Reviews: Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
I’ve been waiting on Disgaea 5 for quite some time. I was excited from the moment it was announced. I’ve played every Disgaea entry to date and I’ve enjoyed all of them to varying degrees. The more the series matures the more NISA seems to understand what needs to change and what needs to stay the same. I do worry sometimes that their streamlining will eventually go “too far” but that day has not yet come. I’m happy to say that, with the exception of duping, everything in this entry is the best I can remember. So let’s get on with the review, if you can smell some bias just note that this series is tailor made for folks like myself. If you’ve agreed with previous reviews of mine this’ll be accurate for you, otherwise, take it with a grain of salt.
Disgaea 5 tasks you with controlling a small army of characters against the infamous Void Dark, a brooding figure that is quickly conquering the entire netherverse (which they insist on called the netherworlds). With nearly each new netherworld you uncover you’ll be introduced to a new character that will join your posse. I liked all of them and don’t think anyone stood out as a bad addition. The main character is a cliche dark brooding figure initially but I think they get into a stride with him as the story progresses. Red Magnus is what would happen if Dwayne Johnson was a character in Disgaea and he’s every bit as fun to be around. Seraphina, the female protagonist counter to Killia, is the Overlord of the richest Netherworld in all known universes. Naturally she’s spoiled but they do it fairly well with her.
A new mechanic with this series is the “Overload” skills. Basically if you get the shit beat out of you enough you’ll go into a limit break mode, ala Final Fantasy. In this mode you’ve generally got 3 turns where all your skills cost a single mana, they always crit, and for some characters you’ll unlock a super move. All of the super moves are fun, one makes a character massive, another entrances all the male baddies around you, and another causes its user to go absolutely beast mode on everything in a single turn.
The enemies too can get Overload, and sometimes this can actually turn the tides of a battle against you. I only lost a few matches (and that was much, much, later into the game because I forgot about my cheat shop settings), but when things get close it is generally because of the bad guys getting this off.
The game is very malleable. You can play it as quickly or as slowly as you want. Because of the cheat shop, a system that allows you to modify tons of facets from difficulty, to percentages for experience and other stats, the game really lets you make it what you want it to be. I find that you can finish basically the entire main story with minimal grinding, and if that’s all you want to experience of this game then you’ll be quite pleased with that I’d say. But if you want to take it to the Nth degree, with tens of millions of stats, you’ll be putting in a bit of time.
However that’s entirely up to you.
The modes are staggering. The innocents make a return (innocents are effectively enhancements for your items) and you can now breed them and farm them, literally farm them. This means that while you are playing the game normally you can easily cap out some important innocents like Statisticians (EXP) or Managers (Mana) without needing to divert your time away to the previously less fun experience of unlocking these things.
The addition of Squads allows you to assign characters to small groups that have perks like sharing EXP, sharing mana, enhancing your innocent farm, creating items from scratch (so many gency’s exits!), and more! I really like the squad system. You’ll upgrade your various squads via the interrogation system which is pretty basic but still neat. You can convert people you interrogate into resources, have them join your army, or assign them to the squads to level them up. Every character in the game has their own special move alongside 4 (5?) other moves they can use to interrogate. Personally I’ve got Seraphina working that job as she seems like the type that would enjoy torturing people.
The character world has turned into a board game and I actually quite like it. It reminded me a lot of the character creator in the japanese version of Project Justice. I enjoy bantering about on it and finding all the various random odds and ends. Unfortunately as a board game you cannot use it to clone gear on your characters, but I think the cute factor and the fun change of pace more than make up for it.
The evility system is cleaned up and very neat. Basically you can assign varying abilities to your characters, the potency of these abilities will determine how many slots they take up (or to put it another way, the more slots it takes, likely the cooler it is). Additionally you can use the new “sub class” system to have any character learn (albeit slowly at first) all the abilities of other classes without reincarnating into them.
There are still unique abilities that cannot be transferred, so there is some reason to get other classes going.
Disgaea 5 also introduces a fair number of new monsters. I was surprised by how many times I was seeing something new. I believe I’ve seen some new items as well but I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I played Disgaea 4 and I may have just forgotten what things looked like. The special moves in game all look great and all of them are new animations, you’ll find yourself quickly shattering planets or punching people (literally) into other dimensions. Once you’ve seen everything, if you wish to level faster, you can set the game to skip all animations you’ve seen before. If at any time during combat you change your mind you can hold R2 to see them (or skip them) if you wish.
I’ve put about 70 hours into this game so far and as far as I can recall I’ve enjoyed it all. I like the story, I like the cast, I like the items, I like the modes, I like the visuals, and I like the music. There is very little about this game that I can find that I don’t like. The duping system is terrible now, but the game streamlines so many things that I’m uncertain if you even need it. You can get a very, very, powerful character without even wearing any gear. Something I’ll need to write a guide about soon.
If you’ve got the time and money to spare, as well as a PS4, I highly recommend this game. It might not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like Japanese humor, but if you do it’ll give you plenty of chuckles and many many hours of entertainment. Top notch work by NISA.
Easily one of my favorite experiences in the last year. If you've enjoyed previous Disgaea games you will adore this one. If you like SRPGs you are in for a treat. The story is cute, the characters are fun, and the gameplay is smooth as silk. I'm still finishing it up but I have no regrets on the time spent in this game.