Since it first arrived in 2003, the Disgaea series has established itself as a challenging and rewarding tactical role-playing game series with almost infinite replay value in it’s extra dungeons and enemies, making it a rare gem to play. Since then, the series has grown with new iterations across the PS2 and PS3, and more recently, remakes of the games for portable devices like the DS (Disgaea 1), PSP (Disgaea 1 & 2) and PS Vita (Disgaea 3 & 4).
Personally I believe the handheld porting was an excellent route for the Disgaea series due to the never ending grinding, I love the grinding, but this can be tedious when you die in the item world and lose all your progress, so why not have a quick stint on your commute to work? Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance marks the series’ return to home consoles and its first appearance on the PS4 in full 1080p, which enhances the series in multiple ways other than just the graphics.
As with all of the games in the Disgaea series (except D2), the stories and setting in Disgaea 5 is not directly connected to the characters or setting of the previous netherworlds and protagonists featured in past games. Here, however, the story follows multiple different overlords as they travel across multiple netherworlds and build an army to defeat a powerful foe.
The first characters we meet are Seraphina, the Overlord of her home netherworld, Gorgeous, and the mysterious wandering demon Killia, whom she finds in her path devouring a rare ramen dish as she’s about to be attacked by the enemy army. If you’ve played Disgaea before, you probably know that food is an important factor in the game to heal HP/TP, so it’s interesting to see a character just sit down to eat a bowl of ramen during a battle.
After Killia defeats the army threatening Seraphina and her prinnies, we follow the pair as they seek out to vanquish their common enemy ,’The Lost’, run by power hungry Lord Void Dark who has conquered multiple Netherworlds in his aim to control or destroy all Netherworlds in existence. Just as luck would have it, Seraphina has a ‘pocket netherworld’ which the two retreat into in order to plan their next step. The pocket netherworld acts as your main base during the game, where you have the standard facilities such as the stores, hospital, recruitment for additional party members and so on. If you’re unfamiliar with the Disgaea series, the main bulk of the game takes place in turn-based battles on isometric maps, where you battle multiple enemies with your party, of which you can have 10 on the field at a time. Outside of battles, the story is told through 2d Visual novel style event scenes and 3d cutscenes before or after battles.
Along the course of the game’s story, a wacky roster of characters and overlords from different Netherworlds join the party to support their cause (either willingly or out of desperation), such as calm and calculating Christo, the muscle-bound, hot blooded Red Magnus and the curry loving Usalia, accompanied by her chubby yellow prinny companion. Each of the characters have a distinct personality and during the downtime you spend between fights in the pocket netherworld, you can see little skits/mini event scenes between two or more of the characters just chatting about various things outside of the main storyline of battling the Lost army to defeat the demon generals and ultimately, Lord Void Dark.
Starting off as a sombre lone-wolf with a troubled past, Killia isn’t quite interesting or entertaining as the protagonists of previous titles during the first few chapters of the game but you eventually learn more about him throughout the course of the game. Luckily, Red Magnus and a few of the other characters make up for Killia’s lack of personality and add some well needed flair and comic-relief to the dialogue.
As well as gaining key characters throughout the main story, a new feature introduced in Disgaea 5 is the ability to take prisoners from the enemy forces by capturing them or, having some happily surrender to you after you complete a map. In the pocket Netherworld you have an interrogation section which is unlocked past episode three. Speak to the blonde lady with glasses and the options are given as interrogate and make citizen. You can torture your prisoners and make some your minions to help fight against The Lost.
As is to be expected with a Disgaea game, it doesn’t deviate wildly from the established TRPG formula used in the last few games, but Disgaea 5 does introduce multiple new features to add an extra layer of strategy and finesse to your battle plans as well as expand your capabilities in when fighting. One of the main additions is the new ‘Revenge’ system (which we first saw during our preview at TGS last year), where attacking and/or defeating a character will enrage its allies and increase their revenge meters.Once the meter is filled, characters enter revenge mode for 3 turns and gain a stat boost they can use to enact swift revenge for their downed or wounded comrades. The overlords in the party have an additional advantage from revenge mode with their unique ‘Overload’ skills, which they can only activate in revenge mode, giving them extra abilities or boosts.
