Disgaea returns with a new coat of paint and a handful of quality of life additions.
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release date: 29 June, 2021
Disgaea has long aspired to perfect the art of building a gaming experience from the ground with its focus on the grind. Attributes, skills, items, and so on are improved through your labors and the more you pile these on the more overpowered your roster of characters becomes. Throw in reincarnation and your characters will be exponentially more powerful than they should be at any given level.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is the latest entry in the series and it continues the trend of adding more content to be explored for the returning Disgaea veteran while also streamlining or outright removing some of the less entertaining elements for a cleaner experience. My own journey through the series has included 1, 2, 4 and now 6, so the comparisons that I make regarding the history of this title will be based upon that.
The Worlds and the God of Destruction
The stories told by the Disgaea games have never been my cup of tea. I’ve almost universally been unimpressed and bored by the characters and narrative that have been shoehorned in to provide something other than the grind that’s the clear focus of the series. I have to admit here that I was pleasantly surprised by Defiance of Destiny with both its story and its characters. It’s still not the real focus, nor should it be, and it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s several levels above what I’d gotten used to previously. I enjoyed it throughout and didn’t find myself skipping nearly all of it as I had the previous titles.
Once upon a time, our hero, Zed, was a run-of-the-mill zombie with a big heart but scrawny arms that even a prinny could beat up. Though he was unimpressive in most things, he loved his sister, Bieko, dearly and prioritized her over all else. When the God of Destruction arrived, she was lost to it and Zed set out to right this wrong. Death after death, reincarnation after reincarnation, Zed continues to fight his foe across time and space as he gets progressively stronger each time he falls.
As Zed travels through the many worlds that he reincarnates into, he meets new allies who join him. These include a human king who solves everything with money, a deceitful princess who cares about nothing other than her happy ending, a power ranger knockoff who’s confused about the meaning of justice, and a 10,000-year-old hag who’s ended up in a young girl’s body. Although the anime tropes still run rampant, I did feel engaged by the story and entertained by the cast.
From Zero to Hero
Disgaea revolves around character progression and Defiance of Destiny is no different. Your characters are not only bundles of attributes but they also have skills, classes, weapon proficiencies, and evilities (perks) that customize and improve them further. These can be improved organically through battle or through the juice bar. Yes, I said the juice bar. We’ll get to that shortly.
One of the biggest changes for me was that both experience and mana are now gained by the team as a whole and then split equally between those who took part in the battle. You’ll no longer have to tactically place your units so that one of them gets the kills that you want them to, you can simply go all-in and let nature takes its course; your units will gain the same amount of experience and mana no matter what they do. This makes another mechanic, auto-battling, especially useful as the micromanagement that was once needed in combat is no longer needed to pinpoint units for advancement. Though it’s an odd choice to auto-battle a tactical RPG at face value, I actually really enjoyed these changes and it helped keep me motivated for the grind.
Classes have multiple tiers to them and every unit can move between them when they super reincarnate. Weapons and skills use differing attributes to determine their efficiency and each class has their own combination of strengths, weaknesses, skills, and evilities, as well as attribute growth upon leveling. Your witch, your dark knight, and your thief will be very different characters by default. However, a few creative uses of super reincarnation will let you take a character through multiple classes. They’ll reset to level one but they’ll keep a portion of their attributes and all of their learned abilities, weapon proficiencies, and evilities. A level one character in the late game is easily a match for an enemy several thousand levels above them.
Evilities and the juice bar can be used to further tailor your roster. Evilities are passive perks that can be equipped on characters that range from increasing their stat growth to increasing how much poison damage enemies take across the entire map. Every class has an innate evility, though the others can be changed at will. The juice bar, on the other hand, collects both experience and mana just like your characters, though it can produce juice for your characters to drink for permanent buffs. Weapon proficiencies, class expertise, and attributes can all be increased this way without the character having ever seen a single battle.
Equipment? Don’t You Mean Characters That You Equip?
Your inventory in Disgaea continues to have significantly more depth than it does in just about any other game. Items don’t have item-specific statistics, they have the same attributes as your characters and act as direct buffs to your characters’. Even more importantly for the grind and its many levels, your equipment can level up and be equipped with innocents to make it that much stronger as well via exploration of the Item World. In this dungeon-like atmosphere, your party will fight across map after map as you boost the strength of your items exponentially so that your characters have yet another obnoxiously overpowered advantage over their mundane and puny enemies. Some monsters that are encountered there are referred to as “innocents” and these creatures can be defeated to offer heavy bonuses to the gear that they reside in. Alternatively, you can move them about freely to combine and stack them on another piece of equipment as you prefer.
Why Grind When You Can Start at the Top?
The strangest change, and probably the only one that I’m actually against, is the giant increase in numbers that seems to be just for the sake of making massive numbers. Characters begin with attributes in the thousands which are great numbers to look over once you’ve been grinding for hours on end to get them there but less appealing when you’re starting there. I would’ve preferred were started with our twelves and fifteens as opposed to ten thousands, but someone along the way must’ve decided that if building stats was fun then it must be even more so if you start out with five digits. If you’re listening, Nippon, take us back to the double digits in the next edition!
Though there are certainly a number of elements in Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, these were the aspects of it that I stood out the most. I found myself glued to my seat as the gameplay and the addiction to grind hits it out of the park and even now I’m jonesing for another batch of item world dungeons to push my party to the next level. If you’ve found yourself hooked on any of the other Disgaea games, I highly recommend this one and I’m confident in saying that you won’t be disappointed as there are plenty of great mechanics and a solid endgame. If you’re a tactical RPG fan, there’s certainly something here for you as well this time around as the story is engaging enough to be worth playing through. Whoever you are, just be prepared for the grind even if you plan on tearing through the story and calling it a one-and-done.