Demonschool Steam demo preview
Image via Necrosoft Games

Preview: Demonschool’s Combat Undermines Its Persona-like Charms

Demonschool is the type of game I saw in a trailer, then immediately wanted to check out. The spooky vibes, school setting, and demon battles all scream Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. Unfortunately, after my time with the Demonschool Steam Next Fest demo, I am quite disappointed in one particular element.

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Demonschool takes place on a mysterious island. It follows a group of students who become demon hunters to save the world before an inevitable collapse. Like Persona, the game follows a familiar daily life schedule with daytime and nighttime aspects. Players pick what they want to do during certain times of day to fill in the time between dungeons.

Image via Necrosoft Games

These daily activities even include training skills and getting to know the various characters on the island. And, yes, this even includes a classic relationship system with around 15 different characters. Since this demo only covered about a week of in-game time, I, unfortunately, didn’t get to dive too much into that aspect.

But what I did spend time with, and regretted immediately, was the combat system. At a glance, Demonschool’s battles look like they involve traditional, turn-based combat on a grid. In fact, the character models’ appearance and the isometric view felt like a callback to the very first Persona or even Devil Survivor. However, it is unfortunately like neither of those outside of appearances.

The battles involve players zipping around the spaces to hit enemies on each turn. You can queue up a bunch of actions, then execute them or just do a single attack and leave it there. There is the freedom to rewind and change actions, if necessary, so there is plenty of room for experimentation. However, the problem is that there seems to be almost no depth to the combat in the first place. Your characters have a move based on action points and a single attack, and that’s pretty much it. There is a special attack you can build up a meter for, but this does little to diversify the battles.

Image via Necrosoft Games

This is not at all the usual grid experience where you have different skills and perhaps they affect different patterns on the grid. Nope! This is just move, attack, move again, and repeat. You can perform combos by attacking the same enemy with a party member for buffs and debuffs, but that does little to entertain. Essentially every battle had the same idea and structure to it in the Demonschool demo. It left the blandest possible impression. It made me wish I could just skip battles or turn on an auto feature. I imagine it gets a little deeper later on, but I’m not confident about that. It’s a shame, too, because everything else about this indie title seems stellar.

The characters are colorful and fun, and I enjoyed talking to them. The villains (or rival-like characters I met) left me intrigued and wanting to find out more about them. The gameplay structure for the daily life portions feels much more interesting and well done when compared to a game like Eternights. The art style is also notably fantastic, thanks to its grim, moody, and vibrant graphics.

The world felt fun to explore, while the story did enough to have me invested in what developer Necrosoft Games is cooking up. This is why it is such a shame Demonschool feels exactly how I felt about 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. The story, characters, exploration, and art style fire on all cylinders, but are severely let down by the forgettable and shallow combat.

Demonschool is currently planned for release on PC via Steam in 2024.

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Cody Perez
Cody is a writer who has been sharing his love for video games and anime since his high school days in 2012. When he isn’t writing about the latest JRPGs and anime series, he can be found in Final Fantasy XIV, occasionally playing some Call of Duty, or lurking on Twitter @SoulcapCody.