Draw Your Blade!
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Devil Slayer Raksasi. I didn’t know anything about the game or its developers before taking it for review, other than it was top-down and had really cool portrait art. Even then, I was still concerned it would be an underwhelming indie experience. But I decided to put my preconceived notions aside and just play the game. And to my pleasant surprise, I found a lot about it that appealed to my sensibilities. Keep reading this Devil Slayer Raksasi review to see if this challenging rogue adventure is your sort of title.
Mystery, War, and Demons
The game starts with a series of cryptic visions. War, monsters, and bloodshed plague the world. You wake up, and you’re in some strange compound. After glancing at the quick and easy to parse combat tutorials, I walked down to an adjacent building. Here I learned about some trial and how I needed to participate in it to recover my lost memories. So into the magical portal I jumped, into a fascinating world of demonic ascension.
Everybody Loves Witches
At first, the only character available to you is a stoic half-goddess named Byleth. Eventually, you’ll unlock several other maidens of war, each with proficiency in a different weapon style. Some wield large katanas, some use dual blades, one has a shield and sword, and one even is armed with a massive hammer. Additionally, each heroine has a unique ability to aid them in battle, such as poisoning foes or temporarily going berserk. Though you don’t get a ton of characterization as you play Devil Slayer Raksasi, each of the heroines is well animated and has an interesting backstory. You can read up on that when you choose which character to play in your current run. While some might be disappointed by a lack of a sweeping narrative, I feel what’s here works very well for a rogue game.
A Treasure Chest of Content
Though the main arc of the game has you exploring a series of levels, beating the boss, rinse and repeat, it wouldn’t be a true rogue without unlocking more features. I am happy to say there’s a ton of content you’ll gradually unlock as you play Devil Slayer Raksasi. Every time you beat a boss, you unlock a new playable character and a scroll you can trade in for more unlockable items. Additionally, as you beat more bosses, you’ll also unlock alternate bosses you can challenge. While the game’s progression was very linear at first, you’ll start to get branching paths you can choose from each run. Every level will have at least 3 different bosses you can face, and some are much harder than others.
Don’t Forget to Feed the Soul Keeper
At the end of each level, you’ll have to go through a sort of waystation before entering the next stage. This eerie area has many curious citizens that will help you unlock new possibilities for the low, low price of enemy souls. Every time you defeat a boss or foe, you’ll absorb their soul. Once obtained, you can then spend them here. The catch is you have to spend all the souls you have to progress to the next level, as well as feeding the hungry Soul Keeper any scrolls you might have on hand. It all starts to add up, though, and you’ll gradually get more and more convenient features to help you survive farther and farther. Some of my favorites were animal and insect familiars and the chaos ring that imbued my blade with a random element in every room. There’s a ton of cool artifacts and weapons you’ll start to have at your disposal.
You can even spend souls to unlock passive upgrades unique to each character, such as increased health and stamina, or even making it so you start each run with a health potion. Just keep in mind that if you fall in battle, any souls, cash, or scrolls you have on hand will be lost. But fret not, since you can eventually bank spare coin you have with shopkeeps so you won’t lose all your money when you die. I really liked this framework, and it made it, so I was never too overwhelmed by defeat in Devil Slayer Raksasi. Each failure was just a stepping stone to the eventual road to success.
A Rollicking Adventure
None of this would matter if Devil Slayer Raksasi wasn’t fun. Rest assured, I’ve really grown fond of the game in my time with it. It plays a bit like a mixture of Onimusha and Binding of Isaac with some light Souls elements thrown in for good measure. Though the top-down format does prevent the game from really showing off its artistry, it still works quite well. You’ll run through areas, killing everything that moves in a room. Once you’ve slain all the threats, you’ll get rewarded with a random chest, sometimes a locked one. Open them up to get coins, artifacts, and healing items. Then use what you have on hand to get to and defeat each level’s boss. Best of all, there’s a handy and free teleport you can use to travel to any cleared room instantly.
