Demon Gaze is a Dungeon Crawler viewed in a first person point of view and is set in the world of Mythrid. We play as a fully customizable character that can be either male or female though he/she will be treated as a male regardless of your decision. You can chose from one of 45 preset appearances, your race and a bunch of voice samples for when he is in pain, attacking or dying. Don’t fret too much if you regret how your character looks as you can change your character’s look or voice as many times as you desire after unlocking the bath area. Upon entering the actual game you will find yourself locked up in a dungeon with another armed human. He opens the door for you but soon after you hear him being murdered by an unknown giggling creature. You navigate the grid based environment and eventually encounter it. Being unarmed you are left with no choice other than to flee though a certain red headed character called Lorna blocks your path of escape and gives you a weapon. This is where you face your first demon.
After completely wiping the floor with that push over of a demon you end up absorbing its soul. It is then revealed that you are a Demon Gazer, a being that can capture and control demons. Once you exit the dungeon it is revealed that it was the basement of an inn and you are quickly introduced to the very strange set of characters occupying this building. There is a strange catgirl maid called Pinay, an annoying elf called Lezerem and a few other characters that live in that inn. You are then taken to the manager called Fran who is oddly excited to see you and turns that demon soul you captured earlier into a key that summons the captured demon as an ally during battle. After that she welcomes you as a new resident of the inn and if you decline she quickly tells you that you should be honored as there is no other safe haven in this zone of the world. As it turns out demons and monsters have overrun this land 15 years ago and only mercenaries remain to plunder the land for loot. This is how you are forced to hunt down demons and restore the land to its former glory whether you like it or not.
That is far easier said than done. Demons in this game are a very dangerous threat and it took me 8 hours to finally defeat the first one in the starting area. The inn is your base of operation though it feels more like a prison where you can go into the basement to talk to a strange little girl that revives dead teammates for a fee and allows you to change the difficulty of the game, go into the bath to change you appearances and go into the second floor where you can check on your party or change furniture that boosts certain stats. The third floor is the most important floor as it features the game’s only two merchants and the manager who can sell you more rooms as well as let you build new party members for a price. Everyone in this game seems to be very greedy as you may be able to tell by now, but none are greedier than the manager herself. Every-time you return to the inn to rest or buy items she will charge you rent, even if you only take a step outside and then walk back in. How much she charges you depends on the amount of party members, the difficulty you are on and your level. Why she charges you more every time you level up is unknown but you will quickly grow to dislike her.
She will take money directly from you with no option to choose not to pay. If you don’t have enough money to pay rent, you will still have to pay whatever you owe whenever you receive more cash. Even when it becomes clear that you are the only one that can restore the land and achieve her dream, she will never stop collecting that money since she prefers cash over keeping humanity alive apparently. In all seriousness it is a cool little gimmick at first as it forces you to stay outside and fighting for as long as you are willing to risk it but it gets old fast. By the end of the game you will be paying thousands of coins each visit back and it sucks if you only need to go back to report the success of a mission. Anyways, you will want to rent more rooms as soon as you can afford too as only having two people in your party makes the game really difficult. Renting an extra room also nets you a brand new party member so you don’t have to spend more money making one unless you are not satisfied with the class given to you. The classes are Wizard, Archer, Paladin, Samurai and Healer, not counting your unique Gazer class. All of them have different abilities and are only able to wield weapons made for them.
Nicely enough there are no other restrictions to weapons other than classes meaning that a brand new level one character can equip the strongest gear in the game, becoming instantly useful. Be careful hiring too many people too early on as your rent can increase to more than you may be able to make. Not sure what happens if you get in too much debt. The maximum number of people you can have is 5 and they are rarely mentioned in the story. Once you are all set and outside it is your typical grid based Dungeon Crawler where every time you move you have a chance to trigger a random fight. Fights are also your typical affair of attacking, using skills or spells and defending. The unique thing here is that you can either use your demons ability for a cost from your gauge or summon the demon to fight which costs detracts one number each turn from said gauge. As your demons level up they become more powerful as well as add an extra number to your maximum limit. As long as your gauge doesn’t reach zero your demon is your ally but as soon as it reaches zero it transforms into a more powerful enraged version of itself and attacks both friend and foe alike. It is a really neat concept that adds a risk to using your demons in battle since they can be your greatest allies as well as your biggest threat.
