09th Nov2017

‘Demon Gaze II’ Review (PS4)

by Matthew Smail

demon-gaze-2-ps4

In Demon Gaze II, players take on the role of a mysterious, amnesiac hero who awakens in the bowels of the autonomous, steampunk inspired city of Asteria. Mysteriously lost in a cellar filled with steaming brass pipes and adorned with valves and levers, he or she has no choice but to follow the only people that seem to offer a helping hand.

What begins as a lengthy introduction to one character after another, a recap of the events in the original Demons Gaze and an overview of the world eventually spins out into a long and deep campaign lasting more than thirty hours, for those who want to experience it. Dialogue is partially voiced and characters are presented as largely static anime characters who are almost always dressed in resplendent garb that strains under the weight of their unnaturally large bosoms (for the female character, at least.)

Players can create their own character during the opening few moments and whilst the aesthetics of design are largely irrelevant due to the fact that the game is played in first person, the choice of alignment to good, neutral or evil affects starting skills. There are dialogue choices to be made throughout the game which broadly align to these options, but selecting one or the other doesn’t appear to restrict your ability to be a good character that answers questions meanly, or vice versa.

The game itself is a weird one. If you remember playing games like Eye of the Beholder on the personal computers of the 1980’s (or even games like Swords and Sorcery on the NES) then you won’t be far away from picturing how Demon Gaze II feels to play (and closer than you think to how it actually looks too.)

The game is played from a first person perspective, but unlike in most modern first person dungeon crawlers, the character only moves (in any direction) one square at a time as the map fills out in the top left hand corner of the screen. In most games of this kind, this brings a turn based element that increases strategy and tension, because for each space you move, an enemy closes in on you. In Demon Gaze II however, when an enemy is met (either randomly or because you enter the space they occupy) you’ll enter a turn based battle mode that is more akin to a traditional JRPG.

Demon Gaze II is a party based game, so once you’ve been playing for a while you’ll have a party of followers (that you’ll never see moving in the game world) meaning that when battle is joined, your party members will take turns and so will the one or more enemies you are facing. Combat is very basic and not actually very much fun, sadly. You’ll choose from basic attack and defend options, use items and abilities and, as the party piece for the whole story, you’ll summon previously captured demons to aid you.

Thematically, the reason the player is able to do so (as you may have guessed) is due to his or her Demon’s Gaze ability and it is this development in his or her life story that both led to amnesia and which also drives the plot. The most interesting thing about Demon Gaze II is undoubtedly the story and the interplay between characters and demons as you go about defeating, capturing and unleashing them.

Unfortunately, the city of Asteria and the game world that Demon Gaze II exists in looks awful on a PS4 paired with a 4K television and it is a combination that I am certain tells a better story on the Vita (which I haven’t tested.) The progressively more challenging dungeons seem to be designed to look as uninteresting as humanly possible and I honestly could not believe the amount of repetition among the scenery. It feels as if the designers used the lowest budget level editor they could find and literally pasted levels together with little or no thought for design.

Because of how bad it looks, how lengthy the story exposition is during the early stages and because the available combat skills are so basic, I found my first few hours with Demon Gaze II to be akin to watching paint dry, and that’s being generous. It is a game that takes a monumental amount of perseverance to begin with and even when you do stick it out, it will only yield a sufficient reward for truly dedicated fans. Demon Gaze II is bloody hard later on and grinding is therefore an absolute necessity, so any sense of momentum can quickly dissolve as the result of being stuck at one of several brutally hard bottlenecks.

I can’t recommend Demon Gaze II highly and I really don’t want to. There are literally countless better RPG’s, JRPG’s, Tactical RPG’s and Turn Based RPG’s to throw your money at, especially on the PS4. Vita buyers are hardly spoilt for choice either, but the game does offer more potential on a handheld platform due to the visual nature and the distraction-proof gameplay that means you won’t lose out much if your train stop arrives unexpectedly or someone spills a coffee into your lap.

** 2/5

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