I’m not sure about any of you reading this, but I was a huge fan of the first Demon Gaze, even playing through the bonus dungeon that was more than a little bit of a pain in the arse. Especially Luna’s cell. Demon Gaze II is a weird type of sequel, where the events of the first game are followed but not needed to be really known about until the epilogue, although knowing the first game will definitely make some of the recurring characters a lot more hilarious. Like the first Demon Gaze, Demon Gaze II follows the dungeon crawling experience its predecessor left, making a lot of changes and improvements, almost all of which I was glad to see.
The basic outline of the story this time around is that you are a member of the Asteria Revolution, an underground music/vigilante/revolution group, who are trying to overthrow the tyrant who is currently leading Asteria; Magnastar! Magnastar is literally using people as fuel, so you must liberate the city, enlighten the people, and take down Magnastar with the rest of your crew, some of whom may be familiar faces. This is completely separate from the first installment, so your main character is different.
For those who have played the first game, you may think you’re all set from the original, but I know I sort of messed up a bit due to thinking I had my strategy down pat from the first game, so it may do you well to take note of some of the changes. For those new to Demon Gaze, your gameplay is basically dungeon exploration with the occasional turn based battle system. As you explore dungeons, you map out the dungeon as you progress through it, and it is automatically fills in for you. Your goal is generally to find Demon Circles and suppress them, letting you fight the boss of the area. When you discover a Demon Circle you need to use gems on the circle, which will then spawn monsters you need to beat in order to supress the circle. This is incredibly important for two main reasons. First off, you need to capture these circles in order to reveal the boss location. Second, this is your primary way of acquiring new equipment. The gems you can set on a circle are all related to equipment, or enhancing the equipment you can get. The default number of gems you can put down is three, so for instance you could put down: sword, katana, heavy armor gems, and after battle you would receive one of each type of those equipment.
Fortunately, you can still use gems and summon monsters/equipment from captured circles, although it requires you to leave and re-enter the area. For the veterans, there are a few changes to this process. The biggest for most of you, like me, being the inability to save on a circle, although you can still reorder your party. This means no more effective save-scumming for good equipment/artifacts like you probably did to pick up astro force in the first game. There is a save crystal located generally near the boss area though, so you can always find and use that. The other major immediate change you may notice is that standard enemies no longer drop gems, instead you have to buy them. Early game this is actually pretty annoying, because I didn’t realize they would be as expensive as they were, and I was dropping 3 gems on a circle, so I ended up having to go money making in order to buy the gems so that I could progress. At least you don’t have to pay rent anymore. The final change comes in the form of “star circles”, which are introduced extremely late in the game, but give you a chance to earn unique weapons if you’ve missed the. Instead of leaving a gem on the Demon Circle, you leave demons on the circle. Don’t worry, you get them back after battle. This USUALLY gives you equipment oriented around the demon you’ve left on the circle. For instance, your paladin would receive a heavy armour/helm etc. Unfortunately, you won’t necessarily get good equipment, but that’s just how the equipment roulette works, and at least they would make good ether fuel or a nice cash bonus.
I’ve rambled a bit about the exploration and dungeon crawling, so let’s talk a bit about the battle system and party member recruitment, because you no longer choose your own units. Battles are turn based, with a focus primarily on AGI as the defining factor of who gets their move first. You select options for your entire party, and then start the battle, and see how the round plays out. A really great feature is the “fast battle” option, where you can hit the triangle button to re-select the same moves you used last round, and once again to have the combat move extremely fast. Or you could manually select moves and watch the battle move for move, or mix and match. In the original Demon Gaze, you selected what class and race your units would be, but this time around, as you beat the demons guarding the dungeons, you recruit them into your party. This means that if you want a specific type of unit, i.e. the thief, you would have to find and beat the demon associated with that class. On the plus side, every unit has some use, it’s simply up to you to decide if you want them in your party, or if you think they would be a useful addition.
