once at zero, the demon will fly into a rage – possibly hurting your own team in the process. Of course, you can always call them back to play it safe and let the counter recharge.
Money is an important asset in the game but not as difficult to obtain as you might be thinking. The landlord constantly ups the rent but even so, most dungeon treks offer far more money in return. If you struggle with payments, try parting with weapons procured during a dungeon run. Most are worth a good chunk of change that should cover housing expenses and a lot more. Since powerful weapons and armor can be nabbed for free at Circles, you rarely need to purchase from the weapon shop as well.
As far as dungeon crawling is concerned, Demon Gaze has that down to a nearly addictive science. That, combined with the intriguing demon system, is engaging. Of course, there’s also a lot done to streamline grinding such as a button to auto perform the last actions. There’s even a button to fast forward gameplay for those not worried about losing a fight. The issues come in with what occurs between dungeon exploration.
The storyline is mostly par for the course and presented in a visual novel-style format. This means that characters appear as static 2D artwork and spew (sometimes voiced) text at you. Although artwork is very well done, you’re often faced with scantily clad women and a great deal of purposefully awkward situations. Sometimes men are included in this celebration of pandering perversion, but not nearly enough to say their sexualization is equivalent to the other characters. Some players are desensitized to all this, or may enjoy it, but there are also dungeon crawler fans who might balk at such eye-rolling fanservice.
Players who want to work their way through dungeons on the go will find Demon Gaze scratches that itch. There are tons of quests to complete, secret areas to uncover, and demons to bring to your team. Cobbling up the best team possible and a good set of weapons and armor is an equally in depth process sure to please genre fans. The biggest hurdle to enjoying the game is simply your tastes for (or tolerance of) copious displays of fanservice. As long as you can handle that then you’re in for a very mechanically sound dungeon crawler with Demon Gaze.
Platform: PS Vita