Sunday, 18 October 2015

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

I suffer from a strange affliction whereby I enjoy RPGs, but I very much don't enjoy turn-based combat. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is yet another game where your enemies politely wait for you to finish beating the crap out of them before they fight back; yet I love this game in a way that is illegal in seven countries. It took me about 65 hours to get through the story, and that was me sort-of rushing, and I'm still playing. Oh Disgaea 5, you sexy beast.

Developed by Nippon Ichi Software and out now on Playstation 4 comes Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance. 65 hours. That's quite a long time, right? Certainly more hours than I ever tend to put into any one game. Usually, when somebody tells you they've spent 50-150 hours playing an RPG, you know damn well a significant amount of that time was spent wandering between purposefully distant points on a map, and level grinding in an effort to get past lazy difficulty spikes. Here however all stages are accessible from a single point in the main hub, allowing you to jump straight in to any battle you've unlocked (including ones you haven't started yet). I never hit a wall that forced me to grind previous stages, either; but that, I suspect, is partly down to how I chose to play.

The hub world contains a sort of demonic parliament (insert hilarious satire here), what with all of the characters both good and bad meant to be demons. You can propose one bonus at a time to this parliament – better items at the store, an XP boost for the next map, and loads more – which will get a debate. The only way to win them round is via bribes in the form of items from the main game. If even your bribing doesn't work, you can pay a guaranteed bribe of a ridiculous amount – or fight them. One such proposal is a Cheat Shop, which I unlocked earlyish. Despite its name it doesn't allow you to steamroller enemies, but one aspect of it allows you to adjust the rate at which you earn money etc; so I sacrificed an amount of weapon XP and special skill XP for increased general XP and cash. It paid off in the long run.

Combat is the heart of the game. As previously mentioned it's turn-based, and there are numbers all over the place. HP, SP, attack, defence, speed, weapon and elemental resistances... all the usual suspects. Micromanagement in battles is necessary to an extent, but you don't need an OCD to succeed. The game gives you an indication of the expected damage for your chosen attack before you commit to it; and buying & equipping better weapons/armour is always a good idea.

Strategy is actually possible – and necessary – here. You send a maximum of ten characters into battle, and in each turn you get all the time you want to move them around until you execute commands; and you don't have to have them all carry out their actions at once, either. Character placement is important not only to avoid leaving yourself vulnerable, but some attacks are only possible as a team effort (and later, more powerful attacks become available with specific character combinations). Human(ish) characters can pick up and throw others to get round movement area limits, while monster characters can turn themselves into special weapons to be wielded by allies. I'd need a book to fully explain everything stuffed into the game, and how good it is.

Despite (confusingly) being the sixth game in the series, Disgaea 5 somehow manages to be a snug fit for existing fans while working perfectly well in isolation for those who have never played a Disgaea before. The script may not be better than 'okay' (Persona writing with Disgaea combat would be basically perfect), but it holds together a game that you do not want to miss.

Disgame really is datgood. 5/5.


Luke Kemp

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