Platform: PS4 | Dev: Nippon Ichi Software | Pub: NIS America | EU Release: 9th October 2015
Disgaea 5 is the sixth entry in the series and the first to be released on the PS4. Disgaea 5 is a simple story of revenge. The main narrative revolves around the demon emperor, Dark Void who has taken over numerous Netherworlds with the help of his large army of The Lost. However though, the former Overlords of these Netherworlds (and those of ones that have not fallen yet), are rising up to defeat Dark Void. Along the way you will meet fellow Overlords, bizarre enemies and entertaining minions serving under Dark Void. The main characters that depict the story are Killia (who has his own personal vendetta against Dark Void) and Seraphine (a princess Overlord who has run away from her home world due to a dispute in an arranged marriage). Together, with your own personal army of fighters, you traverse the multiple Netherworlds to fight back The Lost with your final goal being defeating Dark Void.
The story is very basic and in some cases very boring. There is a lot of dialogue between gameplay segments and I did find myself drifting off during some sections but I really didn’t miss a lot. It is almost childish in nature, like a school playground fight that has just got out of hand. Disgaea is meant to be silly but this is just cringeworthy. There were a few characters that can easily get a few laughs out of you but the majority of the cast are either terrible clichés or exist to bore you with one liners that would make Arnie proud.
The core mechanics of the game play have not changed. Disgaea 5 is a turn based tactical role-playing game in which sees you defeating enemies in a predefined isometric stage. Enemies are spread out across the stage and you defeat them by spawning your own characters. These characters will all have a different number of tile movements per turn and abilities. The basic play is move and then commit to an action (or vice versa). Your actions include attacking, using a special ability, defending or lifting/throwing. You are allowed to have up to 10 playable characters on the screen during a stage and once you have assigned all your actions you can end your turn. Upon ending your turn all the actions you assigned will be carried out – however I found that the most tactical way to play is by using the Execute command. With it being turn based it is impossible to predict how the enemy will act during their turn so by using the execute method you can carry out a few of your characters action before ending your whole turn. This is especially useful as when you attack an enemy they have a chance of performing a counter attack which will cause you damage. Upon knowing you have taken this damage you will now have a chance to get your characters healed before the enemy takes their turn. Disgaea 5 is just like the game of chess – you must be at least three moves ahead of yourself; you always must be thinking of what the worst case scenario could be.
A new addition to Disgaea 5 is the revenge system. It is a meter that sits on the left side of the character details that increases when your team mates are attacked or taken out. When this bar is filled Revenge mode is activated; this increases your Critical Rate to 100%, SP for skills costs 1 and your damage taken is reduced by 25% for three turns so it would be best to use this advantage wisely. However though, to keep things nice and fair, enemies can also use the revenge system too. Another change in Disgaea 5 is how much detail is displayed during battle, as before you are free to look at the stats of everyone on the battlefield but now you can view their revenge meters, see the strengths and weaknesses of enemies and allies, maximum number of moves per turn and many other details (as seen below). This is where you will be spending a lot of your time during battle if you want to survive.
Knowing how the battlefield works too is key to fully understanding how to defeat the enemies efficiently. Early on in the game you are introduced to Geo Symbols and Panels. These are different colour items that will have certain effects on any character that is standing on them – whether this is one of your own characters or an enemy. These can range from increase XP to a damage increase. The stages will have predefined Geo Panels that will usually start off helping the enemy but this can be changed by destroying Geo Symbols that will be placed around the stage. Symbols can be thrown onto any Panel and once destroyed it will change the Panels to the colour of the destroyed symbol – if the Symbol is the current colour of the Panel it sits on, nothing will happen upon destruction. However though, if the colours are different, the Panels will change to the destroyed Symbols and the new effect will take place. The only negative effect is that anyone who is standing on the Panel upon change will take some damage.
This is a great way to change how the stage will play for you but I find that it is a huge risk. A lot of the Geo Symbols are in places that are away from the action and could sometimes leave your characters very vulnerable. Despite the risk though, if you plan the stage prior to beginning your turn, as there is no time limit, you will be able to use all these environmental effects to your advantage and defeat the stage with no trouble.
