I’m going to need a strategy to keep this game from stealing away all my time…
What They Say
The Netherworld – a place where might makes right and today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies. After a long journey with many ups and downs, Laharl finally finds himself as a full-fledged Overlord. However, the other denizens of the Netherworld do not see him as such, so he sets out on a journey with his loyal(!?) vassals to receive the respect he deserves. Along the way, Laharl will meet a girl who claims to be his sister, demons with bigger than usual chips on their shoulders, and find out that even his own body holds a few surprises for him.
What little I knew about the Disgaea franchise was that it was a turn based strategy game with a dedicated following. Running through the first few tutorial missions of Disgaea D2, I quickly understood why it has that following. Behind the cute anime graphics and storyline is a rich, deep system that combines elements of an RPG, turn based combat, resource building, and even politics. The story revolves around Laharal, the son of the former Overlord of the Netherworld. With his father gone, he claims the title of Overlord and the giant castle to go with it. However, many denizens of the Netherworld refuse to accept this claim and seek to prove that he is just a kid playing at king. With his “faithful” demon vassal Etna and fallen angel friend Flonne, the thin veneer of a story paves the way for hours of turn based combat.
Even from the start, the depth of the system is apparent and can feel a bit overwhelming. Evility, Geo Panels, mount system, combos, team attacks, tower attacks… That is just the first few bits of combat. Once you are back in the castle, you learn about the joys of politics — getting Senators to vote for your proposals. You can bribe them, coerce them, strong arm them. Toss in a helping of mentoring characters along, a training system to increase your stats at level up, character promotions, character reincarnations. The amount of possibilities for creating your party, equipment, and abilities is staggering.
Fortunately, there is an easily accessible help system to remind you how these systems work. You may not find yourself reaching for it right away. I found myself having more fun just experimenting with how things worked. Planning out the strategy, setting it up meticulously, and then seeing it execute for big damage and a win… Gratifying but maybe I can do it just a bit better if I tried this… Just getting through the tutorial levels took awhile simply because I was having more fun trying to one up my score for the level rather than advancing the story.
Unlike a game of Civilization, you can likely beat the story mode on this game without having a solid understanding of every system. What will keep drawing you back is this desire to see if you can do it better. What can you differently to get that bonus payout meter higher at the end of a level? Just how powerful can I make my favorite character? And if you are the sort that likes to collect things, you will need to explore every build option to try to get every monster, every skill, every item, every collectible thing they managed to jam into the game.
The game does have its flaws; combat takes place on an isometric field with many obstacles. While you can rotate the camera around and zoom in and out, the controls can be touchy taking a bit of spinning about before you can get the proper angle to see what paths are in reach. The voice acting for the dialogue is adequate but will likely have you manually advancing the text after the first few exchanges. Despite the accessible help system, some game play mechanics lack enough of an explanation for a player to really understand how to use it.
For example, you can pick up enemies and throw them into your base to try to capture them. I have yet to find an enemy where this is possible. Each one says that I cannot capture it, and the help system provides no insight or hints into what might tip me off to a potential capture. These flaws are minor annoyances though; with the gigantic buffet of mechanics, you can skip over these things and keep finding more to experiment and master.
Trying to explain Disgaea D2 does not do it justice; whether you are new to turn based strategy games or a seasoned veteran, there are more than enough systems, options, and permutations to keep you experimenting. While I was expecting the game to be fun, I was not prepared for just how rich and deep a system it had. You will lose hours to this game and love every minute of it.