Demon Gaze: A Dungeon Crawler For Newcomers

By Jack . April 21, 2014 . 5:40pm

First-person dungeon crawlers were a genre that I never knew I loved until about a year ago, when I played Etrian Odyssey IV. Before then, the genre always kind of intimidated me as most of them strip RPGs down to their base, focusing on raw mechanics and exploration rather than lots of dialogue and impressive graphics. Demon Gaze sits somewhere between the two extremes, making it one of the most accessible dungeon crawlers I’ve ever played.


Unlike a lot of games in its genre, Demon Gaze makes a noticeable effort to ease you in. There is a fairly lengthy opening sequence that introduces you to the dungeon crawling mechanics, a surprising amount of story dialogue, and mandatory introductions all of the game’s secondary mechanics. It’s safe to say that Demon Gaze does not give you a lot of freedom at the start, as even assembling a team of party members is a delayed process.


Party members are customizable in terms of appearance, class, and voice acting. This is usually my favorite aspects of these kind of games, as you get to set up a party with a true sense of ownership, but I found the whole process to be unusually restricted. You aren’t allowed to set up all five party slots right away; instead you have to pay increasingly large amounts of money in order to purchase rooms for them to stay. Similar build-up is required to access most of Demon Gaze’s depth, which feels intentional as to not overburden newer players.


While Demon Gaze feels a little more restricted than your average dungeon crawler, it makes up for it with abundant energy. The entire game is very vibrant, with lots of bright colors and upbeat music backed up by vocaloids. Dialogue is made more exciting thanks to tricks like zoom-ins and movement across the screen. Even the battles themselves, while nothing impressive, move with speed and intensity that get you excited for their outcome. I’m not usually one to get really swept up by presentation, and it’s obvious this game didn’t have an extensive budget, but I was impressed by how lively a game that involves mostly looking at static character art felt.


Essentially the game is broken up into three modes: combat, exploration, and regrouping. Combat is the usual fair for dungeon crawlers, you encounter enemy hordes randomly and take turns beating on each other. It isn’t the deepest RPG system in the world, but I found that it was satisfying to play and required a lot of different strategies to effectively fight different hordes and bosses. My one complaint here is that the difficulty balance occasionally seems a bit out of whack, thanks in part to the random encounters occasionally giving you hordes that are way out of your league.


It seems like a small thing, but the pace of battles is expertly handled. Similar to other first person dungeon crawlers, there isn’t much to the battle animations (although the static HD art looks very nice) which means little time is wasted waiting for attacks to unfold. On top of that there’s also an extremely efficient “auto battle” kind of option that repeats your last turn by pressing triangle. You can easily adjust whatever characters you need to turn between turns while presetting the rest, making the mindless encounters fast and the bigger brawls efficiently manageable. Getting stopped in a random encounter never feels like a chore, as no matter what the battle will be decided very quickly.


The most unique characteristic of the game is that you’re a “Demon Gazer,” meaning that you have the power to stare at demons really hard until they help you out. Once you’ve captured a demon’s soul with your piercing glance, you can bring them with you to dungeons. Every demon has unique abilities to assist you, and deciding which one to bring along is incredibly important depending on your situation. Some demons can spot hidden doors while others can buff up your defense significantly, so mixing and matching becomes a very strategic process.


Obtaining new demons is a big deal, as they are all gained from boss encounters. A lot of time is spent building up to these battles, as in order to corner a demon you need to locate all of the gates they can hide in throughout the map. Finding all of the gates requires doing a full sweep of the area. Multiple times I had gone through the whole dungeon only missing one gate, only to find some obscure hidden door off in some corner of the map.


Exploration never feels like a chore, though, as the dungeons manage to be very open without being overcomplicated. The majority of the dungeons are kept on an even level rather than being broken up with multiple flights of stairs, with different sections of the area logically connecting to each other. The layout makes traversal easy and natural, as every map has a memorable theme and is full of hidden secrets and shortcuts. Eventually the dungeons do get more complicated, but by then I felt confident enough to actually want that complexity.


In between your bouts of dungeon crawling you head back to the inn to recover, but not for free. To stay in good standing at the inn you actually have to pay rent based on amount and strength of the party members you have whenever you return. This opened up an odd strategic aspect to the game where I kept trying to balance myself between finding enough rent money in dungeons while also heading back to the inn just before a level up so I could be as big a cheap-skate as possible.


Staying at the inn is where you’re also going to get most of the story. Despite its unusual emphasis on narrative, this is easily the weakest aspect of Demon Gaze. The inn is inhabited by a host of one-note perverts who, male or female, are more than willing to tear their clothes off at moment’s notice. It’s silly, over-the-top, and most importantly, makes it extremely hard to care about the characters in the game. Unfortunately, Demon Gaze tries to make you care regardless with awkward tonal shifts and plot twists that just don’t fit the nature of the writing or character designs.


There’s an established world here, but Demon Gaze does very little with it. I ended up being a little confused as to whether Demon Gaze was actually trying to tell a story or if the narrative is just a vehicle to get to the next wacky, contrived antic. In that sense it almost works, I was always interested to see what bizarre thing the inn folk were going to do after I defeated a boss. It just feels like a wasted opportunity to put so much effort and dialogue into something that is ultimately superfluous to enjoying the game.


Thankfully, Demon Gaze can stand on its dungeon crawling alone. Demon Gaze is a good entry point into the genre, being simple enough to easily get into while also having a satisfying pace that keeps you hooked.


Food for Thought:


1. There’s an online messaging system (inspired by DARK SOULS??) where you can leave notes on the ground called “Gazer Memos” for other players to find. This would likely be a big help to keep players out of traps while also pointing out secrets like hidden doors. I didn’t get much out of it because I played the game before its release, but I’m hoping someone reads my dumb misleading messages at some point.


2. Demon Gaze features some gratuitous borderline nudity, but what I actually find the most explicit are the noises the party members make when bumping into walls in dungeons. Those voice actors are really into their wall bumping and I imagine it’d be pretty easy for anyone nearby to think you’re up to something shady.


3. I was surprised how little secondary content I encountered during my time with Demon Gaze. The main hall of the inn has a bulletin board filled with quests, but very few of them actually end up being optional. For better or for worse, Demon Gaze is very focused on its main quest.


4. A neat touch is that the demons you capture still have a mind of their own. There’s a numbered gauge that decreases the more you use their power, and when it hits zero the demon goes berserk and tries to kill you. Demons are also very impatient; if you go too long without summoning one it will take it upon itself to come out and start fighting.

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  • Firion Hope

    Sounds pretty awesome all things considered, I’ll definitely pick this one up at some point

    Etryian Odyssey seemd a little 3 hardcore 5 me

    • KuroNathan

      EO I-III are what i consider the hardcore parts of the series, the EO Untold and EO IV are considerably more accessible (not easier) and take more steps to ease the player into the series

      • CDM

        While I agree EO4 and Untold are more accessible, it’s hard to deny that they’re easier as well. Of course, they’re still harder then your average RPG, but compared to the rest of the series, Untold’s expert mode being the exception, 4 and Untold are quite a good bit easier.

        • hng qtr

          Untold is the hardest game in the series.

          • CDM

            While that’s debatable, this only applies when you’re playing on Expert mode, which I noted was an exception to what I was saying.

          • hng qtr

            But why it’s an exception? Expert mode is there and it’s not even something you need to unlock(like master difficulty on SMT IV). If the player can make the game easier or harder then the game is simply more accessible, not necessarily easier.

          • CDM

            I’m not saying it’s not more accessible, I agreed with that point, however I’m also considering the difficulties seperately. Casual and Standard, 2 of the 3 difficulties, are both easier than what would normally be considered standard fare for the EO series. It’s generally agreed that Expert mode brings the game back to its almost-masochistic roots, and it’s certainly very hard, which I can attest to having beaten the game on it. However, it’s hard to argue whether the game is easier or harder, given multiple difficulties and the freedom to change to any one of them at will, so I like to consider them seperately with regards to how difficult the game is. On the whole, if you’re just considering how hard the game CAN be, then yes, Untold is very hard.

          • CDM

            I would like to note, though, that Untold’s Standard mode is considered to be on par with EO4’s Standard difficulty.

