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July 2024


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Ysbryd Games
Developer: Necrosoft Games
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2024


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Demonschool'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 6, 2024 @ 10:00 a.m. PDT

In Demonschool, students are invited to a "prestigious" university on a colorful island, where exciting sports clubs, a world-class education, and the impending doom of a demonic apocalypse await!

Demonschool's basic concept is going to sound familiar to RPG fans. You play as a group of teenagers who discover that demons are invading from another world, and the teens must use their newfound powers to stop the demons. There are a lot of clear inspirations for this title, but none seem clearer than Persona. However, in this case, the visual style and general atmosphere are more reminiscent of the PlayStation 1 Persona titles than the modern ones. Where isn't very Persona-link is the combat system, and we spent some time with a preview build to experience a few of the fights firsthand.

The combat system is most reminiscent of something akin to Into The Breach. You have four party members, each of whom has a skill assigned to them. Faye the protagonist and Destin the designated party himbo can both deal damage and push enemies. Namako can stun any enemy she hits for a turn. Knute can heal and buff party members. Unlike other games, you can't just select the action and engage in it.

Instead, every round of combat is divided into two rounds: a planning phase and an action phase. During the planning phase, you can move your character in straight or diagonal lines across the battlefield. Doing so costs action points (AP), which is a shared resource among the party. The first time you move a character, it costs 1 AP, the second time 2 AP, and so on. Thus, if you want to move Faye three times in a single action, it's going to cost a lot more than moving Faye, Namako and Destin once. Characters start with a no-cost, one-square "side-step" that they can use to reposition, but after that, it's AP or bust.

To activate a character's ability, you need to move them into one of the enemies on the map, and that triggers their respective action. Move Faye into an enemy to attack them, move Knute into an ally to heal them, and so on. You can move and act in the same action as long as your target is in a line from your starting point, so clever planning means you can do a lot more in a single turn than expected. In addition, moves that push, like Faye and Destin, can also trigger combo attacks if you push an enemy into an ally. That does additional damage, including elemental ones that may additionally damage enemies.

Each character also has a special skill that they build up by performing standard actions. Faye's special skill allows her to do a free almighty-element attack if her attack kills the enemy. Destin can push an enemy as far as they can go, Knute can heal multiple allies, and Namako can perform a powerful AoE water attack. You can use these actions freely, and they charge quickly, so it's not worth holding onto them – at least in the preview build.

All of this occurs during the planning phase. You can reset the planning phase as often as you like, but once you leave it, all of the actions occur at once. During this action phase, foes will also do a predetermined action, which you can view by hovering over the enemy. One may spew poison in a straight line, another may move forward and attack anything in its path, while a third may hunt down the closest ally to attack. Simply defeating enemies isn't enough; you want to leave your party as safe as possible during the action phase because characters only have 3-4 HP.

Winning a fight isn't as simple as just defeating all of the enemies. You're also given objectives. In the preview build, the primary objective we saw was killing a specific number of demons. Once you accomplish this, the enemy's backline become a line of seals. If you move a character there and end the turn, that character activates a seal and ends the fight. You're rewarded for being more thorough in your demon-killing, so it might not be worth rushing the seal every time. The same applies to enemies. If they get all the way to your side of the field, they'll pull down the protective barrier that keeps them out of town. This comes at the cost of the demon's life, but it means that the game's over when the next demon reaches your backline.

We also tried out a boss fight that changed things up. It was a battle against a giant skeleton who summoned an endless swarm of lesser demons while unleashing heavily telegraphed attacks. Once in a while, it would leave its hands vulnerable, and attacking them would trigger it, thereby exposing its squishy weak point to damage. The fight became a balancing act between stopping the weaker demons from escaping, dealing damage to expose the boss' weakness, and avoiding the constant swarm of attacks. It wasn't overly difficult, but it showed a clear idea of what to expect from the boss battles.

Outside of combat we only got a small glimpse of the gameplay, but it seemed the most Persona-like. Your team has a clubhouse they'll be able to decorate, and they'll also be able to go around town and engage in various activities, such as fishing or playing an arcade game. It's not clear what benefit this will have, but I imagine it will tie into powering up your characters. You also can complete side-quests and spend time with friends, which seems to raise their friendship level — somewhat similar to a Persona-style Social Link. Since this preview build was primarily focused on combat, we only saw a few of these systems, but they look interesting.

Overall, Demonschool has a lot of potential. Combining the movement- and manipulation-style combat of Into The Breach with Persona-style RPG mechanics is something that feels surprisingly natural. I had a lot of fun with the battles, and I'm genuinely eager to see what the final game can offer, as it apparently has a significantly greater number of characters and enemy types. I'm eager to see more, so I'm hopeful that Demonschool will release later in 2024.

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