Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review

Disgaea D2 is a game that emphasises character customization to its fullest while delivering a superb sense of depth that’s both friendly and a joy to experience.

Known for its strategic action, looting addiction, and insane system of levelling up, Disgaea D2 sees the return of Laharl, Flonne, and Etna in this direct sequel to the PlayStation 2 hit Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Although the Disgaea series has had its fair share of spin-offs that may see those unaware of the series turning it away, Disgaea: D2 much to a surprise requires no real knowledge of the past games, and right from the get go brings you up to speed of what’s going on within the game’s story.

What’s interesting about this approach is that it makes you want to find out more about the game’s past events, and the curiosity to find out how the previous games played out. The game revolves around three characters Etna and Flonne, with Prince Laharl taking the center stage.

Laharl is introduced into the game as the new Overlord, ruler of the Netherworld. After inheriting the title from his deceased father King Krichevskoy, Laharl sets about travelling across the land to put statues in place, to make his leadership and title as Overlord known to all.

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Each one of our three protagonists carry their own sense of attitude, style, and wittiness, and the lengthy sessions of dialogue do a great way of pulling you in and getting you more invested in the characters.

As the prince is still young, not to mention, cocky, childish, and foolish, none of the other creatures in the world are able to take him seriously. Because of this his reputation suffers and the majority would rather have a new Overlord in place, hence the game’s reasoning for a story. The game has a really creative way of expressing the character’s personalities in both non-playable scenes as well as in gameplay.

Each one of our three protagonists carry their own sense of attitude, style, and wittiness, and the lengthy sessions of dialogue do a great way of pulling you in and getting you more invested in the characters. The level of interaction and constant talk with NPC’s in the world are both clever and humorous. Their chatter of Overlords, the Netherworld, the Celestia, and how the new overlord compares to his father, is laughable and really gives life to the game.

Disgaea D2 is a strategy RPG which means the action takes place in the form of turn based movements that require planning and advancing skill sets. The game opens up each battle with a tutorial to get players to grips with its control scheme which is called “battle basics”. Battles take place in the form of a grid where players send out their available characters to a certain position on the grid and assign an attack for each one.

The player’s turn is ended once you have decided on each of your characters actions. This attack system is intuitive and is a joy to watch it play out. The options for attacking and defending whether that be separately, all at once, or changing your positions on the field, allow you to play how you want in order to win the battle.

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Mounting works like a protection unit while at the same time giving you that extra grunt to take down your foes. Different mounts give different options to play out the fight and also give increased movement across the grid.

This also allows for combos and new techniques to be discovered. Controlling up to five characters experience is achieved when each individual makes a kill during battle. This allows you to level up and change your strategy. Disgaea D2 keeps its battles interesting in that it uses its environments to provide certain advantages and disadvantages towards the player. Using a system named Geo Effects certain positions on the map named Geo Panels have attributes, such as giving enemies additional power, defence, or strength.

These can be destroyed however and changed to the player’s advantage. Because the map of the battles are sectioned off into areas, the game uses a strategic dimension of verticality which involves lifting and throwing as part of the players move list in order to move in closer to their opponent.

Certain characters play a role in the technique of throwing and lifting whereby they can cause an exploding effect to anybody in the surrounding space when they are thrown, be they enemy or ally. Mounting a monster to your advantage will allow your characters to receive the full amount of experience points assuming you win the battle, while the monster itself receives all the hit points inflicted against you.

Mounting works like a protection unit while at the same time giving you that extra grunt to take down your foes. Different mounts give different options to play out the fight and also give increased movement across the grid. While mounting is not necessary to win any battles it helps to keep things fresh and allows every battle to play out differently so it doesn’t feel as if you’re just repeating a past battle that may have similarities.

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Some characters such as the Magic Knight strive in sword play while being fairly decent with magic. While others like the Spirit exceed with magic abilities greater to those of the Magic Knight. What’s great about this is that its character class system provides enough options and scaling available to the player for changing the attributes of each character type.

