Another day, another disappointing port. All of the online features seems to be missing in this version of the game. I guess they had the decency to at least include all the DLC in a re-release for a game that came out about three and a half years ago. Make sure you do not play this game in full screen, I have had black screen issues in full screen when I alt+tab. Borderless seems to be able to avoid this problem.
I'm going to need to rant a little here before I go into the review. Piracy isn't hurting sales of games on the PC, the developers and publishers are. These games sometimes come out a year or more after the console versions and they come out as broken pieces of mess. Games like Ys: 8 were constantly delayed and even when released, it still had terrible frame rates and issues crashing because of poor porting. Even then, they still sell the broken games at full price and then blame the consumer base for the game's failure while ignoring all the problems that their release came with. Star Ocean: The Last Hope was no different. It was released long after their console releases and you expect them to fix up their game since that time, but they did not. Instead, we have games that stutter so much that they cannot even hold a stable frame rate for five seconds. Games like Two Point Hospital use an auto save feature that just keeps freezing your game for several seconds at a time. Disgaea 5 was delayed for six months because some idiot released the full game as a demo using some flag to abruptly end the game and eventually released it without any of the online functionalities that were present. Every time, these games are released in this condition and then they say that "it doesn't sell well, so we're not going to bring it over." It doesn't sell well because they wait years to port it and then release it in a broken state and expect people to accept it. It feels more like they are looking for any excuse to silence critics who complain about their games not coming to PC than actually trying to sell a good game. Just take a look at the Atelier games on the PC. All of them have horrid frame rate issues that were never fixed despite a year after its release date and no one even seems to care. Remember, it wasn't that the PC gamers that abandoned games, it was the developers and publishers that abandoned the gamers.
The game is about Killia, who wants to kill Overlord Void Dark. It turns out that there are many Overlords who each rule their own Netherworld in a bit of an all out war. Killia tells what happened to him throughout the game and where he failed. He reveals that he is partially responsible for how Overlord Void Dark and his army of The Lost came to be due to Void Dark stealing his skill known as the Overload. He eventually creates a new one to replace it and fights Void Dark with his new friends.
There are nice skits between the main characters inside the main hub area after certain story missions. While most of them are comedic in nature, some of them do help with characterization. The only downside is that they play out like the skits from the Tales of series where it feels more like they were scenes that they could not be bothered to fully animate.
The graphics has not really changed in years. There are slightly more details on some of the backgrounds, but that is not much of an accomplishment considering that the same style has been used since Disgaea 4. The only big difference this time is that the team attacks have changed significantly, resulting in more variety in animations and some fairly creative ones. But in terms of graphical improvements overall, there's very little.
For some reason, the animation skipping does not seem to work. Team ups are always played in full even when you turn everything off. Enemy animations used to skip after the first time, but it does not seem to be the case here. The same goes for allied spells. They seem to be played at least once per battle, resulting in the skips not doing much.
Disgaea 5 is a turn based game with some shenanigans thrown in like with human towers and terrain effects. All of those make a comeback here, but throwing has had some improvements with monsters now being able to take part in it (I don't remember this being part of D2, but it has been a long time since I played it so I could be wrong).
There are a lot of things to reduce the grind in the game minus the new item world which actually kind of increases it because you are no longer guaranteed a level a floor. Instead, clear bonuses are what gives you item levels now. The Cheat Shop is unlocked very early on. Weapon mastery increases at a much higher rate than before even without modifications. Skill use no longer seems to unlock additional spell attack patterns and they foce you to go through an NPC instead. There are scrolls to unlock spells and skills on characters to make it easier to modify them to your specifications. The bonus maps are based on current progress so you can actually clear them very early for some strong early characters. There's an NPC that cooks curry so that you can get boosts for battle instead of having to vote it through the assembly. You can even get people free experience and mana early on now. Character classes are unlocked through use of that class rather than levels, so you no longer need to wait to end game grind to unlock the classes and you can start unlocking them much earlier. By the time I reached chapter 4, I was already halfway through the 3rd classes of at least 8 characters. By end game, I had unlocked almost all the main humanoid classes without needing to specifically sit down and grind for them.
The downside to all of this is that the shops are now gated by story progress in addition to the standard voting system that has become part of older games, which makes it much less worth it to actually grind even though you have to do for some parts of the game. This is the design mechanic that I hate the most and it actually discourages the use of the Item World early on. Instead, it forces you to slog through all of the main story at a very slow pace and complete the game before you start taking on any of the other activities because the item limits makes it much slower to make progress in both the item world and the main game. There is no reason to try to item world the next tier when you can just clear story mode for the next tier.
The most useless of the mechanics is capturing and torturing of enemies. You only get 5 attempts after completing a map and you cannot save them. So, you have to return to the hub, run to the other side of the map, talk to the NPC, then return and repeat (this is a problem exclusive to the PC version because you can supposedly customize your map in the other versions of the game). Since torturing them is based on the same stats as combat, early in the game you will be doing nothing to them. I pretty much gave up on it right after it was introduced since it is far more effective to just level up your own guys.
The biggest change for me was the fact that monsters are now unlocked via quests rather than simply killing them. While this quest system seemed interesting at first, it quickly becomes tedious as you open and quit maps to see if the maps have what you are looking for. The unlock quests are simple enough, usually just turn in x amount of y item, which just adds a pointless step to someone that should have remained simple. Some of it is really obscure, requiring you to find items on maps you probably forgot about a long time ago. Mushroom spawns are easy to remember because there's literally an entire chapter of the game dedicated to them. But, did you remember where the Lost Army Boxes spawn?!? I sure didn't. Turns out it was last map of Chapter 1! This is the kind of things that some of the quests deal with. These quests do not do anything to add complexity to the game nor make it more enjoyable. It just puts an additional unnecessary barrier towards unlocking things that did not need to be there. It would have been better off just being something one of the help NPCs in town tell you about.
One of the things I do like more about Disgaea 5 is the fact that the DLC maps scale with the player progress. This makes it so that they are challenging while avoiding the usual one hit kill scenario present in the post game where everything either wrecks you in one hit or you win the map in one hit. If you play the maps in the beginning of the game, the enemies are only level twenty and it makes it easy to unlock those characters. They also put a lot more effort into writing effective short skits compared to previous ones. You can of course scale most maps with the game's Cheat Shop to increase experience or money gained, which has always been a nice feature since its introduction.
Final Score: 5/10
There's nothing spectacular about Disgaea 5 and it feels like a step back from its previous entries. Disgaea 4 and D2 does a much better job and even the story feels much like a retread of existing stories. The game adds unnecessary barriers for unlocking things that really did not need to be there. The need to grind out the story before you can even do anything else other than DLC maps makes it all the more frustrating, especially with the new item world. The result is that you see the potential of all the fun things, but can't actually touch it, and that makes it all the more depressing. You cannot exactly go do other content to take a break from the story because it limits what you can and cannot do. Instead, the goal is to literally shoot through story mode as soon as possible so that you can actually start doing the fun stuff and that should never be the goal of game.