Sometimes I just pick games on sight. It worked out for Metal Max Xeno Reborn, but it’s probably not the best policy to live by. So, Dusk Diver 2 sold me with its glowing hair. Why would you even want to play as one of the characters whose hair doesn’t glow? A radiant mane is always the superior choice.
Its aesthetic is striking in general, and its combat seemed entertaining in that Musou sort of way. Plus, it touts some RPG character-building to top it off. But looks aren’t everything, I realize. Sometimes you bite into a delicious-looking eclair and find out it’s filled with nothing. What you thought was going to be a delicious treat is just an empty promise.
Dusk Diver 2 is the direct sequel to Dusk Diver. You get a primer at the beginning of the narrative, but it’s rather brief and doesn’t introduce who any of these characters are. The developers claim that you can dive straight into the sequel, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. A lot of the world concepts aren’t explained, and the characters don’t present any compelling new reasons to care about them.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you’re a college freshman, and you fight demons from another dimension. With your friends, don’t forget those. It also takes place in a real-world location: the Ximending district of Taipei.
The whole thing is so adjacent to Akiba’s Trip that they’re in a dispute over whose property the hedge is on. The combat is different, and Dusk Diver 2 doesn’t let you peel the clothes off your foes, but between running around a shopping district, beating up possessed people, and doing side quests, the two games are so close that they’re grinding on the dance floor.
The problem is that Akiba’s Trip had that stripping hook that made it stand out. The most glaring issue I had with Dusk Diver 2 is how generic it is. I was almost waiting for it to get those genre-typical hooks in me. In particular, I kept telling myself that the character-building was eventually going to suck me in, and it never happened. It’s way too measured, restricting certain places you can level up your character until you’ve reached certain equipment levels. It helps to keep you from over-leveling, but not very well.
Part of the problem is that the characters are all pretty uninteresting outside of their visual appeal. They don’t even seem all that invested in what’s going on. They’re doing it all for their friends, and I can’t relate to that. I’ve never done anything for my friends, just ask them.
While on that topic, you can switch between any of the characters in your party and play as them. You can, but once I started piling experience and equipment onto one character, it made the prospect of switching to another feel pointless. They all share the same experience, which is spent on stats like currency. It tends to be in short supply, and it doesn’t feel worthwhile to scatter it across all your characters when you can just make one extra beefy.
At the very least, they have diverse combat styles to pick from. So maybe before you start spreading that beef around, you’ll want to see who pops up in your party. Or just pile it all on Yumo; that works just as well.
More power, less clothing
And really, as generic as Dusk Diver 2 is, there’s very little in the way of glaring flaws. The combat isn’t very exciting, but it works. The combos are limited, and new special attacks come way too rarely, but it’s not frustrating. It would be nice if there were more enemy types and maybe if it would throw more of them at you rather than just increasing the size of their life bars, but it gets the point across. The fighting could be better, but it’s not bad, either.
The environments are nice, but as far as exploring a chunk of a real-world neighborhood, it’s no Yakuza. You eat at various places to buff your party and gain experience, and that’s about it. It feels like it was backed by a tourism board. Some side quests are just visiting different shops, and there’s one that consists entirely of hearing the history of a building. Cool, I guess. Something neat could have been done with it to make me want to look it up on Wikipedia later, but instead, I guess I’ll just glance through text boxes.
I guess there’s one other thing you do in the city: fight possessed people. They just kind of stand around, immersed in their own stench cloud, minding their own business. Then you ride up, suck them into a pocket dimension, and beat the chaos beasts out of them.
It’s difficult to talk about Dusk Diver 2 because it isn’t badly designed, poorly developed, or egregious in any significant way. It’s just nothing special. If you liked the original game, or if what you see just strikes you as compelling, then there’s a good bet that you’ll find what you seek here. At the very least, it won’t likely be a tremendous disappointment.
However, if you’re looking for something new to scratch the anime RPG-brawler itch, Dusk Diver 2 most certainly is not something new. If you give me a year, I’ll probably have even forgotten the name. It’s a reasonably polished experience, but it takes no risks. It set its goals low and met all of them. That’s maybe the best-case scenario for this sort of game. Personally, I’d prefer an ambitious game with lots of jank than a solid game with little imagination, and Dusk Diver 2 sits firmly in the latter category.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]