The options for character classes and playable monster types are in-depth enough so that players don’t feel overwhelmed and suffocated. This isn’t to say that it’s empty neither, it strikes a perfect balance between learning the game’s control mechanisms and character-class skill sets while not over-complicating things or throwing in any unnecessary choices.

Some characters such as the Magic Knight strive in sword play while being fairly decent with magic. While others like the Spirit exceed with magic abilities greater to those of the Magic Knight. What’s great about this is that its character class system provides enough options and scaling available to the player for changing the attributes of each character type.

Disgaea D2 is a game that perhaps has  infinite number of customization options, leveling up, attaining new skill sets, and looting enemy items is fun and engaging. Levelling up and equipping new items is done by visiting but the Rosen Queen Co. As with everything else in the game the store opens up with a brief tutorial on how to navigate, successfully level up, and how to make the most of your items and weapons. Equipping a sword for instance with a character who’s naturally skilled with it will allow him or her to progress faster and more efficiently, and gain weapon mastery over it. The choices and options for customization allows you to tailor each of your characters exactly how you want and in a preference that suits you.

Although some items are better suited for certain characters, due to the game’s strategic elements, the way in which you choose to equip your characters means they will undoubtedly differ from the way in which another players chooses to customize their characters. This is intuitive but requires experimentation to see which works best and how you will use it to your personal style of play. Customization in the game has a simple method of doing so while holding a complexity to it that fans of the series will find rewarding. It delivers a sense of learning without overshadowing the gameplay.

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Graphics are not where the game excels, it’s nothing special nor is it anything we haven’t seen before. It holds an art style similar to that of Arc System’s BlazBlue, this is in both the character design and colour palette. Never has the image of demons and ghoulish afterlife been imagined to look so pretty and colorful.

A new addition to the series which I found myself making use of a lot is the Demon Dojo. The Dojo allows you to train and level up individual specific stats and attributes of a character. Here you are able to add bonuses that have a direct effect on gameplay scenarios, be that a specific attack from one of your characters or a counter-attack in response to your enemy. This keeps you addicted to leveling up and trying out new and different techniques and how they can work differently with other characters in battle. These bonuses can be used in combination with different mounts and provides options and different outcomes for how they may play out when using a specific mount type.

While the choices for battle play out in a traditional RPG style with player’s deciding upon how many moves to assign each characters with the options for engaging the enemy head-on or defending, or simply ending your turn ahead of time. The attack sequences of the player decided upon beforehand play out as an over the top action scene filled with colorful explosions and a powerful vibrancy.

The visuals of Disgaea D2 are nothing to write home about, but in the heat of action the visual flare is explosive and amazing to look at. The visuals are pleasing but it’s not something that immediately grabs your attention.

Graphics are not where the game excels, it’s nothing special nor is it anything we haven’t seen before. It holds an art style similar to that of Arc System’s BlazBlue, this is in both the character design and colour palette. Never has the image of demons and ghoulish afterlife been imagined to look so pretty and colorful. The design of animal like creatures in combination with elements of horror and the supernatural, give the game a cartoonish appearance while retaining its funny and humorous nature. Disgaea D2 is its own game and carries its own distinctive personality.

Disgaea D2 rarely does anything wrong and there’s nothing bad enough to actually turn you away or make you even take notice. Disgaea D2 has a colourful cast, quirky dialogue, and a customization scale that outdoes a significant number of games within the same genre. If you are a follower of the genre then you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.

The Good

Endless customization, a 30 hour campaign, and full replay-abilitythat delivers fan service to its fullest while managing to pull in a new audience.

The bad

A storyline that begins to loose itself within its own complexity and no visual breakthrough in the slightest, even when compared to its predecessors.

FINAL VERDICT

With a colorful cast, tight battle system and wide customization options, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is one of the most surprising games of 2013.


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