Disgaea 5 Complete Review
Release Date: October 22, 2018
Publisher/Developer: NIS (Nippon Ichi Software) America
Platform: PS4, PC (Reviewed)
Disgaea is a series that’s been around for a while, an absolute tactical-strategy juggernaut that’s made its bones on unique gameplay, a vast array of characters, and an absolutely wicked sense of humor. The fifth numbered sequel (Sixth game if you count D2) in the series delivers on all of that, with two snarky morally ambiguous heroes taking on the threat of a massive army poised to take over the Netherworlds and rule the afterlife entire. But while you can certainly expect all the usual hallmarks of Disgaea— Fourth wall breaks, snarky heroes, wacky humor, talking penguins— the game introduces some interesting new systems and classes while still giving you all the power to take the fight to the Netherworlds and conquer the lands of the dead in the name of revenge.
The netherworlds are being conquered by Void Dark, a sinister force that seeks to control the lands of the dead entire. As the various regions try desperately to stop this and are summarily crushed one by one, a young man named Killia suddenly appears in the midst of a battle, stopping to eat lunch. Killia immediately wipes out the forces opposing the embattled Princess Seraphina (who is fighting Void Dark partly to stop her arranged marriage), explains his motivations for opposing the conquest of the netherworlds, and they set out to unite the Underworld’s disparate regions and free things from the grip of Void Dark. But the netherworlds are a vast and eccentric place full of weird denizens and the souls of the dead, and this is going to be far from an easy fight.
By now, Nippon Ichi knows well enough to not tinker with what works in Disgaea. The series is both deceptively simple and deceptively complex, allowing you to easily build up an army and unlock their various personality traits and special skills, the tactical system is a finely-honed beast where ending a turn even when you’re not doing so well is immensely satisfying, and the way attacks can chain together or the battlefield can alter in an instant to turn in your favor, or even the way you can turn your troops into weapons for your characters to hit people with are all excellent mechanics. DIsgaea 5 shows the series at its best, with all the mechanics of previous games tighter than ever and the charming graphics updated nicely for modern systems. It’s a fantastic entry to the series, and if you’re a fan, you know some of what you’re getting already
But while not fixing what isn’t broke is all well and good, Disgaea 5 adds more content and mechanics, further creating a satisfying experience. The new “revenge” mechanic, which fits into the overall theme of Killia and Seraphina enacting their revenge on Void Dark for a variety of crimes and indignities, functions as a kind of limit break that goes up when units are damaged, party members drop, or the heroes damage enemies, leading to a berserker mode where they rack up critical hits and can possibly unleash devastating special moves, on top of all the existing special conditions and arrays of movement. It opens up some amazing tactical options, and kind of softens the blow of having units drop in battle by allowing for massive boosts to turn the tide back in your favor. Adding to this are a ton of new classes to unlock alongside old favorites, further shaking up the traditional gameplay and making sure everything doesn’t feel too samey.
The difficulty curve is also helped by gradually introducing tutorials, something that allows the player to get their head around the more complex systems. There’s still a rather fast difficulty curve, and the game still has the usual issues of grind and the usual micromanaging, but all of these are part of the tactical RPG genre. Anyone who’s experienced tactical RPGs more than a little will know what they’re getting into, and there’s enough here that beginners can at least get their feet wet.
In the end, there’s a lot to recommend. Disgaea 5 and tactical RPG fans will find a lot to like. What low points there are will pretty much be the same things that turn people off tactical RPGs, in which case, well, this game wasn’t for you in the first place. It’s a game that knows what it is, does what it likes, and delivers an excellent experience for fans. There’s even some interesting bonus content where you can unlock higher-level versions of heroes from other games, adding superpowered main characters to your roster for further destruction. If you’re looking for a solid tac-RPG, look no futher.
- Trademark N1 sense of humor
- Improves upon the classic Disgaea formula
- Deep systems and subsystems that can radically alter the gameplay and turn the odds in your favor
- Lots for tactical RPG fans to enjoy
- Occasionally can get bogged down in equipment and unit management
- Occasional difficulty spikes
Thanks to NIS America fro providing a code for review