10 Thoughts On… Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (Sony PlayStation 4)

It was inevitable for the Disgaea franchise to one day make the leap onto the PlayStation 4, and the best part is, rather than it being a direct sequel to another entry (like Disgaea D2) or an enhanced port, it’s a brand new main entry. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance also has the distinction of being (from what I can tell) the first console exclusive strategy RPG for the system. Here’s hoping that it’s good enough to pave the way for more.

I’ve spent several hours with the game already, and it certainly shows a lot of promise. Here are my impressions of the opening chapters:

1. The plot revolves around a being called Void Dark and his conquest to take over the various Netherworlds. Overlords from all over have attempted to stand against him, but all have been struck down. One in particular, Seraphina, is engaged in a battle with Void Dark’s followers, and is in danger of being defeated herself, until a man named Killia stands in. She quickly becomes enamored with him and insists that he aid her in defeating Void Dark. Killia, on the other hand, has his own reasons for wanting him dead, though his motivations are only hinted at through cryptic flashbacks. Regardless, they band together and slowly assemble a rebel army with which to topple this creeping evil.

2. One thing I noticed immediately is how much darker in tone this game is in comparison to its predecessors. This isn’t to say there isn’t an attempt at humor. On the contrary, there are many antics involving Prinnies as well as confrontations with wrestling caricatures, such as characters modeled after Hulk Hogan and The Rock. However, the main character is very brooding and stoic much of the time, which is a stark contrast to the outward personalities of Laharl and Valvatorez. I can’t tell if this is indicative of a shift in tone by Nippon Ichi (considering the seriousness of games like The Awakened Fate Ultimatum), but I was very shocked by the narrative direction. This is only the early chapters though, so we shall see.

3. The presentation is very much what you would expect from this series. Cutscenes are portrayed by still portraits talking to each other, or sprites performing some sort of action on one another. The sprite work in particular is very impressive, with a large number of them being able to be deployed at once. There’s also an anime opening that’s easy on the eyes. The soundtrack is pretty catchy too, though the character voices are fairly hit or miss.

4. If you’ve kept up with the Disgaea games thus far, you should know what you’re in for. Each map has an assortment of enemies that need to be done away with and, in some cases, geo panels that can work for or against you. Your units are deployed from a centralized base and can come and go as they please, so long as you don’t lose too many in battle. Each character has an assortment of attacks and skills they can employ, with new ones being earned as they gain levels or reuse existing ones. This is all in addition to the over-the-top team attacks that can be utilized when certain characters are adjacent from one another.

5. The most obvious new wrinkle to the gameplay is the “revenge” system. Each party member has a meter that builds up as you take damage, and when it maxes out, they get temporary statistical benefits. Some characters will even have access to Overload skills that can do anything from charm opposing enemies to turning into a giant. It seems like a minor addition, but it adds another facet to the strategy that can really play in your favor.

6. Between stages, you’ll reside in a pocket dimension where various shops and services are at your disposal. You can chat with characters, purchase items, assemble squads, and more. New things are constantly added with each chapter, and others can be pushed through via assembly so long as you have enough mana and votes in your favor.

7. Many of your character unlocks will come by way of quests. These quests can range from giving up items or slaying specific enemy types. There are also a bunch that reward you with money and items, and since most are completed just by playing normally, there’s no reason not to have a full slate of them active at all times. Certainly better than the hoops that had to be jumped through to get new units in the past.

8. Speaking of new recruits, you don’t have to spend mana on new ones anymore. You’ll have a set of unlocked classes at the beginning, and if you choose to craft a character, you can customize their name, appearance and personality. If you’re willing to spend your cash, they don’t have to start at level one either. Starting bonus stats and levels now hinge on how much HL you part with. This cuts down on the grind exponentially, which is awesome.

9. The assembly returns in all its bribing glory. Want exploding characters? Better items? Extra experience? Put it up to a vote and see what happens. If things don’t look like they’re going to go your way, you can approach everyone on the assembly and offer them items to see things your way. I purchased the cheat shop very early on that allowed me to make sacrifices such as money earned in exchange for higher experience payout. I love being able to customize my experience.

10. It’s apparent from the title screen as well as from a character in the hub world that there will be DLC available. Nothing is up currently, but if the Japanese release is any indication, there will likely be new characters and voice packs up for grabs. I have no idea of pricing or if some of it will be free for a limited time.

While I’m not impressed by the narrative in the early going, all it takes is a character like Axel to come along and shake things up, so I won’t pass off the story as being too serious just yet. On the other hand, the game mechanics seem to be the best yet so far, not to mention a great starting point for new players. I look forward to knocking out some more chapters.

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance releases October 6, 2015 for the Sony PlayStation 4.



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