Demon Gaze II (PlayStation 4 Review)

Taking the soft reboot approach, Demon Gaze II aims to make the dungeon-crawling genre more accessible to mainstream audiences than its predecessor. While this may have been the intention behind the original Demon Gaze’s release on PlayStation Vita back in 2013 (or 2014 for those of us in the west), the title wasn’t as successful as hoped. Instead, Demon Gaze II looks to attract a broader audience with a new focus on the story. Is that enough, however?

The premise is a familiar one. Our mute protagonist—freely named by the player when launching a new game—wakes up in an unfamiliar location with amnesia. He is part of a rebel group intending to end the oppression by Sirius Magnastar—the setting’s ruler. He also now has a new power as a demon gazer, enabling the capture and control of Magnastar’s demons. While alone in the field, players are supported by a crew who hijack the airwaves to spread the word. Our aim is to spread the influence of the broadcasts throughout the city.

Demon Gaze II gets straight to the point, but doesn’t feel hasty at all. Much of the story is broken up between the lengthy dungeons, offering enough progression between without being intrusive to fans of the genre—dungeon-crawlers are often light on story. That being said, there isn’t a lot of intrigue to be found here. The story is serviceable and the cast is unremarkable—consisting of mostly character archetypes—but the magical-technology setting brings an element of charm. The story does have more presence than the title’s predecessor, but the characters are what drive the player’s motivation. They’re fairly likeable, which is good considering the there’s an entire mechanic around spending time with many of them.

Intended to serve as a better introduction to the genre than the original release, the title appears much more focused. The combat balance feels tighter, with a lot less difficulty spikes than this reviewer recalls in Demon Gaze. That’s not to say that there isn’t any challenge, but each dungeon’s theme is clarified upon entry and can be exploited to mow down any monsters in the random battles during exploration. The class system has also technically been removed, instead relying on each character to represent a class instead. Much of the design surrounding the game is about refining it for beginners, and removing any of the excess that may distract. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Japanese RPG without some fluff. Players can power up their demons and consume a special gauge for turn-wide buffs, or tune their demons for affection. Spare equipment can be consumed to boost any other that belongs within the same category, such as daggers or light armour. They’re useful, but didn’t feel that mandatory.

Each of the dungeons sprawl multiple floors, but these additional floors may sometimes be unlocked later in the story. Local maps will start off blank, requiring the player to explore each tile-space of a dungeon to fill it. Further driving that exploration are a number of magic circles sprawled throughout the stage. Players may use artifacts to guarantee specific loot from the monsters that guard these circles, and clearing them all will unlock the hidden boss room. There’s a lot of backtracking, but the gear and level progression ensure that reaching the new areas is a breeze. New areas will often expand upon the gameplay in previous areas, rather than feeling too repetitive. However, there is a risk of fatigue in some of the longer dungeons.

Noticeably different from Demon Gaze, the art style has become a little more typical for a Japanese RPG. While changing the slightly more distinctive style from before might be a small loss, the new look is more visually appealing. It’s more simple and more accessible. In the narrative, a lot of attention is drawn to the music. Assisting the revolutionist party over the airwaves is a songstress, Prim, who brings some pop into the mix. The soundtrack has transformed into something more upbeat and trendy, though the vocals sound like they’ve been a little over-processed. Perhaps Prim isn’t as good at vocals as we’re lead to believe? Of course, more dramatic themes will include a chorus overlaid with electric guitars. The whole package has gotten considerably more anime.

As an entry to dungeon crawling, Demon Gaze II certainly does improve upon its predecessors accessibility. It’s more polished and is clearly more direct in approaching its goal. While broadening the appeal for fans of Japanese RPGs, this new focus has come at a cost. It feels a little generic.

Demons Gaze 2

Demons Gaze 2
6

Overall

6.0/10

Pros

  • Accessible entry point to genre
  • Improvements to balance
  • More focused and polished than Demon Gaze

Cons

  • Every element is fairly generic

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