The environment can also be your biggest enemy. Certain stages contain Netherworld effects such as poison when you enter certain areas. They are there to help you along your way in battle but I found myself in some very tricky situations as I have been trapped by these effects – you really have to plan every single move when these effects are active.
I personally found that the levels I really struggled with were due to either me not being the correct level or me not assessing the stage before I started.
Disgaea 5 is all about getting everything in tune with each other. It is one thing understanding the environment, but if you do not understand your characters (and the enemies too), you will have a rotten time. It is not all about jumping into battle head first; it is sometime best to spend a short time sorting your team out and getting to know who you are up against. A lot can be done to make your team a lot stronger. Obviously the first way to buff your team is through equipment. Equipment can be found in battle, brought from the shop or given as a reward for completing a quest.
Each character that you recruit into your team will have a different weapon mastery – basically which weapons suits them best. Killia’s mastery weapons are bare hands and swords, so you would really only purchase those style of weapons. As you battle your weapons mastery will level up, thus making them stronger in battle. It is worth keeping a few weapons that do not suit your mastery as they may save your life in battle. Just like yourself, enemies have weakness and your best weapon may not cause the same amount of damage as one that does not; it is all about balance.
As you progress through game stronger equipment becomes available that will give you a slight edge over your enemies.
As I mention above, you can recruit characters into your team. You are limited by how many you can summon in battle but there is no limit on how many you can recruit. There are a few rules such as you cannot recruit untrusted classes or anyone higher level than yourself. As with everything else, this process costs money so your recruitment will be only as strong as you can afford.
Each character that you recruit has certain skills. Skills can be learnt through levelling or by completing quests and they all can be upgraded. Like in previous titles, each character have up to two passive abilities called Evilities. New ones can be learnt but they will cost you however, like everything else, if used correctly it could be the difference between winning and losing. I found that this is the most efficient way to combat the negative effects of the Netherworld.
The style of art used is still the same as previous titles but it’s a higher resolution. This with the mixture are bold, vibrant colours makes Disgaea 5 a joy to look at. There is so much detail in the character models and environments that you forget that they are based upon 16bit style graphics. However though, during some scenes a lot of the characters will have some rather rough edges.
The background music composed for the game is just perfect; you know it is there as dead silence would just be terrible however you tend to forget it is there as it does not distract you from the gameplay. All in all, this is a graphical upgrade and technical upgrade the series needed.
I personally find Disgaea titles to be a lot more fun portable. As much fun as I had playing Disgaea 5 on the PS4, I believe I would have enjoyed it a lot more on the Vita. It has a very good pick up and play attitude, especially when once you finish the story. You may find yourself in a situation where you only have 30 minutes spare and this is a perfect opportunity to either blast through a few stages or sort your team out. It is a game that can easily take over your life so having it at hand during the day, wherever you are in the world, is ideal.
Disgaea 5 is a tactical minded gamers dream. It proves that a game does not have to be all about running in first and asking questions later. The player who spends the time arranging their team and learning the battlefield will find hours of fun here. If you want to jump straight in, then trust me, you will have one of the worst experiences ever and you will either learn from your mistake or move on. For those who stick by, the rewards are huge.
Disgaea 5 does makes a few additions to the formula but they are not radical to the overall experience . If you were expecting this entry to be the one that will change the series you will be left disappointed. It does have a very weak story with a terrible ensemble but if you can stick through that, this is a game that will offer hours of entertainment that will keep you busy for many months to come.
Review code provided by NIS America
Disgaea 5 - Alliance of Vengeance (PS4) - 7/10
Who Should Buy This
- Disgaea Fans
- Tactically Minded Gamers
- Gamers looking to get a lot for their money
Who Should Avoid
- Gamers not willing to read instructions
- Players looking for a solid story with a good supporting cast
- Gamers who just attack first and ask questions later will want to avoid this one
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Mad Scientist with a passion for gaming!