Rogue-likes are games in which death is permanent and usually results in having to start from the very beginning of the game. They can offer great replayability, challenge, and a pervasive threat of losing everything you worked so hard for. The best rogue-likes tell a unique, player-driven story every playthrough, connecting the player to the game and making your victories, as well as your losses, feel personal and important. The worst rogue-likes do the opposite. They make each level feel like an obstacle instead of a journey while offering little in the way of unique gameplay opportunities. Demon’s Tier+, by developer Diabolical Mind, leans towards the latter.
A classic Dungeons and Dragons party consisting of a warrior, a mage, an archer, a berserker, and others is called to investigate a large and growing hole that recently formed in the middle of town. A demonic aura emanates from the pit and our heroes venture below in search of fame, glory, and treasure. Demon’s Tier+ is a twin-stick shooter RPG dungeon crawler, vaguely reminiscent of Enter the Gungeon, but without the charm or the huge variety of weapons and enemies.
Demon’s Tier+ features a fairly large cast of unlockable characters, each with different stats and a unique ability. Disappointingly, every character, be it the Warrior, the Mage, the Archer, or anyone else, plays mostly the same. Every character’s attack is the same with the only difference being in attack power and range, but these attributes can be leveled up on any character you choose. I would have loved for each character to have unique attacks, like exploding bombs or multiple shots. After unlocking the archer, who has the furthest range, I never played as anybody else and instead leveled up his defence and health until he was an unstoppable machine lubricated by demon blood.
Demon’s Tier+ offers a few options when customizing your character’s skills. During combat, demons drop gold which can be used to purchase skill upgrades while in the dungeon. After each level, you’ll have the opportunity to spend gold on upgrading your attack power, defense, HP, range, speed and a few others. Typically, the point of customizing your skills in an RPG is so you can tailor your character to your specific playstyle, but Demon’s Tier+ does not offer multiple playstyles and, instead, discourages players from being creative and finding different solutions to problems.
As is common in the rogue-like genre, the levels are procedurally generated. In order to move on, you must complete a random mission which can range from killing all enemies, to finding every chest on the level. The small collection of missions offered provide little gameplay variety as they almost all involve exploring the whole floor, which usually leads to killing and collecting everything anyway, at least during earlier levels.
Enemies lack much variety as well, and you will quickly experience everything the game has to offer. Enemies come in only a few flavors: Static or moving, melee or ranged, and explosive or …not explosive… I’ll admit that later levels became a bit more exciting as time became a real factor. After five minutes on any level, the Reaper will appear. Similar to the ghost from Spelunky, the Reaper is unbeatable and can cause instant death. Incentivising the player to move quickly and deliberately through the levels.
Cutscenes and exposition abound in Demon’s Tier+. The story begins thousands of years ago with an evil, demonic king flooding the world with monsters and nearly driving humanity to extinction. In the present day, the tale is resigned to legend, but an earthquake reveals a large hole in the middle of a small village that emanates demonic energy. The story is interesting and the characters can be charming, but, without exaggeration, the cutscenes probably made up about 50% of the time I spent playing. Still, if you don’t mind, or even enjoy, a good lore dump now and then, Demon’s Tier+ offers an engaging and unique story that ties in with Diabolical Mind’s previous titles.
Demon’s Tier+ features 16-bit graphics including a lot of different enemy designs. When there are dozens of enemies on the screen, however, it can become very difficult to tell what’s going on, especially in co-op mode. Player characters can frequently become indistinguishable from enemies in the heat of the moment and traps and obstacles are hard to see. This meant I was often taking damage from an unknown source, which got frustrating pretty fast. The enemies look more like brown blobs than demons, with the exception of the bosses, who are large enough to be seen more clearly.
Demon’s Tier+ is an interesting concept with a lot of potential, but it’s held back by repetitive gameplay and confusing visuals. There simply isn’t enough variety in this game to justify the length, and what variety does exist, offers little in the way of unique gameplay scenarios. Unnecessary customization options bog down gameplay and add an extra layer of confusion to an otherwise simple game. Greater enemy, weapon, and level variety would have made Demon’s Tier+ much more engaging, in my opinion.