Demonschool Feels Like Playing An Episode of Buffy

What’s worse, going to class or fighting a demon invasion?

key art from Demonschool

If you think you have a busy schedule, imagine needing to squeeze in some time to fight demons — or just give Demonschool a shot and see what it's like for yourself. Developer Necrosoft’s Demonschool blends Persona-style schedule management with a novel turn-based battle system and low-key horror vibes for a game that feels totally unique despite its familiar influences. And during this month’s Steam Next Fest, it’s getting its first-ever demo so you can check it out for yourself.

Demonschool follows Faye, the world’s last demon hunter, who’s just enrolled at a new university that happens to be overrun with, you guessed it, demons. It’s a demon school, in other words. There, she meets up with Namako, Destin, and Knute, whose latent demon-fighting abilities awaken in her presence. From there, the group battles an infestation of supernatural ghouls that somehow involves their school’s administration, the Yakuza, and a mysterious wave of amnesia affecting people all over town.

Demonschool is essentially split into two parts, both of which you’ll get a healthy dose of in the Next Fest demo. One half of the game is Faye’s humdrum daily life attending school, hanging out with friends, and just generally bumming around town. From what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t seem as robust as Persona’s daily schedule, which requires you to actually go to class and make decisions about who to spend your time with. There’s ample time to wander around town to your heart’s content as long as you don’t trigger main story quests, and classes are just a slightly more involved way of learning skills from a menu.

What these daily life sections do have is tons of personality. Demonschool’s main cast is funny and well-written, and I was just excited to see a new conversation with them become available as I was to jump into the next battle. Minor NPCs also have a lot of life to them, with quippy little bits of dialogue that frequently caught me off guard with their humor. Tiny stories also play out in the background, like the eternal battle between a student who loves putting garbage in the wrong containers and another who’s on a quest to stop her.

Faye and her friends take up demon hunting as an extracurricular activity in Demonschool.


As you wander through town, you can also take on side quests that flesh out the world and your party’s relationships. These can be simple conversations or short skits, like one centered around Destin’s dubious desire to drink spoiled milk, which mostly exists as a good character moment for the team’s resident himbo. But other side quests uncover more of the game’s demonic mystery, which usually results in a battle. As I wandered through my daily schedule, spending time with friends with breaks to battle monsters, I felt like I was playing an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which made these side quests my favorite part of the demo.

To get to the bottom of the unfortunate demon problem, however, you also need to follow main quests, which are clearly marked so you never end up advancing time without meaning to. These center on the gang’s mission to rid their town of demonic influence and are more likely to culminate in tougher battles.

Combat in Demonschool takes place on battlefield grids that will look familiar to tactics fans, but the game has a battle system all its own. Each turn, you’re allotted a set number of Action Points to split between all party members — there are four at the start of the demo, but Necrosoft says the cast will have 15 characters by the end of the game. Moving a character takes one AP, but that cost goes up by one each time you use the same character so you’re incentivized to put the whole party to work.

Pulling off combos rewards you with stylish comic book-style animations.


I say “moving a character” because that’s the basis of combat. Rather than selecting from a menu of attacks, you simply choose which direction a character moves. They’ll move a set number of squares each time, and if they encounter an enemy or ally in their path, they’ll unleash an attack or heal them, depending on your chosen character’s skills. That might seem simple, but in practice, combat feels incredibly complex. Every attack in the demo pushes enemies back a square, and knocking them around is a huge part of your strategy. Push two enemies together and they both take damage. Push one into your ally and you’ll team up for a powerful combo attack. In that way, combat starts to take on shades of Into the Breach, where clever positioning will always win out over brute force.

Once you’ve spent all your AP, sit back and watch as your entire team executes its attacks at once in a spectacular ballet of punches and magical spells. It’s a thrill to watch your carefully planned moves play out, but I did run into some quirks in the demo. In one battle, I had Knute knock a TV into a demon to deflect its attack, then Faye moved in for the finishing blow. But when the game played out my moves, Faye acted first, blocking the path of the TV and negating that damage.

Demonschool’s deceptively simple-looking combat system packs a lot of hidden depth.


In other cases, I positioned an exploding enemy so that it would take out its fellow ghouls in the blast, only for some of them to move out of the way before the explosion. There’s no way to see what order the members of your team or the enemy side will act once this action phase begins, so it’s hard to know how to avoid your best laid plans going awry in this way.

While missteps like this were rare in my time with the demo, they’re pretty severe when one or two mistakes can cost a character their life (until they’re revived at the end of battle, that is). But with Demonschool’s release date still yet to be announced, it may well be cleaned up by the time launch rules around. And as frustrating as it was, the game’s charms far outweigh its combat quirks. When I spoke to creative director Brandon Sheffield last year, he said that Demonschool is aiming for horror vibes without actually being too scary, and so far, Necrosoft is nailing it. As someone who loves spooky stories but can’t stomach true horror, I see Demonschool as the perfect midpoint between silly and scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing the final cut (hopefully) some time this year.

Next Fest runs from June 10 to 17 on Steam.

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