Monday 21 October 2013

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review (PS3)

It’s been a long time since the first Disgaea game graced European shores and turned a large number of the population into obsessive number crunchers with an eye for multi-coloured squares. Since Hour of Darkness we’ve had three more entries into the mains series and countless spinoffs on the handheld platforms. Now, the original Demons are back in a direct sequel to Leharl, Etna and Flonne’s first adventure.

This time Leharl must fight to prove himself the true overlord of the demon realm whilst also working out what on earth is happening with all these celestial flowers springing up all over the place. Many a twist and turn ensues (which we won’t spoil here), and as usual it’s a crazy and unhinged plot but then this is Disgaea so what exactly were you expecting?

It’s fair to say that a direct sequel, to a hardcore game, in a niche genre that came out almost ten years ago is likely to have a fairly dedicated audience. As such you probably know if you’re going to buy this or not already. For those that haven’t come across a Disgaea game before we will try and explain how it works. At its heart is a turn based strategy game. Your characters emerge from a demon portal and move in squares across a gridded battle ground. You use menu commands to get them to attack, use items or activate special skills. However, there is so much depth to battle and so many systems at work that it simply boggles the mind.

Along with the Lifting and throwing mechanic, the partnering mechanic, combos and apprentices are the Geo Symbols.  Many of the levels have coloured squares adorning the floor. These relate to coloured triangles set somewhere around the level, each of which gives a different effect to the square. These can range from giving extra experience points to causing physical damage or even making you (or the enemy), invincible. Not good for anyone with colour blindness but it means you have to be careful what you are doing and plan ahead. The symbols sometimes move around as well which adds even more to deal with.

Destroying the geo symbols can set off a chain reaction that destroys all the squares and damages anything standing on them. If in the process you destroy another symbol then you can get a domino effect which zooms around every colour square and ends in a huge explosion of colour. This results in a massive bonus to your end of level score (Another system in play), and can give you extra treasure.

The amount of characters you can create is truly staggering. To do this you need to go to the dark assembly room (much like in other Disgaea games), and use mana won from battles to create a new character. These can be human or monsters and new options constantly open up based on creatures you are defeating or characters in certain classes continually levelling up. The dark assembly can also be used to alter the game in certain ways, such as making better weapons available or only allowing Prinnies onto maps. Some of these bills require you to go into the assembly room and bribe the court in order to get them passed on a vote. Certain options such as making the game harder can now be accessed via an in game cheat shop.

The other thing Disgaea is known for is the item world. Any item or weapon in the game can be entered and by clearing floors of monsters within it makes it stronger. There are also ‘innocents’ within the items that can be defeated. This allows for special powers and super stat boosts to be added. The item world could theoretically last forever and we can’t even imagine how long it would take to max out an entire teams gear and weapons. For the super obsessed it’s unlikely you’ll be playing much else for the next few years if you want to take on the task.

The major addition to the many systems since the first game is the ability to mount creatures. Now human characters can ride monsters on the battle field. This allows for the use of different skills while the ridden beast will take damage rather than the user. This allows for a weak character like a healer to ride around on a dragon with much less chance of them being killed. It also allows slow moving characters to ride speedy monsters around the battle field. It’s an addition that works well and offers even more options when taking on the hordes.

Disgaea D2 represents a game that fans will love. It’s a combination of great characters, a wild story and a number of small but beneficial refinements to the tried and tested formulae. Newcomers to the series may well be completely overwhelmed but for anyone who wants yet more Disgaea action this is about as fine-tuned as it gets right now and it shows there is still a lot of life left in the franchise.

Overall 8/10

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