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PlayStation Vita  header logo

Demon Gaze

For: PS Vita

Eyes on me

Product: Demon Gaze | Developer: Experience | Publisher: NIS America | Format: PS Vita | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Version: US
Demon Gaze PS Vita, thumbnail 1
Old school grid-based dungeon-crawlers are making a resurgence as of late - but the Vita's missed out on this trend.

Demon Gaze is set to change this, and it's certainly a title that hardcore fans will happily sink hours of their free time into.

But it's also a game that newcomers to the genre will find accessible and inviting thanks to its bright graphics, easy interface, and linear storyline. Make no mistake: this is a dungeon-crawler that looks and sounds way better than it has any right to.

It's as easy to get lost as it is to lose yourself in Demon Gaze

Demon Gaze
focuses on an amnesiac protagonist who wakes up in an inn full of generic RPG stereotypes.

There's no great evil for him to vanquish (at least, not at the beginning of the game), so he falls into the easy life of a mercenary to earn some money.

This is a common career choice, thanks to the Demon Circles that populate the various dungeons in the game. If you walk up to one and trade it an item gem, it'll spawn some monsters to fight that drop an item for you to use or sell.

These circles play a central role in Demon Gaze, as they're also where the titular demons tend to hide.

Aye, she's titular alright

Each dungeon is ruled by a Greco-Roman demon that you need to corner before fighting. After defeating them in an epic battle - and believe me, the battles will be epic - you get the ability to summon them to help you in future encounters.

But these demons still maintain a bit of their evil streak. Each turn you use them in combat, their Demon Gauge depletes and they'll turn feral and attack your party if it ever drops to zero.

Fighting your way up to the first of these demons - either Mars or Chronos - is a heroic task, and easily the most difficult you'll face in Demon Gaze.

That's mostly because, unlike other dungeon-crawlers out there, Demon Gaze doesn't let your roll up a party of characters to use from the outset.

Instead, you venture out with a single companion and a trainee demon. If you want to hire more characters, you'll need to grind your way to a pile of gold coins.

Oddly, this isn't a come-on

The way this is handled is actually quite clever.

The inn, which acts as the main hub for the game, is run by a no-nonsense proprietress who rents out rooms for you to use. To hire a new member, you need to secure a room.

What's more, this tight-fisted innkeeper has no trouble with charging you rent - and you need to pay up every time you venture back to the inn to heal, revive dead characters, or shop for new items and equipment.

The rent is negligible and might only be a problem early on, but it provides a welcome dash of reality to Demon Gaze all the same as certain shops will be closed off if you fall behind in your payments.

Each shop in the inn is run by an NPC that's designed to be colourful, but they are - for the most part - a pile of panty-sniffing perverts so mired in fan service that it's difficult to care much about them.

The sole exception is the innkeeper Fran, whose particular secret is about as well-hidden as a sledgehammer tucked into a g-string.

While this might sound damning, Demon Gaze provides just enough personality here to make you genuinely eager to return to the inn and see what's been happening to the zany cast of characters while you're out dungeon-crawling.

On the other hand, maybe it's best to stay in the dungeons...

While battles in Demon Gaze can be tough in every sense of the word, the solution to unfair fights is simple: roll up your sleeves and grind.

For your stats and levels, this means wandering about and slogging through as many random encounters as you can. Your gear is upgraded via the Ether Mill, a system that allows you to cannibalise weaker and obsolete items to add numerical pluses to the gear you'd rather use.

If you're having trouble even after grinding, you can visit the sleepy necromancer Prometh in the basement of the inn and set the game's difficult level down a bit.

One feature that stood out as particularly unwelcome during the grind is how completely clunky Demon Gaze's combat system is.

While transitions in and out of battles are both quite crisp, you need to press a button to confirm every action that takes place in a battle.

That's not an exaggeration - you need to press a button to confirm that you saw an enemy attack one of your characters, every single time they attack.

There's no auto-battle available either - nor is there an option to use the touchscreen or rear touchpad.

This, unfortunately, means you have to focus on every battle with both hands on your Vita - which makes multi-tasking while playing during lunch or breakfast more or less impossible.

Even the sea floor has dungeons to explore

But all of this, and the fan service that's as tacked-on as it is tacky, isn't enough to rob Demon Gaze of its charm.

The graphics are absolutely eye-popping on the Vita, and there's even a neat trick that has the angle of the camera pan upwards when you're fighting flying enemies.

As an added touch, you can place "Gazer Notes" on a map (a la Dark Souls) to offer hints and advice to other players.

Demon Gaze could certainly benefit from having more side content - as it's next to impossible to deviate from the main plot even during the limited number of side-quests - but its main story and dungeon-crawling gameplay are more than enough to cement its status as a cult hit amongst the hardcore RPG faithful.
Demon Gaze
Reviewer photo
Matthew Diener | 23 April 2014
Tough, beautiful, and easy to lose yourself in, Demon Gaze is a polished dungeon crawler with tons of challenge and charm
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