Unfortunately your demon’s AI is so dumb that I am going to go ahead and call it flat out broken. You cannot directly control your demon and they will pull some seriously dumb meaningless moves during combat such as healing a party member with full health while another one is near death. It is much better to use a demon like Mars since all she does is attack enemies. At the very least enemies do attack your demons as well, making for a good tank and keeping your party from taking those blows that would have otherwise been directed toward them. A feature I really liked for combat is that pressing the triangle button will repeat all the actions you did last turn which saves you a ton of time during battles. Be careful using it though as you may find yourself repeating an action that you really shouldn’t have, contrary to this game’s cute appearance, you do not want to waste an attack as it is quite a difficult game. One thing that I must mention is that the character portraits can block an enemy from your view which is rather annoying. Status effects in this game are far more dangerous than most physical attacks. You can get kidnapped which takes that character out of battle for a certain time as well as deals halve the damage of whatever HP he is at.
Poison is also very deadly and will kill a character if you don’t use an item or skill to cure it. Some common enemies even inflict a status effect that one hit kills you which is honestly pretty cheap as there is no way to counter or negate it. Items that revive your characters are very rare or very costly if you choose to buy them to further rub salt on the wound. The environments you will explore are large and plentiful ranging from cemeteries, burning cities, dense forests and underwater ruins to name a few. Each one of these have their gimmicks such as the forest that turns your characters direction around making it a pain to get through. Most of them do have floor hazards so the demon Chronos that has a passive skill that allows you to step on those without getting harmed was always in my party of up to three demons. You start off with only one demon slot but you will unlock two others as you level up. It is quite a large game and has many more places to explore than the overworld map lets on. Having the demon Comet will allow you to see secrets hidden in the walls which you can then kick to retrieve them or it may even be a secret entrance which you must find to get past areas. Whenever you are stuck equip Comet and look for shining cracks on the wall.
Scattered around the level are floating eye icons which represent save points. Before you are able to save you must offer up a gem type to summon monsters holding the item you want and allowing you to claim that icon. Once you claim a circle it will always be yours and you can save as much as you want on it though to offer up more gems you need to go to the inn in order for them to reset. Be extremely careful when you decide to liberate a save point. There is a chance that the demon that occupies those lands will show up and wipe the floor with you if you aren’t prepared. You will face each demon twice. Once from randomly encountering them while liberating a save point and again once you liberate each save point in the area. Just because you beat them once before doesn’t mean you will be able to pull it off again as the next time you face it it’ll be in its enraged form. Taking down a demon is always a great feeling as fighting them is quite a challenge and securing a victory by the skin of your teeth is always enjoyable, well, until you take the demon to Fran and your rent is more than your reward.
The aforementioned gems are what make this game unique as there are no weapon or armor drops in this game. You can sell monsters teeth or skin for money and they may drop an item if you are lucky but in order to get better weapons or armor you must go to a save point and sacrifice up to three gems to summon a horde of monsters containing whatever type of items the gems where modeled after. Whatever you receive is based on pure luck and it may either be a useless low tier weapon or one way overpowered for the area you are in. I liked it at first but soon found myself at the mercy of RNG whenever I encountered an area where the gear I have simply does not suffice. There is a weapon shop that sells up to mid game tier weapons though they are so expensive that I never even enter the weapon shop unless there is a mission I must complete. Take care when summoning item holding creatures as they can be far more powerful than you can handle. By far one of the most useful and rare gems is the Artifact gem that summons an equip-able artifact that allows your character to learn skills from other classes. It is a very neat feature that allows you to make your Fighter have some healing spells or your Wizard to be an assassin. It offers up a lot more customization to the characters and with being able to equip 5 artifacts on any character you can make some really interesting class hybrids.
