Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Review

  • First Released Oct 6, 2015
  • PS4

Almost too much of a good thing.

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Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is old enough by now to be considered an SRPG classic. Still the most famous game in Nippon Ichi Software's growing catalog, the title introduced players to the Netherworld and Celestia, two mystical realms populated by fallible angels and loveable demons. But that was twelve years and two console generations ago. It's easy to look at screenshots of the newest title in the series--still sporting grid-based combat and the same general art style on the PlayStation 4 as ever--and wonder if the franchise has anything worthwhile left to say.

With Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, the development team proves it hasn't run out of new ideas. Numerous elements from past installments return, from general narrative themes to time-worn mechanics, and the ability to design your own maps to challenge friends and strangers online, mostly without ever feeling like a copy-paste job. The usual elements are all still here, but they're augmented by numerous new systems that should surprise even franchise veterans. In fact, the game's primary weakness is that there's now more to see and do than feels practical.

A bribe works as well in the Netherworld as it does anywhere else.
A bribe works as well in the Netherworld as it does anywhere else.
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In general, the game progresses the same way Disgaea games always have: players meet a group of semi-heroic demons and guide them through battles, with heaps of anime-influenced dialogue filling in the plot between each strategic skirmish. A series of five or so battles serves as an episode, and then there's a preview of coming events before the process repeats. What made the routine feel so special in the past was the customization between each fight, when you were tweaking your characters and purchasing equipment and diving into optional battles in the rewarding "Item World."

With Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, the development team proves it hasn't run out of new ideas.

Disgaea 5 tweaks all of that to make it feel the slightest bit more epic. The adjustments start with the ambitious story arc, which revolves around a strong demon named Killia who reluctantly falls in with Seraphina, a beautiful vixen--and also overlord--who fixates on her new friend because he somehow is able to resist her coquettish charms. Their ranks soon swell with the introduction of additional overlords, many dragging along some emotional baggage that is explored fully in due time. Together, the unlikely group of companions forms an alliance and seeks to defeat Lord Void Dark, a villain who apparently won't rest until he has obliterated every netherworld in existence.

Most episodes introduce new netherworlds instead of new regions within a given world, which seems like a small thing, but still manages to raise the stakes compared to past games within the series. Rather than returning to a castle after each battle, the heroes jet about the universe in a huge craft that serves as the level hub. Between stages, you'll wander that vessel, purchasing equipment or talking to NPCs or your friends. Often, the latter will appear with a red "!" over their heads, indicating you should expect a brief comedic skit. There's no voice work here, and no animation, but the artwork and clean translation do an effective job of conveying everything and reinforcing character traits in a way that pre-battle chatter cannot. The result is a crew of characters that's more likely to stick with you than any the series has introduced since the PlayStation 2 era.

There are some elements in the game that you’ll swear you’ve seen before.
There are some elements in the game that you’ll swear you’ve seen before.

A lot of the game's other enhancements are more specific. Many of them concern the Item World, which isn't accessible until you've cleared several episodes. All of a sudden, you have a compelling reason--and the means--to venture into that endless dungeon. You'll battle monsters on randomly generated floors until you conquer an "item general," and whether you continue afterward is up to you. Returning fans will recall that the Item World is the single best way to level up characters and overcome roadblocks in the game's proper story campaign. That's truer now than ever before.

Every few floors, especially as you venture deeper into a given item's world, or after talking to a certain character and revising your path, you'll encounter random events. A goddess might fly by and drop an egg, which produces one of several characters. A Level Fish boosts your items when you clear floors, but only if one of your team members gets to it before enemies do, and protects it for a couple of turns before you ascend to the next floor. Or you might encounter a Stout Bottle that runs around on the map. You can obtain "Evilty" scrolls if you beat him, which in more peaceful times allow you to teach skills or passive abilities to one of your party members. There are other characters, as well, including an overpowered foe that can kill you in one hit if you don't find a way to escape within the first turn or two.

The Item World also plays host to invasions, where you can destroy a hostile to eliminate an area effect it casts on the field. You also gain parts that you can attach to your own vessel, and you can summon it to battle to aid you as you journey further into an item. Naturally, there are also plenty of random rooms, and these offer the chance to obtain precious loot, face a challenging battle, or even just take a breather. It's possible to spend dozens of hours within the various Item World stages and still not see everything.

Returning fans will recall that the Item World is the single best way to level up characters and overcome roadblocks in the game's proper story campaign. That's truer now than ever before.

There's another new feature called Squads. As you progress through the campaign, you'll eventually meet certain requirements and divide your characters into specialized groups. Doing so doesn't mean you have to rely on a particular squad in battle, but each team member gains different perks. For example, members in one unit will gain experience points without battling, as long as their leader is out in the field and doing damage. Another can learn the ability to capture weakened enemies, which another squad can then interrogate back at base. From there, it's possible to recruit a former enemy to serve as your ally.

Treasure your time in the Item World.
Treasure your time in the Item World.

