Dusk Diver is an Action Brawler with a JRPG style story and the usual wackiness one can expect from that genre. Yes I’m looking at you talking bear statue running a convenience store!
Genre: Brawler, Action,
Developer: WANIN Games,
JFI Games, JERA
Publisher: WANIN Games,
Release Date: 23 Oct, 2019
I’m not the biggest fan of beat ‘em ups, it’s not that I don’t like them, just they tend to feel a bit grindy. You go out to an area, kill like a quadrillion enemies all at once then move down the road a few steps and fight an octillion more enemies just to be rewarded with a boss that is surrounded by a googolplex of enemies you must kill too. Each swing of your weapon tends to kill the population of a small city and the faster you spam the buttons the faster the hit counter rises. Sometimes it’s arbitrary other times it unlocks rewards or medals. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the occasional genocide… but eventually the wanton slaughter tends to wear on you a little. The blood stains alone are murder to get out. Mind you, I’ve heard blood baths are good for the skin, keeps it glowing that dusky rose, so I am sure the protagonist of this game probably appreciates the free spa treatment she gets every time she goes out. With all that said, it’s time to see if Dusk Diver is worth diving in to.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? No escape from reality?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, product placement or real worldism. I know I already had my Reviewer’s note, but I’m going to get personal for a bit. Way back in the day, I had a whole bunch of gift cards to an international coffee shop. Work used to give them out for good performance or other reasons. The thing is, I’m not really much of a coffee fan and never really had a reason to go there other than to burn off a gift card. One day a friend and I were out and we decided to go have our lunch there. This location was a little different from the others though, it had another affiliated store attached to it and lo and behold my gift cards worked there! So began my friend and I’s almost weekly treat of visiting Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. We went there for a few months, burned a fair amount of those coffee shop cards, gained a little weight and then suddenly Cold Stone was no more. They pulled out of my area… we found it too late! We enjoyed that place a lot but now it was simply gone! Why did I just waste your time telling you about memories of a few years ago? Simple! Pretty much the first thing you see when you start playing Dusk Diver is a Cold Stone Creamery. It’s one of the real stores that are in the game. I’m sure many other shops and ads in the game are real life things too, but that particular one I could recognize despite not being from there. Anyway, on with the show… I mean review….
With all that out of the way, let’s talk about the game, shall we? Set in two worlds, you find yourself in a bit of a pickle. You want to finish high school and plan for college or university but monsters from another realm start messing with your reality. Next thing you know you and your best friend are sucked through a portal and you are saved by a gangster-like fellow who turns into a small lion statue. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? So now you are faced with a dilemma, should you try and save the world or perhaps more sensibly, get proper amounts of sleep in the hopes of doing well at school. It’s an easy decision…adventure awaits, plus you owe bear statue a lot of money for a necklace she kind of forced you to buy from her so you kind of have no choice.
The game consists of two real areas to contend with. The real world where you can wander around looking for people to help as well as hidden items to collect and the combat zone where you wander around looking for monsters to beat up as well as other hidden items to collect. The real world is an interesting place. Besides the faceless masses that can be seen milling about that may give you side quests, there are stores to shop at. These stores will get to know you the more you shop at them and eventually will allow you to order delivery items from them. It’s kind of like real life in that way. Some cashiers get to know you and as they check out your purchases will strike up a conversation like you are their closest personal friend. The thing is, unlike in real life where groceries really only increase your weight stats, food in game increases your various abilities for when you opt to dive into the combat realm. These can be somewhat useful, depending on the situation, but mostly I found myself never really wishing that I had eaten a different food before going into combat. Besides buying food and items to help you in combat, you also have companions that will help you too. These companions can have, for the lack of a better word, date options that can increase your friendship levels. The more friendship, the better off you will be when exploiting them. Kind of like in real life too! Your friends are mostly tied to single button presses that lets them individually out of their metaphorical cages on a temporary basis to do something for you before being crammed back in there again. You could have them doing things like breaking down a barrier or just helping you hurt the creatures you encounter.
Also, while in the real world, you can visit the store you work at to do a few side tasks. There is a tree you can water for reasons I will not share, a dressing room to get changed in, side quests to unlock things such as store discounts and few other things to do as well. You can even retry previous levels on hard difficulties if you so desire. Maybe get yourself a better score now that you have a few upgrades under your belt, unlock more items or simply to prove to the game that you were better than the C rating they gave you, that your performance was a B, no an A. Dare I say it, clearly S worthy! Overall, if you skip this aspect of the game, while you will likely find yourself with enough stuff to actually beat the game, you will find the game feels kind of short. It’s meant for you to do these side activities and part of the fun to help pad out the otherwise around six or so hours of main story content gameplay.
