Gather your party
I’ve taken only a few steps into the darkened hallways of Demon Lord Reincarnation, and already, I know I’m in trouble. My first battle is tense and brutal; I knew it would be. But as my party members start to drop like flies against the horrors of only the first floor of this godforsaken land, I start to get it. This is going to be difficult, punishing even. I shouldn’t get attached to anything. Because it’s going to take a lot to make it down to the Demon Lord.
Demon Lord Reincarnation is the latest RPG from Graverobber Foundation, a team that’s made a number of throwback role-playing experiences. This one in particular conjures up memories of Wizardry, in particular. It’s a first-person dungeon crawler where you command a party of adventurers, heading down into the final resting place of the Demon Lord Leinad. Long ago, a group of heroes defeated Leinad and sealed him underground, and a maze was built up over it. Now, the seal is broken, monsters are swarming, and it looks like the Demon Lord is intent on resurrecting.
So, upon starting Demon Lord Reincarnation, you’re given a selection of adventurers to pick from, building up a party of four to venture down. It’s only five floors. How hard could it be?
Time for some hubris
Well, after losing two party members in the first fight, I got my answer pretty quick.
The first thing to know about Demon Lord Reincarnation is that it’s not exactly a cheerful adventure. You can, and will, lose party members. That happy Valkyrie joining you, cheerfully believing they can help stop the great evil? Yeah, she’s dead now. In fact, I had to fight her reanimated corpse on a later run. Yes, the Graverobber Foundation exhumed my dead party member and threw the reanimated corpse back at me in a random battle, with all their powers and skills still intact. It was both a wonderful and terrifying surprise.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Every party member hails from a different class, with various weapon and magic types that can have different effects in battle. At first, you might not notice this; but after your three swordfighters fail to put a dent in one beefy enemy, you’ll want to consider diversifying your damage pool.
Every turn, you can commit a fighter to defend themselves or use an action, which costs varying amounts of skill points. Everyone has a basic skill that costs nothing, but during battle, they can have a spark of inspiration and learn a new move.
These abilities are crucial. They’re often not only useful for damage, but add much needed utility for surviving against the brutal waves of enemies in Demon Lord Reincarnation. Stunning, tripping, and even gouging a skeleton’s eye out—yes that works, don’t ask me about the logistics—will stop those swarms of nasty monsters from turning your optimistic party into gruesome maze décor.
Knowledge is power
It’s at this point that I’ll stress the same thing the developer stresses: read the manual. Every copy of Demon Lord Reincarnation comes with access to a little PDF manual, and it is filled with useful, borderline essential information. How do I know this? I played for an hour without realizing you can rest in the maze. Learn from my mistakes.
Either way, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. Over time, you’ll build up power. Characters get noticeably stronger the more they survive. They don’t really level up in a conventional sense, but gain extra stat points as they overcome battles. Worse odds mean greater rewards. So maybe leading your party into battle against a swarm of butchers and imps isn’t a terrible idea. Anyone who survives the meat grinder will be stronger for it, right? And the replacements you can recruit at the campfire gradually scale to be within your range, too.
A real appeal of Demon Lord Reincarnation is its adherence to the classic first-person dungeon crawling, though. And by that, I mean there is no auto-mapping. Unlike more modern entries, you’ll need to manually track your location and create your own map of the dungeon if you want to remember where you are. Or, you can just let yourself get blissfully lost. Either way, the dark, gloomy vibes of the corridors create a delightfully dreary ambiance.
Surviving the dungeon
I’ve only played a little bit of Demon Lord Reincarnation, but I can’t really seem to get it out of my head. There’s the incredible art, making use of an eerie dithered style much like another indie RPG favorite of mine, World of Horror. (It actually uses art from Toriotto, through an archive the artist has approved for other commercial projects.) It’s punishing, but in the right amount, like a particularly good hot sauce. The way it looks back on first-person dungeon crawling and adds a bit of its own flair is really compelling.
But Demon Lord Reincarnation also feels focused, laser-set on what it’s trying to do. There is a task at hand, and you’ll need to slowly understand and learn its systems to overcome it. Sure, the descent to the Demon Lord is not going to be easy. But it’s the challenge that makes it feel rewarding. Demon Lord Reincarnation‘s maze may seem simple at first, but those tiles and doors hold a world of adventure and challenge ahead. I’m pretty eager to head back down them.