Even after you clear the main campaign, you can keep playing and continue unlocking new squads and characters and maps and episodes. Well ahead of that, there also are side quests to keep you busy. Talk to a particular character and he will reward you when you defeat enough of a certain enemy, or gather certain rare items, for example. Then there's the "Character World," which sounds like the Item World but actually plays more like Mario Party, complete with items you can use to get the drop on enemies while you try to avoid landing on spaces that will impose a penalty.

The game and its numerous systems are a complete time sink that allows you to spend dozens of hours building your perfect character, and then tempt you to do it again a few more dozen times. Disgaea 5 is the biggest and most satisfying installment in the series to date, and It could easily be the last one you ever need to buy.

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The Good
A lengthy campaign and with lots of post-game content
Interesting new ways to tweak your army
Deep characters and plot
Item World is more extensive than ever
The Bad
Doesn't look much different from the PS3 games
Added features make some older ones feel redundant
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jason Venter has spent dozens of hours with each previous Disgaea game except for the visual novel, and he happily spent around 50 hours on this campaign before devoting another 30 to the post-game content for the purposes of this review.
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Avatar image for Purpledust

just imported this from Amazon Japan for Switch

Avatar image for sevenwarlocks

Did he say "dozens" of hours?

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

@7tizz: Troll or not, try and be funny somewhere else. Pester your own fanbase for a change.

Avatar image for Cyberjin

@7tizz: troll or not, the series was never on PS1

Avatar image for ChaosAngelZero

Please never, EVER write "post-game", it's stupid and makes no sense. Go with "post-campaign" instead.

Avatar image for Epidemik04

I've never played a Disgaea game, but I fell in love with the demo. I'm considering picking this up depending on the quality of the other new releases out today. Thanks for the review.

Avatar image for Hellcanwait

The release date is not oct. 6.

not in europe anyway, if you don't give a shit about the rest of the world why should we give a shit about gamespot... this has become such a pathetic site.

Avatar image for doctorhino

@Hellcanwait: This site is based out of the US and thus their dates/prices are all US centered. If you are that concerned with the release date maybe you should get your release date information and your reviews from separate sites. Or pay attention to what site you're on before you throw a hissy fit over something small like what region they give their retail information about.

Avatar image for louie_cloud

who will win in a fight between laharl and adell?

Avatar image for Atermi

@louie_cloud: That was an actual fight in D2; Adell won

Avatar image for TimmyDKJR

@louie_cloud: Depends on who the protagonist is for that game? :D

Avatar image for playstationzone

I play demo really good game might get this .

Avatar image for darklord_86

Nothing on voice? Is there japanese voice option or are we stuck with the trashy english ones?

Avatar image for TimmyDKJR

@darklord_86: On the demo, there is a Japanese voice option (YESSSSS BIG WIN IMO).

Avatar image for DangdoutX

@darklord_86: i dont know, to me disgaea is always better in english

in most case english translations is a bit cornish and very childish cartoonist so it does sound terrible in most game, but disgaea is childish and cartoonist, so english sound fits perfectly with this game

Avatar image for Undertow207

@DangdoutX: Some people just love hearing headache inducing, ear piercing Japanese girls in their games.

Avatar image for darklord_86

@DangdoutX: Everyone has their own preferences of course. But I always feel that english voice "strain" too much to sound young/japanesy, if that makes any sense :p There are of course games with very good english VA, but disgaea is not one of them.

Avatar image for DangdoutX

@darklord_86really? english laharl is dead on perfect in my opinions, the japanese voice is to high, it fail to show his arrogance character, while the english laharl voice is still boyish but not too high and very smug, perfect for that little twerp

Avatar image for freedom01

@darklord_86: the series usually have dual audio option

Avatar image for darklord_86

@freedom01: Cool. Might pick this up than :) Been missing these type of games for a long time and Disgaea usually has lots of post-game content so that's a big plus for me.

Avatar image for SilentAssassin

Disgaea is one of the best (J)RPG's of all time!!! The story is entertaining, the gameplay has incredible depth and the items and equipment have so much variety!!! a MUST BUY!!

Avatar image for csward

I really wish we'd get new models for the monsters and generic characters. They still look the same as the PS2 version and the game looks like it was made for the PS3.

The gimmicks they introduce in each iteration of Disgaea just don't do it for me, but I'm sure for those that have never played a Disgaea this is amazing.

Avatar image for ArnoldSideways


They really don't! This is the first Disgaea game I've seen since the first PS3 one and I was just thinking how much better they look.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

Damn! completely forgot about this one :(

Avatar image for tarantani

Only sad thing about disgaea 5... its not coming out for a device I own... and I'm not going to buy a ps4 anytime soon... maybe in 5 years when the catalog has grown and its already declining.

