Measuring the quality of a game isn’t always a question of complexity and content. Some of the most successful titles in video game history have been simplistic and basic but have been executed so well that they don’t require any finicky concepts to just be great games. Which brings me to Demon’s Tier+, a Twin Stick fantasy RPG flecked with roguelike and bullet-hell themes that really nails the simple joy of easy gaming. Don’t get me wrong though, nothing about it is easy.
We start the story with the beginnings of a tale that spans 1200 years. The evil King Thosgar’s reign weighs heavily on the land and his demonic minions threaten peaceful coexistence. Enter the hero of legend who battles the demon king to a standstill but must sacrifice his own life to seal away Thosgar and restore peace to the kingdom. 1200 years later we’re thrust into the shoes of a young knight on his way to a village to investigate a sinkhole appearing that has given rise to monsters and demons re-entering the world and generally being super mean. It’s a tried and tested story, and one we’ve seen plenty of times in RPGs but is no less charming for it.
Demon’s Tier+ basic gameplay is a top down adventure utilising the analogue sticks to move and fire. To fit with the fantasy theme, your projectiles will vary between floating swords, magic, arrows etc… dependent on which character your using. It’s a comfortable control scheme with no real margin for error, which makes dispatching enemies and getting around pretty seamless. You start each run in the village which is your opportunity to stock up on the necessary materials to take on the cavernous dungeon. You also have access to a dodge that is incredibly useful in some of the more hectic areas of the game, allowing you to stave off otherwise unavoidable attacks.
Seeing as you have nothing in the way of currency to buy anything to begin with you’ll be diving straight into the hole in the middle of the village to begin your epic quest to save the kingdom. There are three tiers in total to complete, though tier one is the only available option at the start with the other two unlocking on completion of the tier before it. Your met with three floors per area with varying objectives like destroy all enemies or open all chests to open the exit to the next floor and naturally your faced with a horde of enemies. The aim is to complete the floor objective within five minutes and make it to the exit whilst dispatching nasties and collecting treasures. Once five minutes have elapsed you’ll get a visit from The Reaper, who is unkillable and will chase you around the level until you make it to the exit or inevitably fall to his advances.
Each floor is procedurally generated by the way, so it keeps the repetition of the runs a little bit more exciting. Objectives change each time you reach a floor too, so there’s plenty of randomness to ensure that the experience stays fresh. Demon’s Tier+ is no doubt repetitive, but it does repetitive well.
Throughout your monster slaying escapade you’ll have the opportunity to collect gold from chests, destructibles and loot drops . After each floor is a short intermission and you can use said gold to raise your characters stats that run through Health, Armour, Range, Attack, Speed, Stamina and Combo. Each offers a way to better your dungeon delver for the next floor and increases in cost the more points you allocate meaning you have to be particular about which stats get your attention as gold can be quite hard to accumulate. It adds a touch of tactical depth to your choices and I found it a welcomed addition to the overall system. Stats reset on death or dungeon exit so don’t worry too much about it affecting anything long term.
Every enemy that feels the icy grip of death from the tip of your weapon will also award you with D-Coins. This currency can be used to purchase extra characters at the tavern, unlock weapons for said characters or to purchase consumables like magic ropes, health potions and keys. Escaping from the dungeon using a magic rope will allow you to keep your D-Coins whilst death means you drop everything. That said, when you die you leave a tombstone behind on the floor you met your end in a la Souls fashion. Making it back to that floor on your next run will allow you to break the tombstone to reclaim the D-Coins you lost. It adds a flair of tension and difficulty to the game that I enjoyed simply because you can’t afford to be careless else lose all your currency. And trust me when I say, it can be just as unforgiving as Dark Souls.
Each floor is strewn with varying enemies that can close the distance on you quickly if you’re not paying attention. Some will fire projectiles too so its important to be quick on your feet. As you make it to deeper floors you’ll also start encountering traps and enemies that explode. I must admit that I found myself frustrated with traps at times simply because they were so hard to see. Perhaps this was a design choice on the developers behalf, but I did find that it was guilty of being an almost cheap end to several of my dungeoneering exploits.
Enemy difficulty scales the deeper you get, and this increases fairly rapidly meaning your stat choices and skill will determine whether or not you make it through. You’ll also have the opportunity to save prisoners from cages which will give you some added firepower as well as providing a nice boost to your D-Coins, though at times I found the pathing of these followers to be a little flawed when they got caught on walls and I was halfway across the map before even realising. It’s not a massive issue, but it was slightly annoying. There’s also plenty of bosses to keep you on your toes and Demon’s Tier+ really shines in this category with each encounter offering some tough but fun patterns to learn and beat.
There are a total of eight characters to unlock throughout the game from the Knight, through to the Wizard, Archer, Cleric, Berserker and Assassin. The final two characters are secret and locked behind tier completion. Each comes with their own stats and a reason to choose them dependent on your playstyle. It was great to have choice in character selection and it offers a bit of variety to keep the fun going.
Demon’s Tier+ can only be described as a miniaturised pixel adventure. The graphics are charming, and character portraits are reminiscent of some older pixelated classics with heavy anime themes. The dungeon itself has four environments to visit in total and whilst each is very distinctive it does fall down a bit in the variety category though I imagine this is limited because of the procedural generation. I loved the soundtrack too, which was fittingly ominous where it needed to be and complimented the setting well. The only drawback I found was the story conversations between characters. It was a little thin on the ground content wise and whilst I wasn’t expecting it to be an epic tale it did at times feel like it was hashed together.
Given that Demon’s Tier+ is built around repetition it has plenty of re-playability. What I love most about this type of game is that it fits the Switch handheld so well in that it can be picked up and played at any time for whichever length of time you choose. The title is enough of a challenge to keep you interested albeit being guilty of offering some cheap deaths in the place of actual difficulty at times. With that in mind, its ability to reel me in and keep me playing until I finally realised I’d been at it for a couple of hours means Demon’s Tier+ has plenty of staying power beyond that initial couple of hours.
Demon’s Tier+ is simplistic, but it’s so well executed that its hard not to love it even if it doesn’t bring anything new to the twin stick genre. It’s maniacal and fast-paced action will have you captivated for more than a couple of hours and I didn’t regret falling into that rabbit hole.
The title does have its flaws. The repetition element isn’t helped by a lack of variety in the environments and the occasional cheap death to a badly represented trap graphic. That said, these are small grievances and I still enjoyed firing shiny swords into monster faces despite these drawbacks.
Demon’s Tier+ is a challenging but fun demon bashing experience!