The Netherworlds have been driven to war. Join the Rebel Army and work to fight back against the force that started this war.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is the newest entry in the series, and unlike the previous Disgaea titles I played, it actually takes on a more serious tone. You take on the role of Killia, a lone wolf Demon. As you play through the game, you’ll obtain valuable allies and discover truths better left buried.
Disgaea 5 is broken up into 16 chapters. Each chapter will have you in a new Netherworld (with a couple exceptions). These Netherworlds generally play out the same, though there will be some minor differences. Each chapter only has 5 levels each though, so you can get a sense of your progress that way. The majority of the levels will have a story scene attached too.
When I first started Disgaea 5, the first thing I noticed was the fact that Killia’s voice actor just sounds bored. It gets a bit better later on but it still just sounds like he has no emotion generally, even when he’s trying to actually show some in the dialogue. This really made me dislike him until his story arc actually started getting better. It also gave me the biggest curve ball after having played part of 3 and finishing 4 – there’s a lot less humour present in Disgaea 5. The war setting actually sets a more serious tone for the entire game. While not entirely bad, it also didn’t make me laugh nearly as much as the others did.
There are some “comic relief” bits and characters thankfully. Namely, Red Magnus. Well, until he gets more serious, then he loses part of what makes him funny. After him, other characters may just leave you confused or just wanting them to get on with it. If I were to compare them to my previous Disgaea experiences, I wasn’t nearly as attached to this cast of characters.
When you actually get into the game though, you’ll be treated with that familiar Disgaea experience. You’ve got your “base” (the Pocket Netherworld). You’ve got your shops. Once you unlock them, you’ve got Skill boosting, the Assembly, the Hospital, and the Item World. The general gameplay of Disgaea 5 is the same as it has been. This will definitely be a welcome sight for many fans, but then one notices that there are still changes. Thankfully, they aren’t bad changes.
From my previous experiences in Disgaea the shop’s inventory became a case of wanting to min/max what you purchased because of the stats being slightly randomized. This time around, the stats on items sold in shops – both for equipment and consumables – is static. There is no “buying out” the shop of their stock. You can still raise the customer level which will make items you can purchase become cheaper, and as you progress through the chapters you will unlock more stock for the shops. Of course, you can push this a little faster by suggesting it to the Assembly too. It was actually a welcome sight that I didn’t need to worry about min/maxing what I was purchasing and could just grab what was best for the time, given I had the money.
The Assembly is like it was in the previous titles. You use Mana, which is obtained in battle, to suggest a bill. The bills have a chance to succeed depending on what it is. You’ll go into the Assembly Hall where you can either start the vote or bribe the senators to become more in favour of saying “Aye”. Sometimes, a party member will show up and use a special effect which will also improve your ability to get “Aye”s. When ready, you start the vote and watch a fast animation and get either the Aye or Nay ruling. I was glad that it was a fast animation, as sitting around waiting for each character to say their vote is a bit tedious. I didn’t go through to suggest too many bills, but there are definitely a large number of them to try and pass.
The Hospital saw a nice improvement over Disgaea 4. In Disgaea 4, I never knew how far I was from receiving a bonus item. This time, you can check your list of rewards to see what you need for recovered HP/MP/Revives to get the items. Granted, you can’t actually see what the items are until you’ve unlocked that reward, but at least you can see what you need.
Skill boosting is generally the same from what I remember too. You use Mana to boost the strength of your abilities – or, in the case of spells, you can also boost their range. Boosting them causes them to both require more Mana to boost them again and more MP to use in battle. On the same NPC, you also have the ability to learn more Evilities. Again, using Mana, you can gain a variety of them for each character, with the main characters also having skills unique to them.
Item World does make its glorious comeback. While it does feel like it takes a bit too long to unlock in Disgaea 5, once you do it’s fantastic. Give an item to the NPC and you’ll be transported to a randomly generated world inside of it. The level of the enemies within is based off of the level of the item, which is visible before you enter. The enemies inside are generally weaker than those you’ll find within the storyline, so if you’re up against foes that are higher level than you, you aren’t completely screwed. This makes it a fantastic place to level up those freshly reincarnated characters, though you will want to try and have good equipment on them as the foes are more than happy to one shot your little level 1 guys if you give them a chance.
Once you unlock it, you’ll be able to summon your Netherworld into the Item World as well. Be warned though, as you can also be attacked by other Netherworlds! The foes that come with Netherworld attacks are stronger than those you’ll find on that level too. If you’re able to repel them, either by fully beating back their force or by summoning in your own Netherworld, you’ll be rewarded with parts for decorating your Netherworld.
Occasionally, tough enemies will be dropped into your level. These have a chance to be either Bottles which will reward a skill scroll on defeat, Lucky Boards which are tricky to defeat but have a high reward if you do, or an extremely tough boss. While the skill scrolls are handy, I ended up forgetting I had them half the time so they would just sit and rot in my inventory. Lucky Boards are the best thing you can get I found, assuming you’re able to kill them. They take 0 damage if the damage dealt is anything less than their max HP. On defeat, you’ll receive a reward that is stated on the board they carry (and on their profile). Should you manage to defeat an Experience one, be prepared for a massive boost in experience for whoever lands the killing blow. My character who did so gained around 26 levels in one go. Should you receive the boss before you’re ready, be prepared to make a mad dash for the exit because he’s ready to take some blood.