          • hng qtr

            I’m not so sure about that, in Untold you can pretty much auto-battle FOE’s since early game.

        • KuroNathan

          Well its pretty much hard to beat EO I’s difficulty because it was difficult for all the wrong reasons. A lot of imbalances and pacing issues made the game an arduous task to finish.

          On the other hand I also felt that EO IV had a lot less game breaking combos compared to the previous games like Warrior’s might + pirate guns or hexer in EO II and immunize in EO I

      • 0nsen

        Etrian Odyssey IV is easy as fuck, though. (Played it on the most difficult option available.) I didn’t even die once. Not. Even. Once. (Till I got underleveled to the postgame boss anyway.)

        And I didn’t even have a medic in my party, because I anticipated that it would be easier xD

        The dragons in that one are more like big lizards. They don’t even need special planning, you can just kill them without much trouble.

        • KuroNathan

          yeah story mode is easier but when you get down to the nitty gritty the final dungeon is hell mode. At least in the previous games if you were ambushed you weren’t instantly wiped out by a party wide petrify attack.

          The giant bug was also a pain in the ass and (if for some reason you’re a masochist) much harder then the other final bosses if you use minimum injections

    • CDM

      While EO does like to pride itself on its difficulty, later games in the series (4, Untold) are much more well-balanced and, for lack of better word, easier, Untold’s expert mode not-withstanding. They even have the ability the ability to change difficulty levels at will, when you’re in town anyway. EO is one of my favorite RPG series, so I highly recommend you give EO4 or EO:U a shot.

  • AlteisenX

    I can’t wait to grab my copy tomorrow and get the awesome Disgaea DLC with it. Mars is definitely my favourite dragon chainsaw winged demon girl? I really hope they make a sequel with the same art style, I’m loving it.

  • Pichi

    Like what I read here. I could use a little easy-going dungeon crawler, and I like the art and the wacky antics.

  • KuroNathan

    Pre-ordered and ready to pick up! its been a while since the last EO game and I’m itching for a beating

  • Wafflenaut

    Interesting note about the wall-bumping, it’s the same way in Class of Heroes; I wonder if that’s a “thing” over there for certain Dungeon Crawlers.

    • pimpalicious

      I think the Wizardry game on PSN is like that also iirc.

  • Shippoyasha

    The dungeon crawler has been some of the strongest RPG subgenres the past decade, so it’s nice to have more people to be introduced to it. Dungeon crawlers arguably never slowed down as a genre these past few gaming generations while other genres saw more turbulence especially in Japan. It’s pretty cool how such an oldschool style of gaming is going so strong in the current gaming landscape. And it’s more addicting than ever when they’re so readily available on handhelds.

  • Kayhil Dimas

    just now started playing this game ( guess nisa sent it out early) and so far i like it, great music and some funny moments.though i’m still in the beginning(exploring some dungeon called slave grave)I agree with some of the points you made.

  • God

    So basically, Disgaea meets Unchained Blades? AWESOME!

    • I would’ve like this game to have the F.O.E. system, as well. It would invite more replayability. And Unchained Blades was lacking in the latter department.

    • GibbRS

      The game feels like Etrian Odyssey (for exploration) mixed with Shin Megami Tensei (combat and town mechanics) to me.

      • God

        Have you even played Unchained Blades? and i meant like Disgaea in terms of the wacky plot.

  • Tinye

    Great read, especially summary #2 ahha – Already had it pre-ordered and came today, a day early but still in the middle of Conception II so Demon Gaze will have to wait.

  • Trinity

    This was an.excellent review. Makes me excited for my preorder.

  • Dual audio?

    • Yup, English and Japanese. Just double checked my copy for you.

      • hmm may get it then, thanks

        • SobriK

          While it’s totally a matter of preference, the english dub in this one’s actually quite good. Heresy to some, I know, but I found it very enjoyable (and I’ll probably never get tired of hearing “Comet Charrrrrrrge!”)

    • SobriK

      Yup. Eng/Jap in the options menu – also, you can turn the wall bump sound effects off in the same menu.