What artifacts you receive is completely random and since they are not vital like weapons or armor it does make it exciting to see what you are going to get next even if useless to you at the moment. By far one of the most useful Artifacts I have found is one that allows you to see how much health an enemy has. I have never found one that allows me to see an enemy’s level if such an artifact even exists, making you lose a few party members when you discover this enemy is far beyond your ability. Without knowing their health, level and some of them having the chance to one hit kill you it sometimes feels more about luck than actual skill. Especially toward the end of the game where bosses may heal more health than which you can take resulting in an eternal struggle with neither side able to win. Speaking of healing the first thing you want to do when you start the game is offer up staff gems until you receive the healing staff weapon. This is by far the most useful object as the game since you can use it during battle to heal some health or use it while you are walking around to keep using it until your party is at full health. It has infinite charges so you can use it as much as you want and it will be your best friend from the start of the game all the way until the end.
There is post game content that include a gauntlet of some of the most gimmicky and annoying dungeons I have ever come across as well as a boss rush mode that you need to beat in one go or they all respawn. After you accomplish these tasks you can start the game over again in a New Game+ mode that features stronger enemies and nothing else you didn’t see your first time through. It is not a short game and took me about 80 hours to complete. When talking to other characters you have the option of responding to them from three dialogue options though they never matter so feel free to respond in the way you find most amusing. Which brings me to the story. It is surprisingly engaging. There is not much of it but whenever there is a story section it is impactful and grows unexpectedly grim. Was not expecting that at all judging from the cheerful tone of this game but people will die and you will be betrayed. People mourn far too long when the first bad event happens however, it is annoying to hear sad music in the inn when that event took place several hours ago. I can’t mention much more without spoiling it though it would be nice to have the option to leave the inn and live in a cave or something. You do eventually grow to like the characters though it is possible I may be experiencing Stockholm syndrome towards the people forcing me to fight and giving a good chunk of my money to.
There are only three sidequests that are not mandatory and all the rest will eventually stop story progress until you complete it. One thing that really attracted me to the game is the soundtrack. It is a cheerful mixture of violins, guitar and vocaloids singing. Most of the dialogue is told through text though from time to time they will be voice acted and can be either English voice actors or Japanese ones depending on your choice. The English ones are terrible so I switched to Japanese even if I don’t speak a lick of it. Now to talk about Demon Gaze’s worst flaw. The menus are terrible and a complete chore to navigate. It may not sound that bad but to anyone that is familiar with Dungeon Crawlers you will now you spent a lot of time in the menus seeing if so and so weapon has higher stats, the effects of skills and looking at your quests to remind yourself what you are doing. Equipping artifacts tells you that it “grants skill of Divine Body”. Okay? What does Divine Body do? Well to find that out you have to unequip one of your artifacts if you have five already equipped, replace it, go into the skill menus and then search through skill categories until you find the new skill you just equipped. That is just one example of how terrible the menus are designed making a simple task far more complicated and time consuming than it should. Receive a new weapon? You go into “items” then the “confirm” menu to see what it was then scroll through all of your items to see what it was. You can also go to the “equip” menu but they will only show you the weapons that class type can wield causing you to scroll through all your characters in search of that weapon and if none of your characters are able to wield the new weapon it will not show. Good luck trying to find what your new weapon was if you forgot its name.
To make matters worse there are a lot of unnecessary items that fill up your inventory. Most of the items do the exact same thing such as heal a certain amount of health like cheese, small meat and many many more healing 30-50hp. Your inventory will quickly fill up with a bunch of items that do the same thing making it a pain to scroll through all of them while searching for the one you actually want to use. They don’t even tell you what your stats such as Mysticism do, in game or in the instruction manual either causing you to place your level up points blindly due to the lack of information. Everything about the menus and being displayed the information you need is a complete mess. Luckily the battle UI is much better minus the portraits being able to block an enemy from your view. Demon Gaze is a game with many flaws no doubt. With the amount of Dungeon Crawlers available on that system and even being able to play a lot of the PSP Dungeon Crawler games on your Vita there is definitely better ones out there. Yet there is just something about Demon Gaze that had me hooked and even considering playing through it again. Even if it does feel like the manager Fran owns you, it is still a lot of fun to explore the huge environments while being accompanied by a great soundtrack. This game doesn’t do anything too differently from other dungeon crawlers and what it does do differently ends up being a negative such as no weapon drops and paying rent. If you have already burned through the Vita’s supply of dungeon crawlers or see Demon Gaze for cheap you could do for worse than playing this and who knows, it may even turn out to be one of your guilty pleasures as it was mine.