Back in 2018, COWCAT Games ported two of developer Diabolical Mind’s PC offerings over to Xbox One in the form of Xenon Valkyrie+ and Riddled Corpses EX. While Xenon Valkyrie+ received a lukewarm reception for its rogue-like platforming, Riddled Corpses fared a lot better due to its great twin-stick shooting exploits. Now though the third game of the Diabolical Mind trilogy, Demon’s Tier+, is looking to excel further by combining some rogue-like dungeon delving with twin-stick action. So, will this lead to a genre hybrid worth diving into?
Around 1200 years ago, King Thosgar almost obliterated humanity after dabbling in the dark arts and then becoming consumed by them. It took a legendary hero’s immense efforts to eventually seal the demonic king away, bringing peace to the land. Unfortunately, Thosgar appears to have broken free and a new hero is needed at the source of the evil, which happens to be beneath a small village. The onus is on you to send the diabolical king, and his army of minions, packing in order to save the world.
Truth be told, the narrative behind Demon’s Tier+ is marginally interesting at best and there’s not much chance of it hooking you in here. The main reason for this could partially be due to the text-based method of conveying the story using a font that’s relatively hard to read, so it’s easy to give up trying. On the plus side, there are cutscenes presented in 16-bit, which manage to show off the focal characters’ different anime style looks and the big bad fairly well. Nevertheless, you won’t be drawn in by such aspects, but that doesn’t matter an awful lot because the rest of the experience manages to make up for it.
As a top-down, twin-stick adventure, you’ll delve into the depths and aim to tackle everything thrown your way across 15 levels. The majority of these levels are procedurally generated dungeons filled with various monsters who wish to cause much harm. Ultimately, you just need to locate the exit and leave, but depending on the main objective given to unlock the exit, it may not be so simple. It could see you having to defeat all enemies, find and open all chests, or merely ensure a slightly larger enemy meets its demise. Whichever objective it is though, there are only five minutes on the clock before the Reaper appears; when that happens, you better run.
The Reaper is a humongous monster that’s invincible and can pass through walls to get to you; there’s no point fighting it because you will die, so locating the exit swiftly is advised. Undoubtedly it cranks up the pressure as you weigh up whether to explore every inch of a level or just do the bare minimum and stay way ahead of the dreaded timer. There are benefits to toppling all enemies and opening the chest though, with both offering crucial currencies – amongst other things – required to make improvements to your chances of reaching the end.
In total, Demon’s Tier+ features eight characters: Knight, Wizard, Archer, Cleric, Assassin, Berserk and two secret ones. Each possesses different stats and a special ability such as increased defence, a ring of flames, and healing, to name just a few. Initially there’s only access to the Knight though, who is fairly well-rounded, but over time the idea is to unlock others using D tokens, garnered by slaying enemies. This is where the crux of the rogue-like elements come into play, because D tokens can be spent towards new characters, improved weapons and useful items like health potions and magic ropes. It’s incredibly addictive to keep delving in to earn more because you really notice the progress being made.
As for the other currency, gold, and it is collected from chests and destructible objects which will then see you able to increase the base stats for your chosen character class, including Life, Attack, Defence and Speed for as long as you’re in the dungeons. Escaping the dungeons through the use of a magic rope or the death of your character leads to those upgrades being lost. Investing wisely to suit your style of play and complement class strengths is a must if you’re to advance through the increasingly difficult levels.
It seldom becomes too difficult however, instead Demon’s Tier+ gets tougher in terms of enemy type and number at a steady rate. The enemy variety certainly deserves praise, consisting of hardy skeletons, flying eyeballs, ghoulish creatures, spiders, mages, and more. Possessing different attacking threats means you’ll have to approach carefully, especially when some explode upon death and others reflect your attack. That’s not easy when you’re in the thick of it, but the challenge makes it all the more enjoyable. To add to the semi-frantic nature, there are environmental hazards to look out for, with spikes and fiery obstacles dotted around.
At specific junctures, bosses turn up for a bit of one on one action and these are some truly ugly beasts. With a multitude of projectiles ready to fire your way, it’s the classic format of dodging them and fighting back when the windows of opportunity open up. In principle, the boss battles are decent enough until you reach the later levels and the final confrontation with the demonic being who’s responsible for the goings on. It’s very anti-climatic and far too easy compared to the rest of the game.
Upon beating Tier 1 of Demon’s Tier+, a second tier is available and furthermore a third tier, supposedly offering a more difficult experience. Enemies have extra health and attack power, while your character stats are increased too; in essence, it doesn’t feel that much trickier. That said, you will probably still have the urge to play on to obtain more weapons and unlock any remaining characters.
One minor issue within the procedurally generated levels is that occasionally it spawns a ton of enemies, or even chests, in one little area. This can be annoying if it begins a level with you placed right in the middle of the pack, causing a really intense few moments trying to survive an onslaught.
Despite a lacklustre story, a couple of negligible problems and a disappointing climax, Demon’s Tier+ on Xbox One is still an addictively fun twin-stick, rogue-like experience. The unlockable characters, improved weaponry and a rewarding sense of achievement just ensures you want to dive in again and again. Having a cavalcade of different enemies to fight helps to keep each playthrough fresh as well. If you’re scouring the market for a very good twin-stick dungeon delve to pass the time, then Demon’s Tier+ will fit the bill.