Unfortunately, some of the later demons suffer from what I call “late member syndrome”, as they start at level 1, which may make it hard to justify putting them in your party if you’re focused on fast progression. All of the demons are unique in their skill sets, and while there is overlap, no two demons have the same full skillset, despite maybe having the qualification to fill a similar role. The demon members of your party come with a special series of skills, which are unlocked through “maintenance”, which I will comment on a bit later. These skills are what the original demons had in the first game, except for one little catch: you have to demonize them to use the active skills. As you fight battles, you will build up star power, and once you have at least two points, you can demonize your party, turning them from their more humanoid forms into their demon forms, giving you access to their active skills as well as giving the demons stat buffs at the expense of a certain amount of star power per turn.
As you win fights and level up, apart from the standard stat increase, you will receive a bonus point each time you level, allowing you to increase a base stat by up to 20 points above the starting value before you hit the default limit. There are other ways to increase these base stats by either equipping items with stat enhancements, or by purchasing a room (one time expense) and having a piece of furniture in the room of the unit, which will also increase stats. The last way is by performing maintenance on the demons. Maintenance consists of finding a key area of the demon you choose, expending a maintenance crystal (which become more common late into the game), and poking/scanning the demon on that key area. Once you hit a certain level of maintenance, you can choose to spend some time with the demon. After your bonding event, the demon will learn their specific skills for that affinity level, and either your main character or the demon will receive a stat bonus associated with that demons critical stat and the affinity level. As an example, the paladin will reward VIT, and the VIT reward alternates every bonding event.
A couple of things to mention for veterans and newcomers alike, I need to make mention of: auto-movement, treasure maps, damage panels, and liberation skills. The auto-movement is great, as you can simply choose a location on the map of the same floor as you are currently on, and the game will automatically attempt to find the shortest route to your destination while avoiding as many “enemy encounter icons” on the map as possible, as long as you have set foot on that panel previously. It’s also really handy when you discover the “confusion” panels that turn you in a random direction can be passed through with the auto-movement, making some of the areas infested with those tiles a lot easier to backtrack through after you’ve been through them once. The treasure maps were an interesting idea in the first demon gaze. When you completed a fight, you had a chance of receiving a treasure map that gave you an ‘X’ and ‘Y’ location on a map, and the map would basically take up a slot in you inventory until you either chucked the map, put it in storage, or found and kicked the correct wall with the correct demon in your party. While the online message system made this more manageable, if you weren’t connected or if you were one of the first to play, these maps could be more of a nuisance than anything.
Thankfully, the maps no longer take up inventory space, the locations are permanently and instantly added to your map as soon as you get them, and while there is no online message system (as far as I noticed), all the key items, such as the skulls and mushrooms for side quests, will still be at the location even if you don’t have the associated map, although based on my preliminary testing, the “consumable” items only appear when you get the maps for them. Damage panels, on the other hand, have gotten a lot worse, as I never noticed a demon with the “floor trap immunity” effect, only a set reduction for units I never used, making it a rather moot point, and probably my biggest source of damage while exploring. The liberation skills are interesting, being given a choice of skills at the 0, 20, and 60 level benchmarks. But you only have one chance at these and no character resets, so think carefully. I know I screwed up one or two of my choices. These choices are also affected by the alignment you choose at the beginning of the game, so consider your battle style when you make that choice.
The graphics and music are very similar to the first game, with the traditional Japanese storyboard like artstyle, and a lot of graphics and music have been reused from the first demon gaze. This isn’t really a bad thing though, as it really fits the game, and the graphics have been updated to be a bit more dynamic, as some of the larger enemies move while fighting them, whereas in the first game they simply shifted up and down. Expect the music to be a combination of vocaloid and background music for the most part, and while at first I was underwhelmed with some of the original songs, I found myself humming them later on, so they were definitely a lot catchier than I originally anticipated, which is great to have in a game with a music theme in it. Good news for all you veterans out there: Comets “hidden wall” skill is now attached to the paladin, who has Chronos’ defense passive buff, so the hidden wall locating is now a lot better.
Overall, I’d have to say Demon Gaze II is a really big improvement, and while I may not strictly be happy with all of the implemented changes, I’m certainly more than happy enough to overlook look some of the minor nuisances. Both those used to the first game, and those new to this style of gameplay will find an enjoyable time with demon gaze II, with some of its hilarious dialogue, catchy music, expansive dungeons and post game dungeons and epilogue, there is a lot great content. So, Demon Gazer, prepare to light up the Asteria Revolution with your gaze!