If you own a Vita, you’ve likely noticed more than a few Vita JRPGs that focus on crawling through dungeons. These are demanding games with first person exploration, characters with quite a bit of customization, and adventures that will take at least 60 hours of your time. Grabbing one off of the shelf isn’t the wisest idea, however, since each of the more recent offerings has its own quirks.
Demon Gaze came out last year and is one of the best choices for beginners. It does a good job of introducing players to first person, dungeon crawling mechanics and has helpful tutorials. As I went through the game, it really felt like it was working to ease players into the experience. It has multiple difficulty levels, which is great for people who aren’t familiar with these games.
Most importantly, Demon Gaze keeps things simple. There are only five races and seven classes for created characters. You don’t have to manage skill trees, deciding which abilities are better or worse for your needs. Once you have a full party, it’s pretty easy to stay alive. Plus, you get keys containing demon souls which can be called upon to provide additional aid in battle.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is from Experience, the same developer as Demon Gaze, but targets an audience that has played dungeon crawlers before. Where the previous game gradually introduced you to every dungeon mechanic, this one includes all of the traps and features like hidden doors at once. There’s also only one difficulty level, though free DLC lets you increase opponents levels. It expects you to know what you’re doing.
This carries over to Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy‘s character creation. It’s similar to Wizardry and Class of Heroes, where a student’s stats determine which class he or she could be. There are eight classes to choose from and people can customize each character’s builds by choosing which skills are learned.
Which brings us to Dungeon Travelers 2, which falls somewhere between Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss. It only has one difficulty level, which can require quite a bit of grinding, but also features a progression system where each new dungeon introduces a new sort of hazard or gameplay element. It’s a medium between the two.
In terms of character customization, Dungeon Travelers 2 manages to be more complex than Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss, but slightly more manageable. There are five different base classes, which each of the characters is assigned to. These have intermediate and advanced class options, with unique skill trees for each one. While this might make it seem complicated, it’s always possible to reset levels and retain some stats, letting a player "undo" a possible mistake or try to make a character more formidable.
If you don’t mind going back a bit, Class of Heroes 2 is a PSP dungeon crawler you can play on your Vita. I wouldn’t recommend it as highly as the other three titles mentioned here today, because it’s incredibly complicated, expects a player to have plenty of dungeon crawling experience. There are lots of menus to wade through, little story to help guide you in the direction of where to go next, and the battles are rather difficult. Heaven forbid you go into any dungeon without buying a map first.
It’s also quite complicated when it comes to creating and managing characters. There are 10 races to choose from and 19 classes. You can only assign races to a class if their alignment, stats, and race permit it. Certain races get along better or worse than others, affecting the party dynamic and determining whether group attacks are possible. There’s also a fairly advanced alchemy system for item creation too. It’s… complicated.
Perhaps its best to think of these Vita dungeon crawlers as though they were high school classes. Demon Gaze would be an introductory course. Dungeon Travelers 2 is closer to a standard lesson. Operation Abyss is an AP class. Class of Heroes 2, well, let’s just say it’s for people going off campus and taking college classes. If you’re wondering which one is for you, consider your experience with the genre and shop accordingly.