Keep Your Weapons Sharp
As for the combat itself, it’s pretty easy yet has satisfying nuance. Each weapon has specific combos, usually variants of pressing X or Y repeatedly, or holding one or the other. You usually have a few multi-hit combos, some long-range attacks, and a deflect or guard break. The deflect, or riposte, is especially important. Using it wisely can completely disrupt a foe’s attacks, leaving them defenseless. Though the timing can be tricky sometimes, it’s well worth your effort to learn how best to use this technique. Other than that, you’ll mostly be running around or dodging as you fight. Both are handled with the B button. Hold it to run, and press it to dodge. Keep in mind both of these are tied to your stamina meter, and when it’s depleted, you can’t do either. Thankfully, unlike recent rogue games I’ve played, stamina has no bearing on your attacks.
One of my favorite elements of Devil Slayer Raksasi is the boss fights. They’re all larger than life, often hideous and utterly brutal. The first one is an insane magistrate that smashes the floor and summons minions to distract you. They only get stranger from there. There are immortal rat wizards, hideous hordes of damnable insects, obese acid-spewing abominations, and many more beasts from Chinese mythology. I haven’t fought all of them yet, but each one I have confronted has been a worthy contender, even the magistrate. They all can take you out if you’re not careful, so get your timing down and fight strategically. Worst case scenario, you can always use a Jade Pendant to resurrect after defeat in the closest room. Just know that doing so restarts any room from the beginning, meaning your foes will have all their health back. Plus, every time you take the portal to the next stage, any spare Pendants will be automatically destroyed.
So Many Choices
The game also has a ton of variety. Sometimes you’ll face a level in a pitch-black setting. Or maybe you’ll find that both you and your foes suddenly do more damage. Perhaps you’ll find a challenge room, or a room full of gold spewing foes. There’s a lot of curveballs they throw at you, and I never knew what to expect. One especially cool feature, though, is when competing armies find each other in a room. In the Battlefield level, you’ll sometimes face human and skeleton soldiers. If they face each other, they’ll violently battle until only one is left standing. But if you get in their way, you’ll suddenly find yourself the target of their ire. It’s really fun and adds to the overall world-at-war vibe the game has going.
A Novel Form of Storytelling
Earlier I talked about how there’s not a sweeping narrative for the game. And while that’s true, there is some competent plotting done in an unconventional fashion. As you play, you’ll find journal entries that reveal what’s actually happening, bit by bit. This is how I learned that the titular Raksasi refers to a female child of a demon and a human. This way of storytelling reminded me many classic Resident Evil games, and I felt it did a lot to keep me interested. It’s also especially impressive to me since it’s clear that developer GlassesCat may not speak English as a first language. Regardless, the translation work in the game is very solid and easy to read.
Don’t Anger the Buddha
While I’ve had many good things to say about the game, there are some missteps. One is that the top-down format really doesn’t let the game show off the beautiful minute details hinted at by the portrait art. Also, there’s a mandatory lock-on mechanic for the combat that’s a bit awkward. You have some filters to tinker with it, but nothing that made much sense. I ended up just getting used to it and hoping I wouldn’t get swarmed by too many foes since that’s when the lock-on becomes a problem. Also, handy though the dodge is, it lacks snappiness. I wish it had some sort of audio cue to help know when it worked. Hell, I wish there were a lot more audio cues for the foes’ attacks as well. Other than that, though, I feel Devil Slayer Raksasi did a ton right.
A Worthy Rogue Adventure
I may have been uncertain at the start whether or not I would enjoy Devil Slayer Raksasi, but in the end, it’s actually one of the best rogues I’ve played in a long while. While graphically, it may not shatter anyone’s expectations, and the music is generally pretty muted, it does so much more right in how it plays. Coupled with an interesting premise, mysterious robed overlords, demon hybrids, and monsters, and you end up with a really satisfying indie game. I’m definitely impressed and look forward to future projects from GlassesCatGames.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4; Publisher: indienova; Developer: GlassesCatGames; Players: 1; Released: April 22, 2021; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.