By William Haderlie / November 22nd, 2017
|Title||Demon Gaze II|
|Developer||Experience, Kadokawa Games|
|Release Date||November 14, 2017|
|Genre||Dungeon Crawler RPG|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
Dungeon crawler role playing games have enjoyed a minor renaissance these past few years, and one of the games that kicked off this resurgence was the original Demon Gaze on PlayStation Vita. I largely agree with Steve’s review of that game, however I did enjoy it a little more than he did. But, to be fair, if you don’t play many dungeon crawlers, that game could be brutally difficult and it spent hardly any time acclimating new players to the systems. Both of those issues have largely been addressed in the sequel. But the question is, how much did this game grow and change over the hiatus between releases, and how does that compare with how the genre itself has moved forward? What is widely considered the sub-genre leader, Etrian Odyssey, has just released it’s fifth title (not counting the two remakes) a few weeks ago, so the comparisons between the two titles will be inevitable. However, I think it’s even more instructive to compare this game to the other game they created sandwiched between the two Demon Gaze titles, Stranger of Sword City.
As someone who has now played Demon Gaze, Stranger of Sword City, and now Demon Gaze II, I find it really fascinating to see how the development team has decided to differentiate each series. Both series are dungeon crawler RPGs, so you might think that they share so much in common to make them virtually indistinguishable, but you would be wrong. That isn’t to say that they don’t share many things, enough monster designs are repeated between the two series that it reminds me of a shared universe situation (kind of like how SMT games share the same demons). There is also a water dungeon in Demon Gaze II that was almost exactly the same as the one in Stranger of Sword City, to its detriment since that was the single most frustrating dungeon in both games. But with this game they looked at what made Demon Gaze different than their other series and decided to focus on that aspect much more. Which is to say they eliminated almost all the classic dungeon crawler tropes of having a party of random fighters that you could name and structure yourself. Instead they doubled down on the demon capture and control, the story, and romance elements.
It will be a little strange for people who played the first game to hear, but there is really not a lot of choice when it comes to building your characters. Your main character is always a male, and you can choose between 8 different portraits of them (although it’s really only 4 with 2 different colors each). You can choose between many different voices, but he frankly does not really talk, it is only the typical battle onomatopoeia. You can choose his name, and like any other game that just means that other characters will never use his actual name in any voice work. But really the only major decision you make about the Gazer is that of his alignment or temperament; Good, Neutral, or Evil. Neutral is a balanced set of skills he learns, Good means that he focuses on learning defensive skills, and Evil means that he focuses on offensive skills. But as you can see above, this also applies to his allies, the demons. For Skill selection, you have a choice between two initial skills and then you get another selection at level 20 and your last selection at level 40. These level selections also apply to your demon companions, but both the Gazer and the demons will also routinely learn other skills at frequent level intervals. For some reason they just chose to only give you a choice in those skills at 3 points in your development.
Unlike the first two Experience games, you start out fighting solo and you slowly gain new party members by capturing demons with your Demon Gaze. In the previous title it was a quirk that you could turn over enemy demons to your own control, but they pretty much only buffed your party members in and out of combat. This time around much of the story revolves around the fact that you can liberate demons from the control of another individual and totally wipe away their previous personality to be under your own control. In many ways it’s rather disturbing, but they usually treat it with a fairly light touch, choosing the comedic route instead. Not that there isn’t darkness in the game, the whole story starts out with the king tricking his people into working for the castle and then promptly throwing them into a (literal) furnace to feed his power. Eventually you will gain more than 4 demons and you will have to choose which demons to have in your party and which ones to leave behind. Unfortunately they kept the hardcore design where your out of combat party members do not gain any experience. So if you want to change out your party members with any new demons, you are going to need some catch up grinding. There are only 3 demons in the main game that join you at any level over 1.
Particularly early on it can be quite tedious to grind levels for any new demons or even your own group. The enemy encounter rate in this game is extremely low, so thankfully you can gain some very good experience in single battles due to enemies often attacking you in several waves within a single fight. Even though only 3 enemies can be in a single line, you will often be attacked by up to groups of 6 or 12 or even more enemies that just keep switching to the front of the line. One way around the very low encounter rate is that each dungeon has randomly placed encounter points scattered around as soon as you sortie into the dungeon. Most of these are orange skulls, which means a normal encounter, but others are red which feature higher level versions of those monsters but for increased rewards. So the way to grind up a new demon for your party is to just go back into a previously cleared dungeon and just go to each of those monster spawn points and then exit the dungeon again. Of course, you can also use the demon circles to summon more demons for specific loot, which returns from the first Demon Gaze (and a similar system was also in Stranger of Sword City).
The developers definitely made the decision that Demon Circles are an integral part of this series, because they have been basically unchanged from the first game. You can still place the gem of any type of equipment you are looking for in a set of three slots along with modifying gems that can increase the number of drops, upgrade the equipment received, or increase the power of the summoned monsters. Much like the first game, the equipment vendor is basically useless, the only major thing that he sells is these gems that you can use to gain your own equipment. With each new dungeon you can gain successfully better equipment from these drop points. Also by defeating these Demon Circles for the first time you open the pathway to the final dungeon boss, needing to conquer each one in the dungeon. There is some strategy involved in choosing which gem modifiers to use, like saving the bonus gems for the very rare Artifact gems (which can be equipped to gain new Skills), and saving the enhance gems for a particular piece of gear that is woefully under classed. Also like the first game, you will really only have access to equipment of B rank or lower until the post game. But there is quite a bit of variety still left over, even the same named gear will often have many different possibilities for passive skills. If you start to struggle against enemies, it may be time to grind some Demon Circles from your most recent dungeons that you’ve defeated.
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