Curtis Plays: Demon Gaze
Over ten years ago as I reached the final moments of Final Fantasy X I made the decision to save and take on the final boss the next day as it was getting late. I woke up, booted up the game, and unfortunately found that my save file was corrupted and my journey cut short. History unfortunately has a way of repeating itself. A couple nights ago I started up Demon Gaze in hopes of finishing the game and writing the review for people to read. What I wasn’t expecting was this…
Some 41+ hours into the game with the climactic battle in sight and everything that I had done was suddenly gone. So that sucks and obviously, much like FFX, I’m going to have a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth from the way things ended for me. That said I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the game because this is a legitimately great dungeon crawler and absolutely worth checking out.
As far as openings are concerned Demon Gaze has a pretty great intro. You wake up and immediately begin to explore and fight through a dungeon as you learn various mechanics, story bits, and even take on your first demon. Before long you’re introduced to the residents of the Dragon Princess Inn, you’re able to start building up your party, and the goal of your journey is presented to you. As you have amnesia there’s not much that is known about your character other than the fact that you’re a Demon Gazer. You have the ability to capture powerful demons and summon them into battle with you. In Demon Gaze it’s up to you to capture ten demon souls and ultimately prevent the reawakening of a very powerful arch-demon. You’ll have the party you assemble and all the residents at the inn to assist you along the way.
Dragon Princess Inn
The Dragon Princess Inn acts as the hub area in the game and is where you’ll purchase weapons and items, create your party members, pick up side missions, strengthen your weapons, and pay rent. The manager at the inn insists that you pay your rent every time that you return from a dungeon. Your rent is determined by how many characters are in your party and what level they are. While rent starts out very cheap at first by the end of the game I was paying quite a big chunk of money. On top of that you also need to pay a one time fee to rent out an additional room for every party member that you recruit. These prices also increase for every new room that you rent. Personally I never had trouble paying rent but in the opening hours of the game it did prove difficult to afford building up a full party, juggling rent, and purchasing items. Despite never having an issue with paying rent each time I honestly didn’t really care for that system. Especially as I progressed it just proved to be a small annoyance that sometimes kept me from spending money on more costly items. (If you are unable to pay you’ll simply have to pay the rent later and won’t be able to use certain aspects of the inn until what you owe is paid off.)
While creating a character you’re able to choose from various races and classes to build out your team of five. For instance my team consisted of myself, a fighter, a paladin, a ranger, and a healer. From there you can decide who goes up front and who stays in the back row. Just as well you can also change the look/voice/name of your character at any time throughout the game. (This was nice since I was able to change my team to the Disgaea DLC character portraits that went live a few days ago.) However you’ll likely spend the majority of your time at the inn upgrading equipment in the basement.
One of my favorite things about this game is the way it handles your weapons and armor. Instead of simply selling off old gear you can instead turn it into Ether which can then be used to fortify your equipment to +10 or +30 if they’re a super special type (only one in the game). So even though enemies might drop equipment that isn’t nearly as strong as what you have equipped you can still find a really good use for it. It’s also easy to farm for equipment to turn into Ether with the use of Circles in each of the dungeons.
Dungeons, Circles, and Demons
Much like any dungeon crawler you’ll walk through a grid-based dungeon in first person as you fill in the map, fight enemies, and find hidden treasure. However you’re also hunting for demons and to do that you need to take control of Circles. Each dungeon has a set number of Circles and by taking control of them you’ll start to draw the demon out. Eventually you’ll fight against the demon in their normal form before they eventually run off. After that you’ll need to take control of every Circle in the dungeon before ultimately squaring off with the demon in their final form. Upon defeating that demon you’ll gain their demon soul which can be taken back to the manager at the Dragon Princess Inn. She’ll turn that soul into a key for you which will allow you to use that demon as a special assist in battle. (Demons essentially act as an additional party member that you have no control over.)
