With so many games, media devices, services and distractions all around us. Spending hours absorbed in just one thing (bar binge watching a TV series on Netflix) is, for me, something of a rarity. So it is with great satisfaction that I can say Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance – Nippon Ichi Software’s latest entry in their excellent Strategy-RPG series had me hooked from the moment I booted it up.
Those familiar with Disgaea will know the games are colossal times sinks; combining witty humour, excellent customisation options, a huge plethora of characters and classes, randomly generated dungeons and an insane level cap. You could literally pour hundreds of hours into each game and still be left with more to do.
The Story of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is one of revenge, an evil Overlord named Void Dark has begun a quest to conquer every known Netherworld; leaving misery, death and destruction in his wake. One of the demons affected by Void Darks nefarious ambition is the mysterious demon Killia, who is out for revenge against Void Dark, uniting demons from the remnants of destroyed Netherworlds and leading the rebel army.
The narrative told is functional, in that it provides context for each battle and introduces the new characters that join your rebel army. It does lack the series’ distinct pace, humour and over-the-top wackiness; something that was so prominent in the earlier titles (and made me fall in love with the franchise in the first place). Alliance of Vengeance instead reins in the melodrama, focusing on a slower burning dour plot. Interactions between your main party of characters, namely the muscular super- awesome Red Magnus and the boastful-yet-cowardly martial artist Zeroken add small bit of levity to the proceedings, but unfortunately it remains a relatively glum affair.
Where Alliance of Vengeance really shines is the gameplay, rather than reinventing the wheel, the battle system is more refined. Gone are some of the frustrations that marred the previous games, with the new additions brought to this game focusing on making the gameplay experience faster and more streamlined. No longer do you need to create a new character when you unlock and advanced character class, now your character will upgrade automatically. For example, a Thief will automatically become a Rogue once it has reached needed the requirements.
New to the franchise is the Revenge Meter: a bar on the side of the character screen that builds up when a character deals damage, receives it, or witnesses their allies take damage. Once fully filled certain characters have access to Overload Mode, which allows them to use a powerful and unique special skill. The Overlord of gorgeous Seraphina will charm all the male enemies in a given area, Red Magnus will become giant for a few turns and Christo will be able to read the opponents statistics, SP costs for all other skills is reduced to 1 as well.
The detailed animations and environments also deserve praise, especially considering how many different characters, classes, attacks, buffs, team attacks and overload skills can be found in the game. The presentation is also much sharper than that of the entries in the previous generation but while being a step up from before, Alliance of Vengeance won’t floor you with its visuals.
Overall Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is an absolutely fantastic addition to the franchise, it may not be revolutionary, but it is the culmination of each of the greatest aspects of the series so far. Combined and distilled to make it one of the best in the series. It’s just a shame the slower narrative and lack of laughs stop Alliance of Vengeance from beating Hour of Darkness to THE best game in the series.