Demonschool Updated Demo Impression

Demonschool is still delighting with its unique gameplay, relying on positioning and movement strategy rather than a string of large numbers.

By this point it feels like Necrosoft Games’ Demonschool is an old friend.  It’s always been a delight to see more parts of it, and this time has brought something new to the table over previous demos.  There’s already so much to enjoy in this tactical RPG that seeing the experience start to fully come together with an example of a typical in-game week is just icing on this already delicious cake.

Since last diving into the mysterious island that Demonschool takes place on, there’s been a few things added to the demo that connects everything fluidly.  Throughout this snippet of story the personalities of the main cast shine through more, with Faye’s feisty optimism, Destin the lovable doofus, Namako the hesitant photographer, and the media loving pacifist Knute.  The demo begins as the player hand over a haunted VHS tape to their professor.  This opening interval shows off more playful writing than in earlier incarnations of the game.  There’s a lot of banter and comedy thrown in to liven things up.  The game’s splicing in of levity like this fits with its older horror motifs, using comedic relief to keep things from getting too dark.

Faye is a gullible optimist sometimes.

The demo goes through a typical week of Demonschool, which means slowly uncovering more information about their tasks — in this case the hunting down of an evil paintbrush — and meeting new characters with their own enjoyable quirks.  The day is split into morning, noon, and evening periods, with each having some plot point to move things forward.  There are also side quests that offer opportunities to boost familiarity between Faye and the rest of the party, or additional combat situations.  These bring world-building and comedy that make searching them out worthwhile on their own, even if there weren’t additional rewards involved.

The game doesn’t include any experience or level gains, with new abilities coming through equipment.  However, equipment upgrades come slowly, as plans have to be found for the new skill, then researched over a period of days, before it can be equipped.  This means that players will usually work on changing specific aspects of a character more than their whole skill set, gaining abilities such poison heal, which allows a player to heal when standing in a poison patch.  These bits of equipment vary things up in interesting ways.

Sometimes the enemies just line up like this, making the strategy apparent.

Combat itself offers a breath of fresh air.  Nothing so far shown in Demonschool has more than four hit points, and these small numbers mean players and enemies are always in danger.  Movement and positioning is thus even more important than usual, with players able to move farther and go first, which gives them an advantage overall.  Pooled movement and action points are spread across the party meaning that sometimes one character might use up all of the actions of a turn while the others scramble out of harm’s way if needed.  Characters get a free side step, but otherwise can only move in a straight line or diagonally and every map is laid out a bit differently.  This gives combat a chess match in progress feel to it as the strategy will shift every time.  There’s a time limit and everyone has to survive to reach the highest rewards and ranking, but combat doesn’t end until a designated amount of demons are defeated either.  Once enough have been defeated the rift can be sealed ending the combat.  Some enemies do offer more rewards than others though, so taking on more tough enemies can be beneficial.

The demo also shows off a staple RPG mini-game, fishing.  Fishing isn’t overly difficult, most of the fun comes from the ghoulish designs for the fish that are caught.  There’s a side quest that involves the fish designs and provides another opportunity for little anecdotes and help flesh things out to make the island quite lively.  It does downplay the horror aspects from a truly terrifying experience to something that’s more ambience instead.

Computers sure are tricky.

Most of the environments in Demonschool are variations on a school theme and the demonic portals that open spew out a few different enemy types.  This makes it so little stands out on its own.  The story is fun and combat is addictive though so this would only provide a minor damper on a playthrough if they were consist with the final release.  The sound effects and musical accompaniment is still very much on point to evoke 80s and 90s nostalgia even when it’s unnerving players or making moments feel triumphant.

Demonschool is still delighting with its unique gameplay, relying on positioning and movement strategy rather than a string of large numbers.  The added comedic bits only enhance the personalities of the characters and seeing how they interact more will be a treat.  Music is constantly enjoyable and minor concerns about variety of visuals aside there’s a lot to look forward to.  Demonschool is shaping up to be a gem already, and as long as it continues to provide solid entertainment there’s hopes that it won’t be a hidden one when it releases on Steam later this year.


Disclosure: This article is based on a build of the game provided by the publisher.


Ryan Costa

Friendly neighbourhood reviewer that thinks every RPG should be discussed, because one never knows where a hidden gem can appear.

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