To initiate a fight in a Circle you’ll have to lay down 1-3 special gems that will determine the strength of the monsters that appear as well as the types of equipment that will be dropped. For instance if you use 3 sword gems then the enemies will drop 3 different swords. You can return to each dungeon and continue to use these Circles once each visit for as many times as you’d like. Sometimes you might even want to do this in hopes of a enemy dropping a very strong/rare weapon.
The dungeons themselves get to be rather large and are all quite different. You’ll come across various traps and puzzles to solve that all feel unique. I’d rather not go into too much detail as discovering the dungeons yourself is part of the fun but I think the ones in Demon Gaze are really well designed. That is with the exception of some nitpicks that involve needing to retread certain sections of prior dungeons just to reach some of the late game dungeons. For the most part the game established an easy system to just warp to the starting points of each dungeon so not having that ability for some of the late dungeons seemed strange. Ultimately you’d just have to go through a small portion of a previous dungeon so it’s more of a small annoyance.
I know it’s kind of silly how often people call things “the Dark Souls of…” but Demon Gaze totally does have one specific feature that is straight out of that series. Throughout each dungeon you’ll find Gazer Memos that other players have left on the ground pointing out hidden treasure, secret doors, upcoming boss fights, or some messages with people trolling you. While it doesn’t quite become as prevalent as the messages do in the Souls games I did really like having them here as they’re quite useful for finding hidden treasures. There’s also a number of people who just leave really silly messages that will likely give you a good laugh when you find them.
Demon Gaze is a lot of fun. I really liked exploring each new dungeon, farming circles, taking down demons, upgrading weapons, and even some of the characters back at the inn are pretty interesting. That said this game has a handful of boss fights that feel as if they were created only to annoy the player. The first few of these are mainly demons that have high evasion allowing them to dodge most of your attacks as well as the ability to recover a significant amount of health every few turns. These fights are pretty annoying but in the grand scheme of things they’re not that bad and with the right party formation you can take them down. However things get much worse with one specific late game boss that had me ready to tear my hair out.
Without spoiling anything there’s a boss in the late game that will restore five-thousand hp every three turns. This boss will also rearrange your party and do various other things that make it rather difficult to keep up with the health restoration. It gets to the point where there is quite a bit of luck involved if you want to have any chance at all in this fight. I suppose the thing that frustrated me the most was knowing that if I didn’t get lucky and if the first three turns didn’t start out great for me then I’d be better off reloading my save and trying again. It sucks because despite some boss fights the rest are totally fine and the difficulty stays at a pretty steady curve. Just be ready to be blindsided by some difficulty spikes. (Especially if you’re new to this type of game.)
If fanservice is something that might turn you off a game I totally understand and it’s fine if you pass on Demon Gaze. There are a handful of scenes in here with it but overall it’s mostly positioned towards the first half of the game and you’ll spend a much larger amount of time doing other stuff that it’s easy to forget that it’s even there. Of course most of the female character portraits you can use for your party might as well be nude (actually for that matter a lot of the guy portraits weren’t wearing much either) but to be honest I find most of the fanservice stuff in this game just to be really goofy and relatively self aware. Usually I’d just sit there, roll my eyes, laugh at how weird this whole thing is, and get back to hunting demons. Could I do without some of these scenes? Sure. That said I’m not particularly bothered by them and if nothing else it at least provides a really goofy and somewhat absurd vibe to the characters.
So I really enjoyed my time spent with Demon Gaze and definitely think it’s worth checking out if you’re into these sort of dungeon crawlers. With this being my first time with this specific sub-genre I feel okay recommending it to newcomers but I would warn that Demon Gaze does get devilishly hard towards the end of the game. No matter how things ended up for me I think it speaks pretty well of Demon Gaze that I’m left wanting to try out a whole new kind of RPG that previously felt kind of daunting. Also if you need more convincing Demon Gaze looks fantastic on the Vita, features some really great artwork for enemies/bosses, and I think a lot of people are going to be quite fond of the soundtrack.