Demon’s Tier+

Demon’s Tier+ is a charming 2D dungeon diving action game created by Diabolical Mind and published by Cowcat. Based on the trailer this game is a self-described “dungeon-RPG rogue like”, and while containing aspects of those genres, I stand behind calling it a 2D dungeon diving action game instead. Let me explain.

The story begins with the telling of a tragic tale. A king was consumed by a lust for power and used witchcraft to devastate the world with monsters. Before all was lost a hero sacrificed himself to seal the corrupted king; returning the world to peace… for around 1200 years. Naturally, this is where we take control of a knight travelling to a village that recently experienced a monster spewing sinkhole opening overnight after a mysterious earthquake.

On his way to town the knight is ambushed, beginning a tutorial. You learn how to use both analog sticks to move and toss your weapon, and how to deflect incoming ranged projectiles. Dispatching your foes materializes a billboard, which is essentially a digital instruction book. Not the most engaging way to start the journey, but after a few pages of reading the game’s mechanics the controls are clear. Meeting the cast of characters in the tavern gives access to the dungeon, whose five main areas comprise the adventure ahead. Floors of the dungeon each have a task that must be completed before moving on. Sometimes this is clearing all enemies, opening all chests, or exploding all barrels. These goals do keep things fresh on subsequent plays, but do feel a little arbitrary when you are missing a single chest on a floor entirely cleared of monsters.

The knight is your initial selectable character and as you slaughter foes a currency called “D-tokens” are earned. These can be brought back to town by escaping with the rope item to end your current dungeon dive. D-tokens unlock new characters, items, and can be spent to craft more powerful weapons. If you happen to fall in combat, a grave site is left on that floor (with your entire horde of D-Tokens) for you to recover before your next death. All this sounds like a rogue like with some dark souls inspiration, but in practice it simply feels like mechanics meant to flatten the difficulty curve.  New characters and weapons do slightly bigger numbers, allowing for quicker progress. However, no abilities are introduced outside of the differences between characters.

The colourful cast of eight unlockable heroes each has their own unique ability. For example, the Knight can increase defense to mitigate heart loss on hits. The Assassin can temporarily throw three daggers instead of one. The Cleric can heal herself with relative frequency. It felt like healing was incredibly powerful, so I used the Cleric almost exclusively after unlocking.

Alongside D-Tokens, treasure chests containing gold can be found in the dungeon. The townsfolk refer to gold as an “ancient currency” that has no real value.  What those townsfolk don’t realize is that gold can be used to upgrade your stats between floors! Completing each area gives access to the level up screen where gold can be spent on health, attack, movement speed, and others. Again, this is where the game tries to implement “Dungeon-RPG” mechanics, but I feel it fell short of that. My choices for leveling came down to making sure I could afford an attack stat that was high enough to effectively clear the floor. Any extra gold went to health, movement, or stamina regeneration so I could heal myself more often.

Don’t let a few criticisms bring your expectations down too far, though. Demon’s Tier+ is a competent action game with super cute pixel artwork, catchy chiptunes, and a deeper story than I would have expected (Even with a few narrative surprises along the way!). There is also a co-op mode for up to two players that I have yet to mention. Yes, two friends can hunt together, kill together, and share all of their gold to level. The sharing of gold to level is what stopped me from playing co-op for this review. Each player felt under powered without significant D-token investment back in town to smooth out the loss of levels gained between floors. Not only that, but player one gets the first chance to level and can “accidentally” use all the gold before player two’s turn. Micromanaging who spent what and how much gold each player should use quickly made the co-op mode unenjoyable.

If you manage to complete the game, Demon’s Tier+ has two more playthroughs ready and waiting. Here you will find higher numbers of enemies who all have slightly more health. Bosses are all unchanged; at least they all have unique patterns of attack and are nicely animated. The real rewards are the new story elements with each subsequent completion. I genuinely enjoyed the plot and resolution; I wasn’t expecting a well thought out conclusion and was totally satisfied with the story arch.

There are elements to Demon’s Tier+ that encourage delving into the dungeon, but I fully resist calling this game a rogue-like. Optionally returning to town to unlock characters and upgrade weapons with D-tokens before they are lost to a death does makes future adventures easier. However, that is only because the attack numbers are larger. New abilities would have made investment in characters a lot more interesting. At least the extra power gained from upgrades allows you to plow through the first floors faster, as you must start the journey again whenever you return to town. I had fun with Demon’s Tier+, but without more polish and depth of gameplay I cannot recommend this game without caveats.

~~Ian Voegtle~~

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