I’m a sucker for any twin-stick shooter, as I’ve always been a fan of the genre. So, when a new one comes along, of course I get excited and need to check it out. Enter the newest game, Demon’s Tier+, the latest game from Diabolical Mind, best known for their Xenon Valkyrie+ and Riddled Corpses EX, seemingly blending the best of both games into one.
Combining twin-stick gameplay and roguelike elements, you’ll be exploring randomly generated dungeons in the hopes to collect treasure and save the world. It sounds familiar I know, but it’s got some interesting mechanics that made it stand out and wanting me to come back for more time after time.
Ancient tales say that over a thousand years ago the world was engulfed with evil and darkness, but one hero was able to stop it and prevent the world from being overrun. It seems that was only able to last for so long, as there’s a massive nearly endless pit that has opened up in a small remote village that has evil starting to seep out of. Will you be the hero that saves the world once again by entering the dungeons of King Thosgar and defeating all of his minions?
As a twin-stick shooter, you’ll control things similarly, moving with the Left Stick and shooting in the direction you aim with the Right. While there’s no dodge per-se, you can block projectiles by tapping the Right Bumper, but this has a slight cooldown, so you’ll still need to be nimble and avoid most attacks. Every character has a special ability that can be used once their meter refills, but it’s with the ‘X’ button, something that can be a little tricky to do when both thumbs are already constantly on the sticks in a chaotic battle while also trying to stay alive.
You start out as a knight, tossing swords in any direction you see fit. There are a handful of other characters you can eventually unlock, each with their own stats and abilities. Each character has unique attributes such as health, attack, speed, stamina, defense, weapon range and combos. The knight, for example, is a good all-rounder, whereas the mage is incredibly slow to move, but does more damage. Each have their own pros and cons, and unique ability, so it’s a matter of finding out what works best for your playstyle. I personally opted to stick with the tried and true knight most of the time, but it will take some time and dedication to unlock the later characters such as the Archer, Cleric, Assassin and even secret other ones.
As you explore dungeons, defeat enemies, bosses and open chests, you’ll earn two types of currencies; gold and D-tokens. Gold is only used for your current playthrough in the dungeons to improve your stats. When you complete a dungeon level, before moving onto the next floor, you can spend your collected gold on upgrades to any of your stats. Do you get hit a lot? Maybe you’ll want to upgrade your health. Want to kill things quicker? Then increasing your damage may be the way to go. It’s completely up to you how you want to upgrade your character for each run.
D-tokens on the other hand are the main currency that you’ll want to be careful with. These can only be redeemed in the village and is the currency to purchase new characters, weapons (once you find their blueprints from bosses) and items like ropes, potions and keys. If you die in a dungeon you lose all your progress, gold and D-tokens. So to make use of what you’ve currently earned, you need to use a rope to crawl out of the dungeon pit. These of course cost D-tokens to replenish, but as long as you escape before dying, you can spend your currency as you wish.
When you do die, and you will often, you start all over. You lose all your currency and stat increases. Also, to prevent people from becoming too overpowered, every time you use a rope to escape and spend your D-tokens, you also reset your gold earned upgrades as well and need to start in the beginning dungeons all over. As you defeat bosses you might earn a weapon upgrade for the class you’re currently playing, which are unlocked once you invest enough D-tokens to finally craft it. The only issue with this is that while every new weapon will have bonus stats, you don’t know what they are until you’ve fully unlocked them. A few times I spent a bunch of D-tokens to unlock a new weapon, only to find out it wasn’t better than one I’ve already unlocked.
If you do die in a dungeon, not all is lost. If you can manage to get back to your corpse before dying again, you can earn and collect all your D-tokens from your previous run. Die before doing so though and they are gone forever, ala Dark Souls. Unlocking every character and weapon will take a long time to do, so there’s plenty of replay value within for those looking for a roguelike to invest a ton of time into. The dual currency system is a really interesting mechanic once you learn how to best use it to your advantage for each run.
Every time you play a dungeon, its layout is procedurally generated, meaning each time you play, it will be a different experience. Not only is the layout of the dungeon different every time, but so is your objective. To pass a dungeon within its five minute timer, you need to complete the objective given to you. This may be defeating all the enemies, blowing up all the explosive barrels, defeating a secret enemy, opening all the treasure chests or something else. You’re only given 5 minutes per dungeon to do so, as once the timer runs out, the undefeatable Grim Reaper comes to take you away if you don’t escape in time. This makes for a frantic balance of wanting to spend as much time to kill and loot everything you see, but also being mindful of your remaining time and escaping before the Reaper comes. Just always keep in mind to use your rope to escape before dying and you’ll never have to worry about losing those hard earned D-tokens.
The pixel art is great overall, as enemies vary and are unique, my only problem is that sometimes action can become a little too frantic with so much going on at once. Also, because the dungeons are randomly generated, sometimes you’ll be surrounded right as you enter and can quickly die while you try and center yourself on your surroundings. The later dungeons, such as the lava filled ones, I found to be a little too much, as it was hard to distinguish certain elements. Spike traps were notorious for me, as I died many times to do them since they are hard to see when trying to fight off a horde of enemies. The artistic style is retro pixels, as is the quality soundtrack that consists of chiptune music. The music is decent overall, but because you’ll be in the same beginning dungeons numerous times, it can become a little tiresome over time.
Two player local co-op is also available for those that have someone to play with on the same couch, though as usual, I wish this was an option for online play instead for those that don’t have someone to play with locally.
Once I figured how to best utilize the dual currency system and escape with my rope as needed, I started to enjoy my time with Demon’s Tier+ much more. While the grind is long and arduous, there’s plenty of replay value within for those that want a challenge to unlock everything it has to offer, including multiple tiers. Highly addictive twin-stick gameplay combined with tough-but-fair roguelike elements make for quite a decent experience overall, one that had me trying “just one more time”.
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