When it comes to games that makes it hard to put down the controller and go to sleep, Disgaea takes the cake. It is one of those perfect examples of a game that makes me think “Only one more map.” Twenty maps and several hours later, the feeling of exhaustion hits me like a brick wall. However, t’s always worth it in the end because during my gameplay session, my characters leveled up several times, I got to uncover a secret ending, and I found a cool new sword! Also, I kicked a whole lot of butts in a flashy, over the top fashion. Can Disgaea 5: Alliance Of Vengeance keep this tradition alive?
In Disgaea 5, you play as a ragtag band of overlords that are fighting a faction called The Lost. The main character in this group is Killia — he is a lonesome wanderer, with only one thing on his mind: to defeat Void Dark, leader of The Lost. The player is thrusted into the story just as Killia meets Seraphina, the overlord of the netherworld called Gorgeous. She is impressed with his ability to fight and takes him to her so-called pocket netherworld which acts as the main base in the game. They both join forces, and after strolling about in her pocket netherworld a bit, the player gets into the first tutorial map.
At this point, the story felt slower and less humorous than earlier installments in the series. While the character design itself is as cool as ever from the very beginning, the game seemed to take itself a bit more seriously than usual. Sure, the characters threw out some funny jabs here and there, but it was nothing like the wacky story in Disgaea 4 which went full speed ahead from the get go. This feeling persisted up to a chapter that revolved around curry. After this, the humor really picked up, and even the serious parts of the story started to become more interesting.
Gameplay wise, Disgaea 5 takes the best mechanics from earlier entries in the series and mashes them up with new ones. The Item World, Weapon Professions, and Reincarnation mechanics are all there, along with other staples of the series. You still wage your battles on grid based maps in standard SRPG fashion; the game is a bit more balanced and friendly towards new players this time around, however. For example: the enemies in the Item World do not level up in between floors as heavily as they did before. This makes over-leveling your characters more difficult, and newer players will have an easier time getting into the mechanics behind the game before it gets really challenging.
Story maps follow the same pattern while always having more well equipped enemies than in the Item World. The overall balance change is quite welcome, as it — especially the Item World — could get brutal quickly in earlier Disgaea games. Now it feels like there is a more decent difficulty curve, especially for a game that gives you almost an infinite number of gameplay hours.
While the old mechanics feel more balanced, some of the newer ones feel like they exist to fix some of the problems fans had with other Disgaea titles. You can, for example, send non-story based characters as a research team to find other netherworlds to explore. The research teams level up, receive loot, and can find new overlords for you to fight. This actually make those 50+ characters that you benched several hours ago really useful.
There are also two new additions that feels like they bring something completely new to the table: The Overload and Squad systems. The former is only usable by certain story characters and lets you use their special ability X amount of turns once per battle. One of my favorites is Seraphina’s Balor Gaze, which lets you charm all enemies in the designated area of effect around her for one turn. More than once did this save me from certain doom. The Squad system lets you assign characters to squads, giving them special effects such as increased stats, or even access to abilities they would not have otherwise.
The new, old, and rebalanced mechanics that I have mentioned so far are only a fraction of what Disgaea 5: Alliance Of Vengence offers. It has a myriad of stuff that, when thinking about it, should be pretty rough to get into, especially if you are a new player. Disgaea 5 does, however, ease you into all of these concepts at the pace of your choosing. Only the basics are explained in the tutorial missions, and you can skip them completely if you’re a veteran. The rest is explained on a need to know basis, which is perfect for this kind of game. This is especially nice since you can refrain from using most new mechanics if you want to. No need to learn about something that you will never use, right?
The visuals really pop in Disgaea 5. The menus feel alive and the colors are even more vibrant than usual. The maps also look better than ever, with some looking more impressive than usual. This is by no means the most technically advanced game on the PS4, but it is evident that Nippon Ichi has tried to fill the screen with more sprites and polygon objects than usual. This becomes more noticeable later in the game as the size of the maps become bigger than ever before. It’s also apparent when characters gain the ability to perform combo moves with each other. There are some texture stretches here and there however, but I personally did not notice them all too often.
Disgaea 5: Alliance Of Vengeance is a solid, well balanced, and good looking entry into the series. It is the easiest of the bunch to get into for beginners while still sticking to its old awesome guns. The marriage between old and new in the game makes it well rounded. The characters are interesting, colorful, and give us the humor that the series has had since its beginnings on the PS2. It is the most story heavy game in the series however, and that slows the pacing down a bit more than I would have liked at times. But in the end, I had just as much fun with Disgaea 5 as with any other game in the series. The characters and storyline grew on me pretty fast, and I can see myself spending countless hours with the game in the future. It would be difficult for me not to recommend Disgaea 5: Alliance Of Vengeance to anyone who wants a great Strategy RPG on the PS4, or to those who once again want to make Prinnies explode by throwing them around.
A PS4 code for Disgaea 5: Alliance Of Vengeance was provided by NIS America for the purpose of this review