For fans of the strategy RPG genre, the Disgaea series is a series many hold dear to their heart as a series that has that hardcore customization and levelling aspect fans expect, but not taking itself too seriously. Every title in the series since it's original release on the PS2 has continually upped the ante in terms of absurd customization and their zany stories, so when the developers announced their latest title would be released exclusively on the PS4, fans were anxious to see what the console's increased power would bring to the series. But does bigger equal better?
Disgaea 5 takes place in the series mainstay location, the Netherworld. This time an evil overlord, going by the name Void Dark, triggered what's probably the largest war in the history of the Netherworld. Due to his actions, other rival overlords are rising up in revolt, including one led by Disgaea 5's protagonist Killia. This introduction marks a notable shift for how the narrative functions in Disgaea 5 overall. A far cry from Disgaea 3's plot revolving around protagonist Mao wanting to kill his dad because his video games were destroyed, the global uprising aspect causes the stakes to be much larger than in series' past.
One of the defining characteristics of the Disgaea series is its characters, which won't disappoint series veterans. Protagonist Killia falls into the silent protagonist trope to a certain extent, but the game smartly recognizes this and ends up making it work well. The female character Seraphina, titled "Princess Overlord of the Gorgeous", initially is pretty close to what you'd expect from her title. She's your typical haughty character and throws out the domination jokes like it's nobody's business early on, but as the player progresses in the game, you begin to see her hidden side.
As for the rest of the cast, it's the typical bunch one would expect from a Disgaea game. There's the ever-lovable Prinnies, the gung-ho warrior, etc. Each one has their own unique motivation and none of them ever felt tacked on during my playthrough. Of course, the class creation system is still present and improved in this iteration, so you could easily create your own party members if you so wished. Speaking of this, this entry improves said system by letting you hire them at your current level so long as you have the funds to pay for it, as well as altering their personality and even changing out their skills as you see fit.
That said, the narrative isn't perfect. Likely partially due to the newfound freedom due to the PS4's increased horsepower over the PS3, in an effort to make the game bigger it occasionally stretches out portions of the game longer than they should have been just to pad out the game's length. There were times, especially in the latter half of the game, when I wondered how much longer it would take before reaching the game's finale. There was one section in particular that felt like it required a specific team makeup to pass through easily. Thankfully I generally had the team available to pass through this part, but it would be an unwelcome roadblock for those who weren't so lucky.
But what most hardcore Disgaea fans are most drawn to is the gameplay, which is just as you remembered it and even better in this installment. For those who haven't played a Disgaea game, your entire team takes their turn, followed by the enemy's team, and so on. This is a stark change from other strategy RPGs that trade turns, as you can create some absolutely zany combinations if you have your units placed properly alongside one another. Add to this random counter, counter-counter, and even counter-counter-counter attacks, among other things. It's wonderfully absurd at a high level of play, to say the least.
Disgaea 5 adds some new wrinkles to that formula. There's a feature involving "Evilites" that can provide buffs to your party members as well as your enemies. On your side, there's abilities such as Seraphina's ability doing more damage to males, whereas on the other side enemies can be buffed if they're located alongside another enemy that has a special ability. The Geo system mechanic from previous games returns here, which provides specific buffs/debuffs depending on the color zone your unit is on.
There's also a "Revenge" mechanic that powers up units when a unit connected to them dies. And of course, series mainstays like the Item World that dangle that reward of rarer and rarer item drops the longer you can stay in, returns again in Disgaea 5.
Graphically, the game doesn't push the limits of the PlayStation 4 by any means, but the increase power of the hardware does allow for some improvements to Disgaea's engine as a whole. The total units possible on the field goes beyond the levels that were possible on the PS3 without tons of lag involved, and the animations for the special attacks are even more absurd and over-the-top in a positive way over prior entries. The maps especially are adorned and don't feel anywhere near as lifeless as they did prior.
There were some minor stumbles in the process, but the series' PS4 premier is easily one of the most complete and jam-packed entries thus far. Excluding any of the future DLC, what's in the base game will easily last strategy RPG fans dozens and dozens of hours. The Disgaea series is back with a vengeance.
|The increased power of the PS4 does a lot to improve the effects and sheer unit size compared to prior games in the series.|
|The character motivations feel solid, but you can create your own team if you so wish.|
|The narrative feels more grown-up than entries past, while still keeping things not entirely serious.|
|The latter half of the game tends to overstay its welcome at times.|
|If you strongly disliked prior entries in this series, it's the same and even more of it this time around.|
|There's one particular section that can be an uphill fight depending on your party's makeup.|