Approachable turn-based tactics for visual novel and sim stans.
Demonschool has immense style, a fun personality, and enough approachability to make a beginner tactics player like myself feel welcomed in these halls. Based on my hands-on time at PAX East 2023 with this turn-based tactics title with some sim and visual novel elements, Demonschool is a class worth signing up for.
Developed by Necrosoft Games and published by Ysbryd Games, Demonschool invites players into a prestigious university where a group of misfit students find themselves investigating supernatural incidents. Between fighting demons and taking classes, this collegiate hellscape will keep you busy.
Visually, Demonschool is stunningly spooky. There’s a lovely combo of darkness and vibrant colors that’s reminiscent of Deltarune and the upcoming She Dreams Elsewhere. But, more accurately, the team drew inspiration from classic Italian horror films of the ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s also a fun use of 2D and 3D too. When I asked about it I was told battles are 3D because the demons have access to an additional dimension than the human plane does and I love that level of thoughtfulness.
The mechanical theme of Demonschool is that movement equals action; this streamlines combat because you’ll attack automatically when you run into an enemy. And pulling off combos is just a matter of having a classmate behind the demon so that you essentially push the demon into your friend. Gameplay wise the press releases compares it to Into the Breach but with fewer clicks and I am absolutely here for fewer clicks.
The UI also supports Demonschool’s attempt at simplicity. Your Action Points are clearly displayed in the lower left corner as little circles. Each action costs 1 Action Point (AP) per character but if you have a character do additional actions, they’ll cost more AP each time. I love this approach because sometimes I lean more heavily on one character than others. You can also sidestep for free which comes in handy to line yourself up with the enemy.
Like most turn-based tactics games, each character has their own role and specialties. For instance, Knute can heal and buff allies. You also have Specials for each character in your back pocket.
If you make a mistake or just want to employ a different strategy you can easily rewind your moves with the bumpers at no cost. This really helped me get through my battles, especially during those early battles when I’m still getting used to the mechanics.
Each battle has a victory condition (ex. defeat 4 Demons). Once your victory conditions are met you can move any character to the victory tile to end the match. You can keep fighting after the victory conditions are met for bonuses. It’s a classic risk vs. reward scenario that feels especially safe to explore given the rewind feature.
Another strong aspect of Demonschool I appreciate is that when you end your turn you get to see all the combat animations play simultaneously. It feels lively and makes the animations more enjoyable because they’re over quickly so they don’t feel like they’re dragging out your turn.
The characters seem a bit tropey in their attitudes but the writing was still pleasant and amusing. Destin may be another classic Himbo but his discussion of milk and subsequent surprise when he learned it’s meant to be refrigerated did make me laugh.
While players who are mostly here for the action can cut down on how much additional exploration they do of the school or optional convos they have, I live for that content. In fact, the visual novel and sim elements of Demonschool are what excite me the most.
Unfortunately, the demo I played didn’t let me start living out my semester at school so I can’t comment on the quality of these elements or whether or not they’re well implemented. But I can tell you what to expect.
You’ll get to choose what to study and planning your team’s class schedule will develop their skills on the battle field. I’m not sure what these classes look like but I was promised they won’t be full-on lectures. I have my fingers crossed for some creative courses because personally I love taking courses and tests in video games.
Additionally, you can get over a dozen new allies through side quests and can foster friendships or romances to strengthen combos, elemental affinities, and/or discover new endings.
My 30 minute session has left me counting down the days for back to school season.
Demonschool has a 2023 release window and will launch on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, PC (Steam Deck verified), Nintendo Switch, and PC.