Title: DEMON GAZE EXTRA (デモンゲイズエクストラ)
Genre: Dungeon RPG
Platform: Switch, PS4, PC
Developer: Experience (original), Cattle Call (Extra)
Publisher: Dragami Games (JP), Clouded Leopard Entertainment (WW)
Release date: 2 Sep 2021 (JP, Switch/PS4), 6 Jan 2022 (WW, Switch/PS4), 26 Apr 2022 (WW, PC)
※本レビューの日本語版はこちらで読めます / This review is also available in Japanese
Demon Gaze was originally released exclusively on the PlayStation Vita in 2013, quickly becoming a cult hit. Though it stayed confined to the Vita for some time, it was finally brought to current gen consoles and PC as Demon Gaze Extra in 2021, with upgraded sound and graphics and new features.
The game takes place in the area around a castle and its surrounding city, a land which has been left decimated for a long time. Additionally, powerful Demons have taken up residence in the labyrinths in the region, which is now mostly only visited by bounty hunters seeking to make their fortune.
The player character awakens in a dungeon under the only inn in the area, and soon discovers that he is a Demon Gazer: Someone who has the power to take control of Demons, which leaves him tasked with exploring the labyrinths in the region and defeating the Demons that dwell there.
Gameplay-wise, Demon Gaze Extra is mostly a conventional first-person 3D dungeon RPG with turn-based combat. The player explores dungeons in first person, commanding a party of up to five characters in battle. The party is divided into a front and back row with a maximum of four members for either row, and a minimum of one in the front row.
For the most part, anyone familiar with dungeon RPGs or even just RPGs in general should be able to jump in and immediately understand most of what is going on, but Demon Gaze does throw in a number of interesting elements that change up the formula and make it stand out from other games in the genre.
The most prominent gimmick is of course the titular Demon Gaze. Demons serve as the bosses for each dungeon, and when defeated, the protagonist uses his Demon Gaze power to make them subservient. The player can only equip a certain number of Demons at a time, and have to summon them separately in battle, but they provide huge advantages such as special abilities to help with exploration or buffs in battle, and also serve as powerful AI-controlled party members when summoned in combat.
Also of note is the Gem Circle system. Gem Circles are special tiles found in dungeons, of which there is a set number of. Special items called Gems are used at these spots in order to summon enemies that drop equipment corresponding to the types of Gems used. Gem Circles are also the primary goal of each dungeon, with the boss only appearing after all the Gem Circles have been used at least once, and they also serve as save/load points and let the player swap out their equipped Demons.
While certain items like perishables can be picked up in dungeons, and some equipment can be bought in stores, the vast majority of equipment is obtained from using Gem Circles, making them extremely important.
While not quite a feature, it is worth mentioning that Demon Gaze has very heavy emphasis on resource management: The player has to pay rent every time when returning to the inn, which goes up as more party members are added and as the game progresses. Furthermore, adding new members to the party also requires somewhat significant amounts of money.
One source of income is selling equipment obtained from Gem Circles, but equipment can also be broken down into Ether, which is used to upgrade equipment, meaning that the player has to choose between selling unneeded equipment or using it for upgrades. While this may sound like a lot to manage, it does result in a nice sense of satisfaction when things go well, or when the party is finally filled out at five members.
As a dungeon crawler, Demon Gaze Extra is sufficiently satisfying. Many dungeons have interesting gimmicks, and never overstay their welcome. The game also has an “autopilot” feature allowing the player to move at an increased speed to any accessible spot previously explored. The game also takes a Metroidvania-like approach to progression sometimes: Rather than simply opening up new areas, the player is given new abilities and tools that allow them to open up new paths (often leading to new areas) in older ones, which has a more organic feeling to it than simply adding a new dungeon to a list.
The encounter rate can feel high at times, but the option to make the party repeat the previous turn’s actions at high speed (indefinitely if wanted) makes it so that random encounters never really feel like a chore, and in many cases they last mere seconds. Boss battles, on the other hand, are balanced to feel pretty tough and are what one would expect boss battles to feel like. The game also has difficulty options, allowing the player to decide on if they want an easier or harder experience, and if the player loses a battle they can immediately retry that battle.
Fans of the genre tend to gravitate towards wanting freedom of choice when creating their party, and Demon Gaze Extra does not fail in that regard. There are seven classes and five races to choose from when creating a character, adding up to 35 different combinations. Additionally, the game has Artifacts, items which a character can equip in order to use a skill that they would not otherwise have access to, similar to the Grimoires of Etrian Odyssey Untold.
It should be noted, however, that the number of Gems that cause enemies to drop Artifacts in the game is limited, and while it is possible to collect all of them in one playthrough, doing so requires planning and access to the post game content. As such, Artifacts add a certain degree of randomness to the main story of each playthrough, which this reviewer considers to mostly be a good thing: While the game already has high replay value thanks to the variety of classes and races, the Artifact system tosses in elements outside the player’s control to spice things up.
One thing which genre fans might not like, however, is how the protagonist has a fixed class, race, and gender. While the player can freely change the name, look, and voice of the protagonist, the story and system will always treat him as a male human Demon Gazer, with Demon Gazer being the protagonist’s unique class focused around summoning and controlling Demons. A summoned Demon functionally acts as a sixth party member, however, which does contribute to the player overall having more choice in the end.
It should also be noted that while the game does come with a large number of portraits to use for characters, with Extra having added even more when compared to the original Vita release, it still can still feel insufficient, especially if using multiple characters with the same race and class.
Another aspect that might not sit well with genre fans is how the game has a strongly defined storyline that is focused on the protagonist and the various NPC characters, who are all colorful and unique in their own way. All the party members are silent in the story, and while the silent protagonist is treated as such and does play an important role in it, the other party members might as well not exist when it comes to the story. While the story being presented like this might help fans of Japanese RPGs who are not familiar with dungeon RPGs get into the game, having party members treated like this might feel odd to them.
The biggest change Demon Gaze Extra has when compared to the original version of the game is the addition of a new character class, the Machina. Unlocked relatively late into the game, the Machina is a class with free stat distribution that has very few skills of its own: Rather, it gains extra Artifact slots, allowing the player to make a character with a unique loadout.
Demon Gaze Extra might have added a lot of quality of life improvements when compared to the original Vita release, but it does still have a number of issues. For example, the player can see a log of previous actions while in battle, but there is no text log for story sequences. It can also be unclear what a particular class is capable of as there is no way in-game to look up a list of skills that they will learn, which could make it hard to plan stat distribution, and there is also no way to redo or reset stat distribution or change classes. There is also no way to undo accidentally selling or dismantling a unique piece of equipment aside from reloading a save.
The Good: Lots of freedom of choice and fun and unique gimmicks.
The Bad: The game could have used a few more quality of life upgrades, and the English translation is pretty dodgy.
Conclusion: All-in-all, Demon Gaze Extra is a great dungeon RPG: It has difficulty options, a well-defined story, and enough amenities to make it perfect for fans of Japanese RPGs who are otherwise not familiar with the DRPG genre, while also featuring enough freedom and unique gimmicks to make it fun for players who are.
Mecha SRPG Relayer coming to PC via Steam & GOG as Relayer Advanced
A review copy of this game was provided by the developer.
This article was originally published on 28th February 2023.