Revenge. We know it well, if not in our actual lives then in those of the fictional characters we follow. Not the most honourable of motivations, it is certainly one of the strongest, or at least the most relentless. Thus within these stories our heroes are often forced to battle the demons that dwell within before facing those that dwell without. But what happens when our hero isn’t alone? When those around him each seek their own, personal form of revenge? Simply put; you get the start of one heck of a fight.
Ah Disgaea, the series that takes tactical RPGs and says, “You know what we need? More.” And boy does it deliver. If you’re new to this franchise, first of all welcome, then prepare to be bombarded by numbers. Damage counters, stat screens, weapon mastery, ranks, levels, mana…the list goes on…and on and on and on…then on a bit more, then it loops back around and starts all over again. what I’m getting at here, is that this is the perfect franchise for those of you who love leveling up, accruing new equipment and showing the old you who’s boss.
Before we completely dive into the world that is Disgaea gameplay, let us preamble a little story shall we? We shall, the question was there to liven things up…digression commence. Spooling up rather fast for a Disgaea game, we meet protagonist Killia on a battlefield and in engine. After aimlessly wandering into a battle between the generic sprite army and the obviously plot important Seraphina, our hero-to-be ends the fight and saves the damsel in distress, who wasn’t in distress…she was just luring the enemy into a false sense of security. Nevertheless, and delusions aside, this meeting becomes the first in the chronicle of the Rebel Army, the titular Alliance of Vengeance. As the story progresses, more and more characters surface who share similar misgivings to this title’s big bad, the ludicrously powerful Void Dark. Having invaded and absorbed most Netherworlds into his forces, Void Dark stands as a beacon of evil in a realm of demons, which is pretty darn impressive. Thus, in a truly grand sense, this game is proof that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Back to gameplay. As one might assume from my previous mention of tactical RPG, Disgaea 5 is a tactical RPG. As such, the game is split into a series of maps, wherein your team fights to the death against the opponent. Tactics are altered by the units you choose to employ, with some focusing on hit and run tactics, some serving as defensive walls, others reveling in buffs and de-buffs and so on and so forth, near infinitum. Taking one step back, units are divided into humanoid and monster classes, with each gaining different benefits and limitations for the privilege. Humanoid classes are capable of wielding weapons, allowing for more diversity amongst the same unit type, an example being two Warriors who wield and Axe and Spear. In addition to different attacks unlocking as they increase their Weapon Mastery, these two units will possess different attack ranges and stat dispersions. Though units do possess certain affinities for particular weapon types, you can affix any weapon to any humanoid class, so there’s a lot of possibility there. Monster classes on the other hand are unable to wield weapons, locking them into one method of attack. For this lack, monsters are given a number of class specific special skills, unusable by others. An example of this would be the Eryngi class, who possess a number of Stun inducing moves. One of the Monster classes biggest advantages, depending on personal preference, is their ability to Magichange. Through this process, Monster units transform into weapons to be wielded by Humanoids, boosting their stats. Of course this means you lose a unit, so you have to weigh up how worth it the power boost is.
Ok, considering how much time that took, I’m going to plough ahead under the assumption that you understand the basics of Disgaea and talk about the nifty changes that 5 brings to the fray. Swinging back to classes for a second, Alliance of Vengeance makes ranking up way easier than it has been in the past. As we know, it is quite easy to allow a unit to fall behind in leveling up, causing your once powerful teammates to become less and less useful. This also has the unfortunate effect of limiting your progression through unit ranks. Well, worry no more…or less at least. Behold, Sub-classes. This sweet little gameplay element allows you to affix a specific class to both main characters and generic troops. Though it has no effect on the way the unit controls, it does have an effect on ranking up. Personally, I affixed Killia with the Fighter sub-class, resulting access to the higher levels of a class I had long ago replaced with unique characters. This is where the second addition to the recruitment process comes in; paying for levels. At the character recruitment/creation screen, a new option allows you to funnel more money into immediately leveling up the character in question, with the cap being the level of you highest unit. How cool is that? For anyone who’s played Disgaea before, the answer is very. Finally, I can use those cool looking classes that don’t unlock until the end of the game. Just boost up the level and you too can use a dragon, or golem, or whatever the end game enemies are. Awesome. Seriously, I know I already said that, but it honestly is such a nice feature to have. Props Disgaea 5.
On the topic of changes, Disgaea 5 also throws quests into the mix. Accessed in the overworld/hub, these additional objectives reward cool bonuses to those who complete them. Most usefully, certain quests unlock new recruitable classes or, in some cases, unique Overlord characters. Segueing brilliantly onwards, I should probably mention Overlord characters and the special power they bring to battle; Overload. As you undergo battle, dealing and taking damage, a gauge builds slowly. When filled, Revenge Mode activates an enemies cower in fear. In this mode, all special attacks cost a measly 1 SP and all attacks are critical, which is awesome. For Overlord characters, Revenge Mode also grants access to Overload skills, a once per battle skill that varies between characters. One particularly useful Overload completely heals all allies on the field, so you can see how these can turn the tide of battle.
Apart from that, the game plays the same as those before it. Not that that’s a bad thing, far from it in fact. Disgaea has always been a fun franchise, and 5 just keeps that trend going. Ridiculous attacks that defy all laws of physics are still bread and butter to these demonic champions, with a shadow clone three-way assault being the default skill for Glove wielders. So you can image how much things escalate in the later portions of the game, leading to some extremely extravagant, and cool looking, attack animations.
Ultimately, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is much of the same, with some new extras. That being said, if you didn’t expect that from Disgaea by now, then you’re probably a newcomer. In which case, enjoy learning everything. That wasn’t sarcastic by the way, seriously enjoy it. Fair warning, I did only go over the core aspects of the game, for the sake of time and sanity. After all, this is the game with no true level cap, with multiple playthroughs creating characters who deal 20K damage per attack. As in, the game writes 20K, because there isn’t enough space for all of the zeroes. On top of that, you can also enter dungeons that exist inside characters and items, allowing you to level them up on top of leveling up your character. Grinding doesn’t even begin to cover this game. Of course, if you’re like me, you can just play through the main story and enjoy the characters you meet and build along the way. Am I missing out on a large portion of the game? Maybe, depends on your definition. Regardless, Disgaea is a franchise you keep playing for as long as your having fun, and I can’t fault it for that.
Revenge is a dish best served in the heat of battle, but cold is also acceptable. For other great revenge recipes, check out NIS, they’ll sort you out