  • Earthjolly

    I really want to get this game, but my backlog is out of control and with Drakengard 3 and Watch Dogs and Soul Sacrifice Delta in May, I can’t find the time to sink my teeth into this game. Maybe during the Winter

  • revenent hell

    As a child I didn’t care for dungeon crawlers ,honestly, I was just turned off by the first person mode while exploring a dungeon. I didn’t really enjoy any first person mode type thing in any game then though so I just didn’t play them..

    Years later I ended up buying one on a whim (actually I didn’t know it was a dungeon crawler) and afterward they quickly became one of my top tier favorite type of games to play.

    I have to say for the majority of the ones I have played they do tend to ease a person in to them very well. But I have also encountered a good few that don’t and I can see why a good chunk of people probably wouldn’t want to continue playing on with this type of game if that was their first experience..

    Some dungeon crawlers just do it so poorly, from my experience with a few games you cant just throw a person in and expect them to know everything. Hell, I play these types of games often but even I have been completely lost and confused by some games that think I am psychic and should know what the developers do in regards to the game. Its terribly frustrating

    Developers should never assume people automatically know what’s going on in a game simply because its not the first installment of it or because its a niche type genre and the people who play these types of games should automatically know what to do because they are used to playing them ect.

    Obliviously wandering around with no tutorials on battle or even information on the world your character is in is never a good way to make folks interested in your game or compel them to buy another of its type.

    To be honest though now a days tutorials are pretty much a standard, and I think its extremely rare for a game not to even have a bare bones one upon release so the issues I have had will probably not be an issue for many others.

    • 0nsen

      I have basically the same story to tell, except my first experience was Etrian Odyssey 1 and I liked that the game just left you alone instead of forcing you through endless tutorials. That, and the high difficulty made the game an awesome experience. Also, the subtle story really got me hooked.

      • revenent hell

        Oh, I enjoy difficult games and a lot of tutorials can be just as annoying as not having any.
        I think its a fine line, really. Have basic tutorials but ones that can be skipable is better so long time gamers of a series or type of game can easily avoid them and newbies can easily grasp what’s going on. I tend to think its the perfect compromise.

  • Can’t wait for mine to get here =^_^=

  • PreyMantis

    I like the plots in this game.

  • Kornelious

    “A Dungeon Crawler for Newcomers”…..Works for me :)
    The gameplay seems to have gotten a good rating, and I imagine the story won’t be to hard to deal with seeing how it’s an NIS game :P
    I’m just waiting for my Limited Edition to show up…but for some reason it was delayed untill Friday :(

    • DyLaN

      While DG is not developed by NIS, I think the tone of the characters and story are more or less on NIS level frm wht I heard so yeah.

  • Gosh, someone explain to me. Is this game EXACTLY like Unchained Blades? I need to know if this won’t be like buying another game with the same everything, but different name (Ecchi notwithstanding).

    • DyLaN

      There no minion fight in DG. But to be honest, most dungeon crawler are pretty similar so its usually up to whether do you like this genre or its plot/characters.

  • Fen Y

    Really nice review, thank you.

  • lordsofskulls

    Got the limited edition from NIS. ;3 got it day early and been enjoying myself. Pretty cool style for Dungeon Crawler

    • GibbRS

      :highfive: it’s rare to get a game from NISA on time, let alone early. I got mine yesterday as well and put a few hours into it already.

  • I’m looking forward to it this week, I had the Japanese version what I played of it I did enjoy

  • Shady Shariest

    Demon Gaze… I WAS all ready going to buy you… Did not need to seal the deal with foxes :x

  • Xerain

    I got it today, but I’m alreay juggling Dragon’s Dogma:DA, Steins;Gate, Project Diva F2nd and course work. It will have to wait.

  • 0nsen

    Seems all great and stuff except for the slow start.. hopefully this won’t be as easy as Etrian Odyssey IV turned out to be. I want Etrian Odyssey I difficulty back in my games ;__;

  • GibbRS

    It might ease you in, but the game is not easy. I’ve game over’d maybe 4 or 5 times already, before fighting the first real boss. I also keep finding Gazer notes everywhere saying “absolute death, run away” and such. Apparently I’m not the only one. I have the difficulty set to the lowest setting now, and it’s still difficult.

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