The combat area is a different story. You will find yourself going through areas with minor puzzle platformer elements trying to figure out the path that will lead you to getting everything you need to make it to the end of the level and to your inevitable confrontation with a boss. These areas look starkly different from the more vibrant real world, but still look pretty good albeit a bit plain. You will encounter a lot of duplicate monsters swarming you around every corner, as well as some enemies that will require you to do more than just spam the basic attack button. While in the real world you can upgrade your stats to your taste in order to make your combat experience easier. While there is no wrong way to level your character, I did find plunking everything into luck was a bit of a bad idea. When I rebuilt with damage and dodge, I did fair a whole lot better. Most of the time in these sorts of game button spamming your attacks is enough to progress, but that will not always work for you here! This game forces you to be good at dodging attacks. There is enough telegraphing of moves that you are able to plan to dodge accordingly but be warned, failing to do so will leave you in a whole new world of pain. One kind of nifty thing that occurs in the combat area that I am hesitant to share in order to avoid spoilers is better suited to our graphics discussion so let’s do that now.
This game looks pretty decent for its genre. The faceless masses out in the real world are a little dull, but it also keeps them from being too distracting. The main cast are all well detailed though so it was definitely a design choice rather than a technical limitation. The enemies in the combat areas all look the same assuming they are of the same type of enemies. There is really no need to make a lot of subtle differences with these sorts of monsters simply because you will be too busy slaughtering them in droves rather than taking the time to enjoy and appreciate their differences. There are a few different enemy variations though so it does help you plan your button mashing attacks. Speaking of attacks, that thing I was hesitant to talk about. As you combat enemies you will gain a few different coloured orbs. Some of them heal you, some of them recharge your SP allowing you to call on your friends or do power moves. The last changes your hair colour! Well sort of. Your hair colour helps you determine if your ultimate move is ready. The more it glows the more your power grows. Eventually you will be able to unleash devastating power moves all while sporting a rather flashy temporary power suit. It’s an interesting design choice and is actually quite well implemented.
The real world and combat world both suffer from being from being a bit monotonous at times. Everything kind of looks the same even if there are differences. Every time you enter the combat realm it looks very similar to the last time you visited it. Sometimes you can even forget if you are just replaying an area or if this is your first time visiting the area. The city streets are kind of the same except you know for a fact you have been there before because you do have to wander through it fairly often. Don’t get me wrong though, the city looks wonderful and the skyline definitely is interesting, just at ground level as you run down the streets the stores all kind of look the same. Same goes with the combat areas, sure they all look similar but there are enough differences to keep them interesting.
The game offers a two choices of language tracks! Neither one of them are English though. Having the ability to swap audio tracks is always kind of nice although neither one of them really helped me understand what they were saying. The main characters all can speak when they want to although there is still plenty of just reading text on the screen. The voice acting is well done on both language tracks although admittedly I did listen to the Japanese one more. The music and sound effects work nicely for the game. The background music is subtle enough that it doesn’t get in the way and despite the sound effects being about as spammed as your attacks are it never really gets tiresome.
User Interface and Controls
The user interface for the most part is easy to deal with. Everything you need to know is laid out on your screen. A gamepad is advised because playing it on the keyboard and mouse is a bit more challenging than it is meant to be. Movement controls are fluid enough for this sort of game. Your combat ability is mostly reliant on spamming combos without a lot of accuracy. Sure you might not have hit the exact enemy you wanted if you don’t carefully target but odds are you will kill a few dozen others anyway.
There are a number of issues with the in-game text that stem from translation issues but this is really my only complaint. Some of the things the characters say don’t make a lot of sense or do make sense but not in the context. I’m sure in the correct language whatever was meant was quite ingenious but it is sadly lost in translation.
So, should you pick up Dusk Diver? If you like button mashing brawlers or enjoy Japanese RPG style games, then Dusk Diver might be for you. Sure, the story is a bit confusing at times due to translation issues, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great deal of fun. Maybe I just have a thicker skin though due to playing so many JRPGs. If you are the kind of person who takes offence at improperly structured sentences and likes to point out people’s typos during a text conversation, then maybe this isn’t for you. It really isn’t that bad or jarring and certainly doesn’t detract from the overall game. If you are looking for a more serious JRPG then this might not quite do it for you although it does have plenty of character customization options which might scratch that itch until you find something more suitable to your refined tastes. Overall it is something that I will Save for Later.