Avatar image for Kusann

I can see the charm and what people love about the Disgaea series, I love Prinny (the first one) a lot, even though it was kinda broken and hard as hell; I remember playing a Disgaea game on PSP (honestly don't remember which one it was) and it just didn't grow in me, felt too unbalanced/unforgiving in some stages...but that was just me and my lack of skill to play SRPGs (even though I've beaten FF Tactics and 2 or 3 Fire Emblem games), I'd have loved to try this one out in Vita as I have no plans to buy a PS4 (even when it has really good exclusives) or an XBoner.

Avatar image for Ovirew

I'm sure it'll have great gameplay, but for whatever reason I just can't get excited about Disgaea anymore. I think I just get too overwhelmed by the games - and being something of a completionist, I get frustrated because there's too much to do in these games, but not enough variety to really keep things interesting.

Avatar image for csward

@Ovirew said:

I'm sure it'll have great gameplay, but for whatever reason I just can't get excited about Disgaea anymore. I think I just get too overwhelmed by the games - and being something of a completionist, I get frustrated because there's too much to do in these games, but not enough variety to really keep things interesting.

Well said! I stopped trying them after the 3rd one for the same reasons.

Avatar image for RSM-HQ

@csward: Strange, my favorite is the third one gameplay wise and have played them all. Tastes differ I guess.

Avatar image for Ovirew

@RSM-HQ: I think the third one is the game I completed the most on in the series, but I think part of the reason for that is I had the PS Vita version of the game and it lent itself well to my lounging around and playing big games.

Maybe I don't like playing games on the TV anymore. I can't really explain it.

Avatar image for RSM-HQ

@Ovirew: I played it entirely on PS3 but envy the extra content Vita owners got x3

It was a big step for Disgaea in my view, improved the gameplay, has the most classes. & enjoyed the cast. Mao started off hilarious, and Raspberyl became a series staple. Great game :)

Avatar image for gamelegend100

Last time I played this was on the ps2. Still looks the same lol

Avatar image for TimmyDKJR

@gamelegend100: Last I played was also the PS2. The graphics in the demo looked sharper and crispier. Also some of the skills seem to have an altered cutscene now. Not sure if they were changed in DIsgaea 3 or 4 though, since I'm only comparing it from Disgaea 2.

Avatar image for gamelegend100

@TimmyDKJR: Ook that will be cool to see. Something like grandia, cut scenes when you do specials. Cause those 2d graphics on ps4 these days are kinda boring. At least a lil enhancements can be done.

Avatar image for drake08

@gamelegend100: That's the charm of 2d characters. for some reason i Can't see this game in 3d maybe if they were chibi characters like the new game trailer I saw from final fantasy world, I bet they would look really cool

Avatar image for gamelegend100

@drake08: yea it really would. Just a lil bad u can compare a ps2 game to a ps4. But I Liked the game When It First Came out.

Avatar image for iloveyourface

just shows sony won the console war this round YET AGAIN. g'night m'soft, better luck in 8 years.

Avatar image for JonnyBigBoss

@iloveyourface: Well, that came out of nowhere. It's quite sad that you're caught up in such drivel. What about those of us who prefer online gaming, and don't particularly care for this style of game? I know I prefer my Xbox One over my PS4, but enjoy both. There's something for everyone in these two consoles, and your aggressive and hateful attitude isn't doing anyone, including you, any favors.

Avatar image for freedom01

got it pre-ordered and cant wait to get my hands on this game and play it XD

Avatar image for drake08

@freedom01: Hell yeah!!!

Avatar image for kitty

I'm a sucker for these games and I expected no less. This will most likely take over my life just like 4 did xD Ashamed to admit, but I have around 500 hours on 4.

Avatar image for IPwnNooBs666

Great review. October 6th is gonna rock, dood!

Avatar image for Oloryn

Gah, I really want to dive into this, as I love Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, but also love the originality and craziness found in Nippon Ichi Games (I'm looking at you Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman!), but it's tough for me to find THAT amount of time to sit down in front a console. Still, I'm glad they are giving it a proper go for the console fans who have been supporting the series. Maybe one day, though, I'll pick it up anyway!

Anyone play any of the handheld ports and can recommend them?

Avatar image for jenovaschilld

@Oloryn: There is a great game called Wild Arms XF for the psp or you can emulate it on pc because the game is impossible to find. It is a great looking game with an unbelievable amount of content and a battle system that is simple to grasp but one you can advance endlessly. The story is also very good.

Avatar image for DanielL5583

@Oloryn: I own one of the Vita ports but I never managed to free up enough space to install it on my Vita. Best thing is, I can't remember if it was 3 or 4.

But I do recommend these games regardless. They're a huge timesink for sure, but it's one of those games that can be played after a long time and still have somewhat of a grasp of what you're doing.

Avatar image for Oloryn

@DanielL5583: Ha, I hear free space is a gamer's bane.

In any case, cheers, thanks for the input!

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance More Info

  • First Released Oct 6, 2015
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is the sixth home console entry to the legendary Disgaea series tells a tale of revenge, and of rebellion.
    Average Rating16 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
    Developed by:
    Nippon Ichi Software
    Published by:
    NIS America, Nippon Ichi Software, IntraGames
    Turn-Based, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes