Demoniaca: Everlasting Night Review: A Miserable Little Pile of Secrets
I adore the Metroidvania genre. There’s just something intensely satisfying about exploring vast, dangerous worlds, gaining new powers, and using them to defeat harrowing foes in your pursuit of the truth. I actively look for new Metroidvanias on a regular basis, which is what lead to me reviewing Demoniaca: Everlasting Night. It touts itself as a Gothic mixture of King of Fighters-inspired combat and Metroidvania trappings, with a bit of fanservice thrown in for good measure. The real question is, does it succeed? That’s what this Demoniaca: Everlasting Night review will quickly reveal.
As a quick side note, I tried to help crowdfund Demoniaca when it initially arrived on Kickstarter years ago. Unfortunately, the campaign didn’t meet its funding goal at the time. However, the developers apparently tried a second time and were able to make the project a reality. I primarily chose to review the game now out of curiosity, and the hope that it might have lived up to the potential I initially saw in it. And while the game does pretty well as far as visual style and sound design go, it fails in practically every other possible way.
A Bloody Good Intro
Demoniaca starts off well, and I was captivated by the dark and edgy premise. It all begins when a demonic horde lays waste to the town you live in. You’re the sole survivor, and only because you were left in such a sorry state, the demons think you an unsightly corpse. Instead, as you lay recovering, your blood mingled with that of fallen demons on the battlefield, giving you access to demonic powers. So after stitching yourself up, you head after the horde, leading you to a demonic Tower of Babel being constructed for dire purposes.
The problem is, the game failed to deliver on any of the good energy the introduction sets up. While the lore and premise are interesting throughout, the actual combat in the game is stale at best, disjointed at worst. To embody the style of a series like King of Fighters, you need really responsive combat. A mixture of rapid fire attacks, blocks, and counters. Suffice to say, that’s not the way Demoniaca plays.
The Master of Combat
As you wander through the tower, you’ll come across a strange gentleman named Boxman. He’ll teach you a new attack every time you encounter him, which is great. The problem is, all your attacks are slow to activate and often lack distinct visual cues to help differentiate them. Worse, you’ll need to find the right type of attack for each enemy to do sufficient damage. You have a weak and strong kick and punch, and each move will have different inputs. Meanwhile, every attack from even the smallest foe sends you reeling backward. It’s no exaggeration you can get walloped by any foe in the game in seconds if you’re not careful. By contrast, it takes careful maneuvering and more than a bit of luck to defeat even the weakest enemies. And that’s before we even touch on the boss fights.
Meaty Wurms and Hardcore Abs
The first boss in Demoniaca made it clear that I was in for a rough ride. It’s a gigantic wurm foe that rapidly slithers around the arena. It alternates between summoning fireballs that sweep across the screen, charging you bodily, and pausing before summoning a massive gout of flame. What frustrated me about this was that during most of those phases, you can’t get close enough to attack the worm. Then when you can, when he pauses to summon the flame, you have mere seconds to damage him before the flames he kindles explode. If you’re too close, you’ll instantly die. And the most annoying part of all this was that the wurm boss, the first boss in the entire game, has three health bars to get through. And no, he doesn’t get any more interesting or learn new attacks. Which just made it all a giant, painful battle of attrition. Suffice to say, the bosses don’t get any better from there.
Rock On, Garth!
There’s a system called Soulslink, which is supposed to empower you temporarily depending on how many souls you’ve gathered. You gather those by defeating foes or just smashing candelabras and other random junk. My issue was it’s unclear just looking at the screen what your current Soulslink level is, and how much more powerful you’ve become. One time I do think I managed to max it out, and the only real result was that a couple of NPCs appeared on the bottom screen to rock out as the music intensified. I’m relatively certain I did a little more damage during this period, but I couldn’t guarantee it with complete confidence. Likewise, it’s often hard to tell what equipment is worth keeping on your character, as the stat screen lacks a simple display of what equipment is stronger or weaker than others.
I know it probably sounds like I’m being overly hard on Demoniaca right now. And I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking I just couldn’t handle the difficulty of the game. My response would be that I had no trouble playing through Blasphemous and Ender Lilies, both of which are far better examples of the genre, besides being incredibly difficult in their own rights. No, my problem with this game is that the combat isn’t fluid and that the in-game tutorials aren’t expansive enough. One of the biggest frustrations I found in my time with the game is that list of attacks doesn’t tell you which buttons to press, but instead uses tiny icons. More than once, I mixed up a weak attack icon with a heavy one, and it cost me a lot of time wandering aimlessly.
All this would be somewhat acceptable if the game were fun. But even platforming around, a key element of any Metroidvania, is a laggy mess. Your heroine runs like a ruptured duck and doesn’t keep momentum if you attack while jumping. You’ll quickly plummet like a rock. Oh, and did I mention the jump button is mapped to a shoulder button instead of a face button? That’s a cardinal sin in and of itself.
While it’s true you can wall climb, that’s not great either. You’ll stick to the wall, and instead of gradually slipping down it, you just hold there until you suddenly fall. Equally frustrating is the game likes to gate you with a couple of types of destructible walls. Some you just need to wail on until they explode. Others have a set number value you’re somehow supposed to reach with one attack to break them. I’m still unclear how that process works, other than maybe just leveling up and returning later when you’re stronger. But it’s this sort of lack of clarity that impaired so much of the experience, and it made me quickly lose interest in playing the game for extended periods of time.
Pretty Little Demon
Though I was very much disappointed with how Demoniaca plays, it does design right. The game features really eye-catching pixel art. It’s dark, edgy, and full of energy. Likewise, the music is on point, with guitar riffs and pumping rock music that fits the mood. Honestly, I wish I had just watched someone else play the game, since it might have been better that way.
I hate to keep on complaining, but there are other things the game does poorly that I feel obligated to mention. A simple one is Demoniaca has incredibly long load times on Switch, around a half minute or more. More problematic is the game is populated by far too many indestructible foes. Or if they are killable, I couldn’t figure out how. In the early hours, I encountered at least a handful that I couldn’t defeat, forcing me to weave around them instead.
Though the game does employ save rooms, there’s a catch – there’s just one per area. And most areas are pretty expansive. This means it’s very easy to die before you safely reach a save room. While it’s true the game does utilize sanctuaries that let you gradually replenish health, you’ll get it back very slowly. And when you factor in how quickly even the most meager foe can destroy you, this becomes even more frustrating. It’s especially bad when the enemy you’re fighting just comes up to knee level, meaning it’s nearly impossible to deal damage to it. The only half solution to midget enemies was the familiar you can summon, but even he’s not that helpful, since most of the time his projectiles miss the mark. Lastly, I was bothered that when viewing things like the stat screen and map screen, the game doesn’t pause. Meaning you can suffer some cheap shots while you’re just trying to get your bearings.
Needs Some More Stitches
I really wanted to like Demoniaca: Everlasting Night. I fought hard to let the game prove itself to me. But it needs a lot more balancing and retooling before I can recommend it to anybody other than the most diehard Metroidvania fan. If you can somehow look past the game’s many flaws, it might be worth buying at a very deep discount. Otherwise, I’d just pass on this disappointing Gothic adventure.
Final Verdict: 1.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S; Publisher: eastasiasoft; Developer: eastasiasoft, AKI; Players: 1; Released: January 12, 2022; ESRB: Mature 17+ – Blood and Gore, Violence, Nudity, Language, Sexual Themes; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.