Too Long; Won’t Read
Disgaea 5 is the penultimate Disgaea game. If you have played and enjoyed any of the previous installments, there is absolutely no reason not to pick up this particular version. It greatly improves upon long-standing mechanics while at the same time adding heaps of new functionality and systems that are guaranteed to make the grind even more addicting than it ever was before (and that’s saying something). Disgaea 5 is one of the few games on the market that you can quite literally sink hundreds of hours into playing, and thus one of the biggest bang-per-buck investments out there. But that all depends on what type of person you are, and where your interests lie… And to find that out, you might as well read on, dood.
The story of Disgaea 5 doesn’t differentiate itself much from that of previous installments, except that it decks itself in a somewhat more serious tone (which isn’t entirely good news). Disgaea 5 casts you in the role of Killia – a particularly emo-loner demon on a quest to save the multiverse from a very powerful and very ruthless Overlord bent on taking it over for his own nefarious purposes. Killia is incidentally and somewhat unwillingly joined by the usual cast of quirky characters – demons and angels with their own over-the-top personalities and sometimes-odd, sometimes-reasonable reasons for hanging around. The story doesn’t quite hit the balance between dramatic and comedic, often leaving the player feeling somewhat uncomfortable or off-kilter with the whiplash-inducing changes in mood. I, at least, never felt certain what sort of reaction this game was trying to induce – a fact which greatly impaired my appreciation of the storyline as a whole.
With the ironic exception of Killia himself, all of the characters showcased in this game are fun and original – their interactions with one another are generally amusing, and it is easy to get attached to each of them. Killia, unfortunately, is rather more bland, suffering from a case of don’t-get-close-to-me-I’m-damaged-goods which is handled too heavily for an otherwise silly cast. This is a problem that plagues many areas of the games, making certain scenes dull where they should have been funny, and other scenes ridiculous when they should have been poignant.
Despite having a story that, on the whole, misses the mark – and certainly doesn’t hold a candle to many of the previous games – there is a lot to say for Disgaea 5 in almost every other respect.
If Disgaea 5 was rated purely on gameplay with no consideration for story, it would earn a perfect score. The systems and mechanics included in this game are many, and each and every one of them is well thought out, complex, and balanced. There is so much to do, to unlock, to build and to better, that you are almost guaranteed never to run out. To prevent this review from growing exponentially in size, I will only cover a few of the many new and improved systems here. These should give you a good idea of what the bulk of the game is about, and whether or not its worth your time.
First and foremost, Disgaea is a series of games focused on grinding to an almost laughable extent. Disgaea 5 is no exception to this – the max base level in the game is 9999, but it can be increased far, far higher through use of the Reincarnation system. Your stats are essentially uncapped – you can get them up into the billions. Seriously. But levels and stats are just the beginning – there is an endless list of things you can grind: skills, items, classes, specialties, clubs, and more. Just about everything built into the game can be grinded (ground?), making up hours upon hours upon hours of gameplay that, despite often being repetitive in nature, is almost never dull.
This is because the shining star of the Disgaea series as a whole is its battle system. Deceptively simple on the surface, Disgaea 5 manages to add layer upon layer of addictive complexity that build into one of the most comprehensive and detailed strategic battle systems available in the entire genre. That complexity is further expanded upon with a vast amount of customization, allowing you to build your team from the ground up and turn them into the most ridiculously overpowered army you’ve ever seen in a video game.
Disgaea 5 is a study in overkill. In over-the-top. In absurdity and extremes. Skill animations will have your pretty 2D characters blowing up the world in what would normally be cataclysmic events to do huge damage to your enemies, and combo attacks will cause your teams to synchronize in ridiculous acrobatics. To reach the distant ends of maps, you can stack your soldiers up in sky-high towers, and you can pair up your characters to ride monsters into battle. Your spells are flashy and devastating, your weapons comically huge, and your characters will shout hilarious lines as they murder and die.
There are a large number of classes to choose from, each with their own specialties and weaknesses – useful skills that will give them an advantage under certain circumstances, and crippling faults that will make them a liability if carelessly employed. There are also a variety of weapons available, and each character can equip two, giving them access to skills and utilities. Such skills can be shared across characters and classes, creating an endless array of combinations and possibilities, all very much dependent on how hard you’re willing to work for them. And if boosting your characters and skills isn’t enough for you, items can also be leveled and improved. The Item Sea has you diving into your equipment, defeating enemies and solving puzzles to earn stat increases that can turn even the weakest item into something truly ridiculous with enough time and effort.
But there’s more. There’s so much more. The Cheat Shop allows you to tweak all of the minute details of the game to suit your needs – you can majorly increase or decrease the strength of the enemies you encounter, focus your efforts on experience while sacrificing money, and change the way certain events spawn. You can send teams out on AI-controlled missions while you continue the story, and you can capture and interrogate enemies for special bonuses. You can craft curry items that boost your abilities in battle, and you can play a board game that will win you new skills and stats for your characters. You can create and customize new characters, and pass “laws” to access new features and change the way the game plays. You can build pirate ships to explore the Item Sea, and you can even create your own custom maps to share with the community.
If this hasn’t convinced you, I’m uncertain anything will – but just in case, here’s a video of the quintessential Disgaea experience to whet your appetite:
Disgaea 5 has taken every feature of previous Disgaea games and made it better. It has also created a number of completely new and innovative mechanics that fill the gaps and constantly provide new layers of depth and detail to be unlocked and explored. Even if grinding isn’t your particular cup of tea – there is more than enough to do to keep even the most casual player content, and the game can be customized to make it as easy or as difficult as desired.
In short, Disgaea has taken more than a decade of experience and compiled it to create perhaps the greatest SRPG ever made – at least as far as gameplay mechanics go.
Despite lacking a compelling story, Disgaea 5 is a truly quality game through and through – well worth the small investment required to get it for yourself. It has built upon the already sturdy foundations of a long-standing franchise – polishing existing features and mastering entirely new ones to create a heavily layered and complex set of systems that are woven perfectly together. Each new system is unlocked in gradual steps that prevent newcomers from being instantly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content, and provide goals and challenges for veterans of the series.
Beyond the gameplay, the display is also stylish and well-organized. Characters are represented with sharp, 2D pixies that in themselves contain a lot of personality and customization. Areas are colorful and varied, with many different types of terrain and objects on which to play. The artwork is crisp and highly stylized, perfectly meshing with the absurd and over-the-top nature of the game. Even the music harmonizes nicely with the look and feel of the rest of the game, providing a fitting soundtrack to your slapstick adventures.
Disgaea 5 is a very large package wrapped up in a relatively small price and supported by a massive community of dedicated gamers. Whether or not you’re already a fan of the Disgaea series, this game is well worth the investment. It is a truly original piece of work that is certain to stand up well through the years.
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