One of the biggest changes I liked in the Item World this time was the changes to the ways in which you receive levels on your items. For each level you clear (and not just use the exit), your item gets a guaranteed level. If you fully filled the bonus gauge you’ll get another level. Should you defeat an Item Sphere, there’s another level. Finished the level while holding the Level Fish, which disappears after a few turns? Another level! This added some nice bonuses to help with leveling up your items to make them even more powerful.
From what I could find in my ~51 hour playthrough I couldn’t find a Warehouse option. Instead, the inventory has been expanded to hold 2000 items. Should you be worried about running out of inventory, there’s a lot of ways for you to use up those items. You can potentially hand them in for quests or use them in making curry. Of course, you can also always sell all your extras which can be a decent option to try and get some money if you really need it. Because of all of the ways to use these items on top of just selling them, I never actually felt too pressured on inventory and I tend to be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to items in video games.
Quests you say? Yes, quests. Quests are absolutely fantastic. These quests will help you get some unique items, allow you to recruit different party members – including Overlords from various words – and just give you a nice boost. The types of quest range from just handing in items to fulfilling specific requirements such as having someone with a level 15+ Sword skill to defeating specific enemies. Some stages will even add a temporary bonus level for you to recruit some extra Overlords into your party. I absolutely loved the quest system, though I would have liked it if I could hold more than 10 quests at a time.
After you unlock curry creation, you’ll be able to combine various items together to make curries. The type of effect the curry provides varies from item to item, and sometimes you may just find a bad effect. Should you let a curry sit in the pot for a while, it will gain the ability to stay active for more “days”. Each “day” is equivalent to one map completion, so if your curry says it lasts for 40 days then it will be active for 40 maps. It can be handy to make some curry before heading into the Item World, since when you come back – especially if you were in there for quite some time – that new curry will stick around for awhile. I never quite figured out what the Spiciness thing did though, but you have the option to add more “spice” with other items in your inventory.
Disgaea 5’s form of “teams” is Squads. Once unlocked, you can assign members to various squads. These squads will provide a variety of bonuses from just giving you stat boosts to allowing you to use even more features. The leader of the squad will also receive a specific skill, Squad Attack, which can only be used once per stage per leader while in Revenge mode. The Squad Attack will attack all members of the squad your target is in, and can be a handy tool to help push through a little more damage.
One of the Squads you can create is the Interrogation Squad. This squad will let you interrogate captured enemies. To interrogate them, you first select them from your list of prisoners and then choose one of 5 options for how you go about the interrogation. My tip is to pretty much always select the “Special” option as it always seems to work the best. Once you’ve completely drained their SP, you will have the ability to either make them an ally or to extract a Magic Extract from them. Should there be some prisoners you just don’t want to interrogate, you can also choose to make them residents of your Netherworld. The Magic Extracts obtained from prisoners – along with shards obtained in battle – can be used by your party to increase your stats by whatever is listed on the item.
Another thing you can unlock is Research, in other words Netherworld Exploration. This is a handy use for those party members you don’t include in your team normally. You can send them out to the Netherworlds you’ve been to and they’ll be able to gain some levels, find items, capture prisoners, and even find more Netherworlds. I pretty much always had a team (or three) out once I had unlocked Research with those characters I wasn’t using.
Outside of characters created at the recruiter – which now takes HL instead of Mana – all of your characters are Overlords of a Netherworld. This grants them access to a special ability that can only be used while in Revenge mode, their Overload skill. These Overload skills vary in usefulness but are all generally worth using.
So, what is this Revenge mode I keep talking about? It’s a mode that will likely be your saviour on some maps, and may also cause you great pain. On each character there’s a gauge. This gauge indicates how close they are to Revenge mode. The gauge will fill as they or their allies get hit, with this being true for both sides of the battle. If you (or an opponent) defeats someone who is in Revenge mode, they’ll be pushed into it themselves. While in Revenge mode, Overlord’s gain access to their Overload skill, Squad leaders gain access to the Squad Attack, and all abilities now cost 1 MP. Yes, 1. So if you go and blow all of your MP early, once that character enters Revenge mode, they’ll be able to use spells and skills again so long as their MP is greater than 0. I absolutely loved Revenge mode, though I did not enjoy the fact I had to see all of the animations every time someone entered it. Thankfully you can turn off these animations in the post game, but I really do wish it had just been an option from the beginning.
While I wasn’t a complete fan of the voice acting at times, the music is top notch. Well, the default base music was a bit questionable to me as base music, but you do have the option of setting the base to play a random track. The music definitely has the good ol’ Disgaea feel though and is more than worth listening to.
So after all I’ve said about Disgaea 5, what are my thoughts on it? While it has some minor issues such as some features feeling like they’re far too slow to unlock and not having as many funny moments, it’s an absolutely amazing game at its core. The new features Disgaea 5 brings to the series are all fantastic and do a lot to give players even more to do in a game that’s already vast. Even after playing for 51 hours and completing the story, I hardly feel like I’ve touched on the surface of what all is available to do in Disgaea 5. Everything seems to have a purpose, whether it’s those extra party members you just never use or items that you’ve long since outgrown. I very happily give Disgaea 5 a recommendation to both fans of the series and fans of strategy RPGs in general. If you’ve never played a Disgaea game before, Disgaea 5 is a perfectly fine place to start off as you don’t really need knowledge of the previous games to play it. Just don’t be surprised if you get sucked into the Item World, constantly saying “Just one more floor”, because it happens to everyone.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Review Score
Disgaea 5:Alliance of Vengeance will be available on PSN and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon for PS4.
I would like to thank NIS America for providing me with a copy for review.