Demon Gaze II Review

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Posted November 15, 2017 by Cameron McFarland in Video Games

Developer: Kadokawa Games, Experience Inc

Publisher: NIS America

Release date: November 14, 2017

Available on: Playstation 4 (Reviewed) , Playstation Vita

Before getting into this review, I need to disclose that I only played a few hours of Demon Gaze II. The game is so painfully dull that if my in-completion of it results in my dismissal from We the Nerdy then I will consider my retained sanity a net gain.

To summarize, Demon Gaze II is a dungeon crawler RPG that intentionally calls back to an old format of maze navigation that originated back when computer systems couldn’t handle anything more complicated than basic maze navigation. I know there are long-time gamers out there that do appreciate callbacks to this style of RPG, and the genre itself isn’t inherently bad, but when it is handled this simplistically, it is difficult to believe this game was released in the year 2017.

I could choose to take a right and fight a monster, or left and not fight a monster, but how am I going to get to that gem summoning zone? I have to walk around the park benches!? This is a complicated maze!

Level navigation is a little awkward because you get this 3D representation of the world, but you sort of just clip through doors and sometimes the background will disappear or be replaced with an object thanks to the game’s incredibly low view distance. It’s all so clumsy that I found myself staring at the simple minimap to the left side of the screen just to move faster. Of course, every time you bump into a wall the entire party yells in pain very loudly, so if you push the buttons too quickly it gets very annoying. It’s an odd choice for sound design, but I kind of wonder if people like hearing the sound of girls crying in pain at the press of a button.

Combat is turn-based, and admittedly not the worst thing in the world. Characters are not animated, but rather 2D pictures of characters that sort of bounce around on screen while you choose your turn’s actions. There does exist some depth to the combat like one would expect of any JRPG; you can use basic attacks or spend mana on spells and party members will provide different options–all the standard fare. There is one notable mechanic in that you have the option to activate your party members’ extra demon abilities when you need some added pow to your punch.

That said, my favorite feature by far is the ability to kind of just mash the triangle button over and over to skip a whole turn and speed up the combat since none of the choices I was making felt like they had consequence.

It just isn’t satisfying to accomplish anything in Demon Gaze. Each turn would pass with such little fanfare that sometimes I didn’t realize I had killed the monster on screen. It sort of just disappears and combat ends. I might level up, but that just leads to a tediously slow stat allocation screen. After leveling up for the fourth time in the same dungeon I was grinding it started to feel like a punishment that upset the flow of gameplay, and leveling up should never feel bad or annoying. That is game design 101. But, Demon Gaze doesn’t strike me as a game that focuses on combat as much as the story.

Sure, why not. Let’s do that.

When I say the game focuses on story, let me clarify: There is a lot of exposition. A lot of exposition. A lot. In Star Wars, first-time viewers are immediately instructed how to feel with a scroll of text that briefly sets the stage of an evil empire that controls the galaxy and the underdog rebels trying to fight back. After the text crawl, we see first-hand how brutally powerful the empire’s hold is. We see soldiers being killed and a very scary man draped in dark armor with a spooky voice. For the rest of the film movie-goers are invested in the story and want to see good overcome evil. I don’t understand completely what the point of Demon Gaze II is. There is no opening elevator pitch that wins over players, it just sort of holds your hand with a series of characters that repeat general statements while your character goes along with relatively few questions.

I don’t like to invoke the over-used word “trope” often, but when I turn on a new video game and am told I have amnesia I start to check out. “Amnesia” in a story-based game is really just code for, “Our characters will be spoon feeding you and commanding you what to feel for the remainder of the tale.” It is no longer interesting to think about having one’s memories removed; it is just a lazy format for exposition dumps and video game tutorials, and I don’t know why writers keep going back to this same approach.

Now, this is where my personal taste starts to get in the way of offering a truly unbiased review, but the nature of Demon Gaze‘s story is ultimately just presenting a harem anime-styled tale. There are a lot of cute female characters that keep doting after your self-insert character, and that’s not terribly out of the norm. But, the “demon gaze” part refers to a magic ability your character has to effectively absorb certain powerful demon enemies and in turn summon them as companions that are loyal to all your commands. They also just kind of implicitly love you, and one of them looks and acts like a little girl and refers to you as her big brother and it feels slightly creepy.

Maybe this is a cultural problem and I’m simply not the right target audience for this kind of cast, but if I was in the market for fetishy fictional ladies that want to be around me I think I can do better.

Of course they can. And of course I don’t have to tell you that this room also has an option to talk to anyone you bump into while in the showers. Because you know know it’s gonna happen.

My first impression when I started the game was along the lines of “What is this, an RPG Maker game with a larger budget and 3D maze addon?” I really wanted to be wrong, but the writing is lazy, the encounters are boring, and the world is nonexistent. However, I do want to offer one positive observation I noticed. I actually do like the character design, even though the characters aren’t animated. The style of most NPCs and party members is very nice and often accompanied by solid voice acting. I also liked the music, which is something that ultimately frustrated me because I was left wondering if this could have just been repurposed as a mildly entertaining anime that didn’t have level grinding in it.

Just in case anyone reading this review thinks that I have a thing against Japanese games or even lewd costumes or implications, I want to recommend a very different RPG that game out this year. by the name of Tales of Berseria. Berseria had some cringe-inducing dialogue and creepily clad protagonists, but it did a few things correctly. Namely: it’s a fun game to play. The story introduces you to a few characters and sets up emotional investment so you feel for the protagonist when things start to get bad. The combat is engaging in a way that makes you feel like your actions have value and purpose. The world building is done in a way that you can understand why characters might have motivations to fight against an evil empire and start a revolution. No one grabs your hand and just says “We’re starting a revolution.” They make you want to stop evil before any of the characters verbalize it. Tales of Berseria is really not a perfect game, but at least it’s a game, right?

Maybe I’m being mean, especially as someone that didn’t finish Demon Gaze II. Perhaps the whole thing turns around and becomes game of the year 2017 after a few more hours, but it is so painfully bad to slog through that I sincerely can’t imagine it improving any time soon. This game is available on Vita, and maybe the simple maze design works really well while you’re riding the bus, but in that setting you can’t really appreciate the art and music part. Games with a lot of grinding often pair well with podcasts or Netflix on in the background, but when you want to hear the voice actors try to bring these characters to life, you can’t really multitask. This game dares you to take it casually and for retail price I have to wonder why it was made. There are free games one can find within the RPG Maker community that need beta testing, and those might be a better use of time.

If you like to play strange JRPG dungeon crawlers because you’re nostalgic for the format and you desire a certain amount of visual polish, maybe this really is for you. I can say with confidence, however, that Demon Gaze II is not for me. Me, the guy who kinda liked that new Bubsy game.


About the Author

Cameron McFarland

Cameron loves cartoons and bad movies almost as much as bad cartoon movies. He is also the world's best spaghetti-eater, so don't bring it up around him or he won't shut up about it. Author and Artist for world-reviled World of Warcraft fancomic, www.taurenitup.com