For example, Sera can use her Overload, Balour Gaze which will hypnotise any male enemies into attacking each other while Red Magnus’ ‘Super Olympia Overload transforms him to double his size, while massively increasing his strength and defense and increase the range on his Steel Arm Lariat attack, which is handy. Having multiple overlords on the field, with their overload skills ready can help quickly turn the tide in battle.
Among the additions to the game, Disgaea 5 also makes a few welcome changes to the gameplay, such as now allowing monster-type party members (such as prinnies, orcs, eryngi, etc) to be able to throw allies and enemies using the ‘mon-toss’ feature, making them a bit more useful on the battlefield and less of a disadvantage to use over human-type characters. Characters can also have two weapons equipped (one for each hand), which you can switch between in battle if you want to use a different set of attacks and gives you more flexibility to adapt to different situations and enemy types.
The series staple, the item world makes an expected return, along with the chara world which was introduced in Disgaea 4. These two worlds allow you to ‘dive’ into items and characters to battle through an infinite number of floors(maps) in order to level up the chosen item or character stats . After venturing up to level 20 on an item I had risen my item to level 44, so hard work really pays off but if you wish, you can keep going for as long as you can survive, with countless randomly generated floors for you to grind through.
Several new features and characters can be encountered inside, such as Mr Egg, who appears randomly and can drop items or special characters you can use to enhance the stats even further, item spheres and symbols which you can break to boost the item, and the level fish which you have to hold with one of your characters while beating the map to gain an extra level.
Also there is a cute animal holding white boards with pictures on it – depending on the pictures you get something different. You can only defeat this being if you hit him once with the max HP or over. As well as things to help you enhance levels and stats, there are times you can encounter not so helpful characters, such as when Mr Egg randomly drops in horrible demons and boss characters to prevent you from completing the level.
If you need more ways to level up characters and find items, you can send groups of characters out on research missions using the conveniently located rocket ships docked at Sera’s pocket netherworld base with the Nether Research Squad. Once you set up your away team, you can dispatch them to different planets to explore strange new (nether)worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man(demon) has gone before.
Since this all takes place while you’re in battle, you can send an away team out to research and when you get back, read about their exploits and hopefully find some items, prisoners they’ve captured or information on new netherworlds to explore.
As the first Disgaea game on the PS4, the series has adapted to the increased usage of online gaming and internet enabled games by integrating online connectivity in some interesting ways for a single-player game. Through the nether Research Squad, you can encounter different netherworlds from other players who have also played the game and go out to explore those worlds. You can also encounter characters that other players have made and named in the item and chara worlds, as well as by inviting characters to your pocket netherworld base. It’s fun to see what other players have done with their netherworlds and see the characters they’ve created.
Disgaea 5 introduces many new class types for characters you can encounter and add to your party, such as the maid, wrestler, pirate and rabbit figther to name a few. The maid class, despite being called the maid, is more of a zombie-maid and is pretty good with a bow as her weapon of choice. Since she is technically human she can throw and her evility (passive/innate ability) allows her to fight and use an item every go which can be a God send in battle.
Logan , one of the overlord characters you encounter during your travels, is an example of the wrestler class, who you can also choose to add to your party later on during a quest. The wrestler feels like is a combination of Warrior and Martial Artist. They’re good with axe and fist attacks which is handy as he has good speed and attack to counter the slowness of the axe. Logan himself is also really good at throwing, which is handy if you need to throw enemies or allies as far as possible.
You also have the Pirate who is a glorified gunner, I thought he would be a pro at sword but apparently not as his evility is accelerate shots. (Not related to the item world pirates in anyway, huge disappointment I know!)
My favourite new class is the rabbit fighter who feels like a hipster parody! Apart from being amusing he has a tactical advantage, place him on higher ground and he performs 30% better by throwing knives and he wears a hat whats not to like?
On the surface, Disgaea 5 might not look like a big leap from the most recent PS3 releases, Disgaea 4 and D2, but there has been a lot of work done on improving and adding to the tried and tested formula by introducing tons of new features and enhancements, definitely too many to list (squads, curry shop, in this review without it becoming a ridiculously lengthy and drawn-out essay. The multiple new additions give you even more ways to sink your time into the game and build up your characters, enhance abilities and stats and find new ways to take enemies. The new additions should make Disgaea 5 a fun experience for both long-time fans of the series and newcomers who are curious about the the Disgaea or TRPGs in general, as features like the cheat shop can help you adjust the game to your liking.