The Disgaea series will finally make its current-gen debut with the addition of the PS4 exclusive Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance on October 6th in North America and October 9th in Europe. For those unfamiliar, Disgaea is a long-standing series of grid-based turn-based strategy RPGs developed by Nippon Ichi Software, and is most well known for its completely over-the-top tone and humor. As a long time fan of Disgaea since it first released for the PS2, I’ve been waiting for the next installment for what seems like years! I’m very excited to be able to give you an idea of what’s in store for SPRG lovers when this releases early next month, packed to the brim with both familiar content and new surprises.
Disgaea games thus far have chronicled the rise to fame of a variety of dastardly demons to the throne of the Overlord of the Netherworld, but Disgaea 5 turns all of that on its head. Early on in Disgaea 5, it is revealed that there is not only just one Netherworld, but there are actually many unique Netherworlds, each with their own Overlords that combine to form a greater Disgaea multiverse. As the story begins, we find that the Netherworlds are currently under attack by a powerful Overlord named Void Dark who leads his devastating Lost army with an iron fist in their mission to take over all the Netherworlds.
Enter Killia – a wandering warrior with a mysterious past and a desire for revenge against Void Dark. You play as Killia, and are joined by the seductress Seraphina and a steadily growing cast of Overlords and player-created characters as you depart to take down Void Dark and his army of Lost.
The most immediately noticeable strength of Disgaea 5 is its great soundtrack that skillfully fuses elements of Jazz, Rock, and Opera. The soundtrack does a superb job of embodying the comical and faux-horror elements of the series while still being able to drive up the hype during exciting action scenes. While the resolution hasn’t been upgraded since the previous title, Disgaea 5 uses beautiful new sprites that boast both higher detail and more animation frames. Cutscene art for characters and backgrounds is absolutely gorgeous, and drips with Disgaea’s distinct art style.
While the Disgaea games have always made gradual improvements to their engine and gameplay mechanics as the series progressed, I am especially surprised and excited at many of the changes added to Disgaea 5 that help streamline and clarify the many of its deep and complex mechanics and systems. Disgaea 5 is by far the most accessible and noob friendly Disgaea yet. Mechanics and progression are introduced to the player through hilarious and fully voice acted tutorial cutscenes, and the new Quest Shop gives players a great way to measure their progress by setting short term goals and streamlining the class unlock system. As opposed to the old system which required reaching level milestones on specific character classes, new classes and recruitable characters are now unlocked entirely by completing quests in the Quest Shop. While there are still probably a plethora of hidden classes, players are no longer left completely in the dark regarding class progression. The various mechanics and systems that give Disgaea its unimaginable depth are gradually introduced to the player at a leisurely rate of 1-2 new mechanics per chapter, giving the player a decent amount of time to get used to and experiment with any new systems that are revealed. However, it is important to note that a few of these mechanics are not quite able to be fully utilized to any reasonable degree until the player has reached certain story and level milestones, e.g. the Dark Assembly and Torturing.
The character progression system has also been completely rebuilt from the ground up, and now features 7 discrete ranks within each class that are separate from a character’s level. Skills and Evilities are now unlocked through a combination of reaching level/rank milestones and weapon proficiency level milestones, and are freely available to all characters through the new sub class system that allows characters to choose a different class that overrides any exp gain by their primary class. This allows the player to equip a character with any combination of desired skills and evilities, and brings min/maxing to an entirely new level.
While the mechanics and progression have been streamlined, the core Disgaea gameplay has not been sacrificed at all. Players will once again be introduced to the most wacky, cheesy, and over the top characters and abilities they have ever seen. You won’t ever find another game that not only allows you to build a tower with your characters, but also allows you to curl up said tower into a circle after blasting into space, allowing to fire an orbital laser through it. Get ready to be handed the reins to an immensely deep combat and character progression system that embraces both old traditions and new additions to the formula, taking the addictive grind-fest to the next level with a new Revenge system, Squad Attacks, and the Chara World – a Mario Party-esque boardgame that adds another layer of depth to character development. The depth in Disgaea 5 is honestly absurd, but at times does go to the point of almost becoming a detriment to the experience. I can only imagine how completely terrifying and overwhelming it will be to start up the multi-hundred-hour experience that Disgaea veterans have already come to expect. Many systems in the game seem completely unapproachable when you first discover them, as you are given a significant amount of freedom early on while not necessarily having the levels or items to pursue and make use of the tools given to you. It’s only after understanding how the game increases difficulty and player power creep that a new player will be able to enjoy the game while slowly picking up on the degree of grinding required between missions and objectives.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is an absurdly deep game is definitively the go-to SRPG experience on PS4. It has the whole package – great art, superb music, hilarious story, deep and complex mechanics, and a post-game that will keep you playing for hundreds of hours. As of my writing this review, I’m approximately over 60 hours into the game, and I still feel like I’m only at the tip of the iceberg. I absolutely cannot wait to keep playing, and I highly suggest everyone who likes SRPGs pick up Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance when comes out for PS4 on October 6th in North America and October 9th in Europe!