Demon Gaze 2 (Vita) Review – A Gaze to Capture Newcomers
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PS4
Developer: Experience Inc.
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 14/17th November 2017
Demon Gaze is one of the few series which aim to bring DRPGs to new audiences by offering a simple, scaled down experience which requires almost no learning. Offering everything more complex ones do as well, while never requiring the associated learning curve was one of the main reasons why the first game was so enjoyable. With the release of the sequel Demon Gaze 2, the series returns to enchant DRPG fans and newcomers alike.
Demon Gaze 2 revolves around the city Asteria, solely ruled by the dictator Magnastar who not only suppresses the population but sacrifices his citizens for unknown reasons. Only the resistance led by the sisters Prim and Muse try to stop him. Yet, when their childhood friend, which conveniently is controlled by the player, loses his memories while gaining the power of the so-called Demon Gaze, the power to capture and control demons, they may have a chance to win this war.
As most DRPGs, the game doesn´t offer a truly captivating story, consisting mostly of the same clichés like the protagonist who suffers from amnesia, the evil government etc. On paper the fight against Magnastar and his army isn´t particularly interesting nor surprising but the way it´s presented is responsible for a big part of the enjoyment. By laying a heavy focus on the narrative vision of the resistance and their radio station, the characters begin to gain quite some depth and distance themselves from their initial clichés. Observing how they manage the radio program or simply talking to them, it´s entertaining due to the nice writing and somehow fresh radio idea. Surely the world isn´t as genius as Mary Skelter´s, to name a truly amazing DRPG of this year, but does surprisingly much with the setting. Considering it aims to deliver a streamlined experience, offering a more foreseeable plot may be appealing for some.
Naturally, the gameplay got streamlined as well, consisting of a basic DRPG combat system along a unique approach to leveling. Exploring the different dungeons throughout the story feels like pretty much everywhere else, from unlocking doors to solving puzzles and of course, fighting. Demon Gaze 2 is rather unsurprising in this department, from normal attacks to magic but lacking any kind of new feature. It feels so very generic and easy, especially in combination with the pretty low difficulty ad huge party, that it almost seems too friendly.
However, the main way of enhancing both the character and the demons which are captured during the journey and are the main part of the party, is actually quite neat. At the beginning of the character creations it´s necessary to select a focus, either damage, support or neutral focuses, it determines the future skills unlocked by gaining levels both for the character and demons. Even though a lot of branching options may be eliminated, leveling up the many, many demons without having to worry about destroying their initial role is refreshingly fast. Especially because there´s still the option to customize the party members through portals and gems. Once a portal is found in a dungeon it can grant a special permanent boost to a demon depending on the sacrificed gem. From shields to more damage, there are a lot of options.
Another possibility to boost the affection meter, enabling little conversations with them or unlock new skills, is “maintenance”. Remember the great Vita mini-games from Criminal Girls for example? Demon Gaze 2 does the same in maintenance and it´s more than just boringly sexist, since there are male demons as well, touching various spots on them while they´re moaning is somewhat off-putting and not really what I would describe as fun. Sadly it´s necessary to level them up, making it a huge pain in the ass.
Demon Gaze 2 doesn´t offer a lot of side content as well, probably to avoid distraction of the main route. While there are a few side dungeons and quests most of them aren´t very remarkable not interesting and considering the low difficulty, not necessary so I quickly stopped bothering about them. After completing the game there´s actually an endgame with a pretty tough and long dungeon along some big bosses but that´s as far as it gets. The linear progression and rather little endgame may deliver a fast-paced adventure without distraction but let the game seem somewhat lacking.
On the other hand the visuals, especially on Vita, are one of its strongest points. Dungeons look sharp and detailed, particularly the ones with background art, and easily make Demon Gaze 2 to one of the best looking DRPGs on the platform. Combined with the occasional CG pictures or “cutscenes” the presentation can offer a top-notch experience. Despite the beautiful but generic looking artstyle, weirdly scaled text or overload of numbers in certain menus, the game runs, looks and controls pretty damn fantastic on Sony´s dying little handheld.
Demon Gaze 1 was a great game because it delivered an easy, streamlined approach to DRPGs and its follow-up, Demon Gaze 2, is exactly the same. Through its cliché-y story, basic combat and mostly linear dungeon and character progression there aren´t many ways to branch out of the path. Yet, together with the unique companion-affection based leveling system, even though the mini-game for it sucks, it doesn´t only bring something new to the table but can create a great entry into the DRPG genre. Surely more experienced players will have their fun with it too.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]