The most entertaining grinding series that you’ll ever find yourself in, Disgaea 4 Complete+ continues the trend of improving the formula of those that came before it.
Genre: RPG, Strategy
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Release date: 10 September, 2020
Disgaea is a tactical RPG series that excels at what is usually one of the least popular features of the genre: grinding. By doing so, it does the impossible and succeeds at making it surprisingly fun and addicting even while being less impressive in the narrative department.
My experience with Disgaea 4 Complete+ is based on a somewhat limited breadth of knowledge of the series as I’ve only played the first two titles at this point. Though I never found myself able to get past the twenty-hour mark in the second game, I played the first for upwards of two hundred hours. Whether it was timing or something that just didn’t resonate with me in the sequel, I’m happy to say that the fourth title is one that I’ve found myself hooked on thanks to a handful of new and improved features.
A Roster with Limitless Potential
As far as the elements that tactical RPGs are classically known for, Disgaea doesn’t stand out. The story isn’t particularly exceptional in any way and the dialogue is decent as long as you’re alright with it being heavily flavored by humor. Character progression doesn’t have huge class trees and there aren’t long lists of abilities to choose from for each of them. However, its pinpoint focus on grinding ends up providing many features that make leveling up your roster a deep and reward experience all the same.
Characters are divided up into two categories, humanoids and monsters, and there’s quite a bit of difference between the two by this entry in the series. Humanoids are capable of making use of just about any piece of equipment that you get your hands on (from swords to guns to axes), while monsters are only capable of equipping two specific types, one that focuses on raw physical damage and one that’s more well-rounded. Both categories can equip the wide variety of armor and accessories that you’ll be picking up along the way though. However, humanoids do have weapons that they specialize in based on their class, often with abilities that are paired with them, so you’ll likely be restricted to two to three classifications of gear if you’re going for peak efficiency.
As far as capabilities outside of equipment go, both categories of characters gain new abilities as they level up, primarily via spending mana. Mana is another character-based currency, like experience, that can be used to improve characters, most notably via unlocking new classes, learning new skills, improving skills they already have, and reincarnation. Though the rest are self-explanatory for anyone with even a basic knowledge of RPGs, reincarnation is a far more unique feature that allows a character to be reduced to level one, though the more mana that is used in the process allows for that character to retain an increasingly significant amount of the attributes and skills that they’d gained prior. Think of it like prestiging but with far more useful benefits.
Of all of the tactical RPGs that I’ve played, the monsters of Disgaea 4 have proven to be the best designed that I’ve ever seen (honorable mention to Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark for having a solid system for them as well). The real key to my heart here was the addition of the fusion and magichange aspects. Fusion allows two monsters to bond together to create one giant-sized one while magichange allows a monster to turn into a weapon that a humanoid character can wield. These abilities are great as they allow for not only significantly increased character efficiency but also allow both characters involved to gain experience at the same rate as if they were solo.
Bizarre Landscapes, Wild Characters, and Endless Worlds
Everything in Disgaea 4 is designed with the grind in mind. A story exists that offers enough insight into the setting and characters to make it worthwhile for some players, depending on their tastes, though its primary purpose is to unlock new, unchanging maps that can be used to provide steady grinding areas for gaining experience and mana. The Item World, on the other hand, is randomly generated madness where each completed map increases the stats of any item in your possession, whether you killed off all of the enemies or escaped through the portal. Yes, you will literally be diving into everything from household knives to demonic axes to pieces of cake. There’s an additional benefit here though, not only does it make the item itself more powerful, you will also have the opportunity to subdue residents. Residents are enemies within the item that grant it stat boosts beyond its predetermined state and they can be transferred freely between your items once they have been defeated. The value of this can’t be overstated as these residents can drastically improve how efficient a piece of equipment is.
Disgaea 4 Complete+ is a far more entertaining game than its sales pitch would make you believe. It may be almost entirely devoted to the grind, but that grind has been distilled to an excellent experience that will keep you coming back for more. I highly recommend that any tactical RPG fan that gets a rush when their units level up or gain new abilities to give it a shot, I doubt you’ll be disappointed as long as you don’t mind or can get past the bizarre humor and heavy anime feel of it. Some of the humor tickled me the right way and the story was good enough to have me mildly interested in it, but the glorious grind kept me invested. Best of all, if you enjoy the grind that’s provided, you’ll have a title that you can play for many, many more hours than its peers.