Review: Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
We’re putting the band back together. Jake Blues
Disgaea D2 is all about the ones who started it all. On it’s tenth year as a franchise, Disgaea has stayed fresh for two main reasons: it’s titles are some of the best strategy role playing games available on the market, and its main protagonists change.
Disgaea D2 starts with Laharl, Demon Overlord of the Netherworld, who you may remember from the first game. Having fought to keep his seat of power, Laharl must now deal with a group of rebels that refuse to acknowledge his claim to the throne. While dodging assassination attempts, Laharl finds out about a plague ravaging the Netherworld. The general consensus is that the plague originated from Celestia, the world of angels. As Demon Overload, it is Laharl’s duty to find the culprit of the plague and discover a cure. And thus, your journey begins.
If it sounds like you are walking into a depression-fest, you could not be farther from the truth. Much like the series’ previous titles, Disgaea D2 is no slouch in the humor department. It’s not a game with random funny moments strewn in for good measure, but one in which humor was consciously written to keep the laughs coming.
You start the game inside Laharl’s castle, which is your world hub. Inside are the main areas you will interact with regularly, and include:
Weapon and Armor shop: Pretty self explanatory. Here you are able to buy everything that will allow you attack harder and defend yourself more.
General Store: This is where you will find items that raise HP, SP, allow you to steal and/or exiting levels.
Netherworld Hospital: Where you go to get healed. This hospital has a twist though: prizes. The more your characters get hurt the better rewards they will get.
Cheat Shop: Slider bars allow you do anything from gaining more XP and money to increasing the level of monsters you run into. While most of the cheats will allow you to, well…..cheat, there are many options make the game much more difficult if one is looking for the challenge.
Dark Assembly: The monster factory. Here, you have the ability to create new characters, promote already created characters, and/or reincarnate characters. This is where you will go to gain side quests and character abilities. The Dark Assembly is overflowing with ways to increase the power of your characters and lengthen the story of Disgaea D2, but it will come at a price: the mana you earn in battle. You’ll want to spend a lot of time here if you want to get the most out of Disgaea D2.
Demon Dojo: Monster training. You can assign characters specific exercises here. As they level up, the exercise will level up as well, allowing you to train multiple characters at one time. This is another area in which to give your characters an extra boost.
Item Sea: It might sound strange, but every item in Disgaea D2 has a world inside it. Traveling to that world and defeating all the enemies within will make that item level up. There are also “innocents” inside items. If you come across one, you can subdue them and add them to the item’s power. But hurry! The enemies in the item are out to destroy the innocents as well, so it is a race against time to see if you can subdue an innocent before they are destroyed.
Occasionally, your stage will be invaded by pirates. They are much stronger than the other inhabitants of the map, so it will be up to you if you want to fight them, beat them to the goal, or use an exit item to warp back to the castle.
Dimension Gate: This is where you access all the story missions.
The best way to explain the gameplay of Disgaea D2 is to imagine each map as a board game. Your characters are the game pieces and you are tasked with defeating all the enemies on the board. There are also Geo Panels (highlighted areas of the map that are affected by Geo symbols). These work by giving certain places of the board either an advantage or a disadvantage to the character on that particular colored spot (much like the cards or special colored tiles in board games that give players special attributes or unfortunate stats).
Like the majority of RPGs, each character has their own special skills and varied stats. You may play the way that best suites you. However, there are certain advantages to working as a team as you progress through the story. Characters develop affection towards one other as they participate in combat together. As their affection for each other grows, the chance that they will participate in attacks and defend other characters grows as well. Teamwork also makes what would be a single hit for 900 damage turn into a 20 hit combo for 20,000 damage.
In order to accomplish everything in Disgaea D2 you will (unsurprisingly) need to level grind. EXP is given to the character who delivers the killing blow, so it is generally harder to level up weaker characters. That is where D2’s new mechanic, Animal mounts, makes things much, much easier. Human characters can now ride atop monsters that act as tanks, while they fight. As a result, both monster and rider gain EXP. This means that you can take a Prinny that’s level 50 and have a newly made character ride on their back allowing them to defeat stronger enemies and level up at a faster pace. This is a brilliant way to appease the Disgaea faithful, while also making the game more accessible for the newcomer.
Mounts aren’t the only way you can stack your characters. You may also stack up to ten humans on top of each other, combining powers and performing devastating attacks. Another advantage of stacking characters is the special throw ability. If you need to get a powerful character across the map fast, place him at the very top of the tower, and throw him across the map.
Grinding can make some games lose their luster, but in D2 there are so many potential team ups, that you will almost always be able to see something new. And when there isn’t, you can always press the triangle button, which allows you to skip through the attack.
…in D2 there are so many potential team ups, that you will almost always be able to see something new.
The Disgaea series has one last interesting twist when it comes to leveling characters: promotion and reincarnation. As characters level up, you have the choice to promote or reincarnate them. If you choose to promote a character they will gain attribute bonuses. On the other hand, if you decide to reincarnate a character you can choose what class you would like them to come back as. This allows you to initially create a powerful mage character, and then reincarnate them as a warrior, so they are equally powerful with melee attacks and spells.
There is a catch, though. When you reincarnate a character you reset that character’s level to one. This is eased by the fact that you’re starting off with a much stronger level one character then you normally would. While only created characters can be promoted, all characters in the game can be reincarnated. The only difference is that story-based characters like Laharl, have to keep their class distinction.
The game looks great with no performance hiccups. The artwork for story scenes is beautiful and does a great job of setting up each episode. The way the levels are laid out is great. Even maps with multiple levels are easy to navigate.
Disgaea D2 is the pinnacle of the strategy role playing genre. It is obvious a real effort has been made to cater to players of all different skill levels. For those who have followed the Disgaea series for the last decade there is a wealth of gameplay options and hundreds of hours waiting to be spent. For those who are new to the series the game is accessible, fun, and challenging. You’ll be chanting, “Just one more level!” in no time.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety
- Straightforward, clear level design
- Hundreds of hours of gameplay
- Fun leveling system
- Funny yet, touching story
- Easy to pick up and play for short bursts
- Turn-based gameplay means you can play at your own pace
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety
- Some level grinding may not be engaging enough to take focus off symptoms
Why you should be playing this
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is amazing. It truly is. The sheer volume of things to do in the game is staggering. There are hundreds of hours of possible gameplay here and Disgaea D2 does its very best to make every single one of them enjoyable. There is always something new to do.
It is not only the best game of it’s genre, but it is a game I encourage everyone to try. For the fans of the series, everything you love is here, and for anyone who has ever wanted to try an SRPG? This is the best starting point you’ll find.
This review was based on the PS3 version that was provided by the publisher.
September 17th, 2013
Nippon Ichi Software
Memorable characters, wealth of different things to do, story that is offbeat but never feels cartoony
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