Nippon Ichi Software has found a lot of success with Disgaea, their unique take on the tactical RPG genre. With silly jokes, obtuse characters and absurdly large numbers, it’s a franchise that won over a lot of people instantly. With Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny it marks a new step for the franchise. The traditional 2D sprites were replaced with 3D models, with a number of changes to make it more accessible and easier for fans and newcomers alike to enjoy. Given the series massive walls, will this make them easier to climb or a bad direction for the franchise?
Unlike most games, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny starts in the middle of the story. After Zed fights his way through some powerful foes, he comes face-to-face with Overlord Ivar, an oddly clueless character with fearsome power. Instead of a confrontation that ends with one of these two forces falling, there are a series of flashbacks that explain the chain of events that led up to that point.
At its core it has all the things you’d expect from Disgaea. Silly characters with unusual quirks, a wide array of jokes and gags that are so crazy they just barely work and a story that manages to seem shallow before giving our protagonist a real struggle. This makes it easy to sit through the slow beginning and wait for things to improve. It might not be the best story in the franchises history, it does a good job, with that continuing into the ever popular post game story. However, the same can’t be said about gameplay.
Like all Disgaea games, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny might have a lot of grinding but I’d argue it lost its identity along the way. Unlike the others, including Disgaea RPG, the absurd numbers feel like a hat on a hat. The easiest way to understand it is to look at how the story concludes.
In previous entries, the final boss was roughly level 100. Disgaea 5 went to 120, Disgaea D2 dropped it to 80, but they were high for an RPG numbers. These would then skyrocket as new optional bosses, like Laharl, Zetta, Baal and the rest set the requirements at 1,000, 3,000, 6,000 and so forth. In Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, the final story boss is at level 9,999, which is the typical cap for the franchise. Here it goes to at least 99.9 million but it also hits a point where the numbers are so large they’re impractical and confusing.
Just getting my Zed up to 9 million gave me so much mana I can buy almost anything, which includes bringing some of my skills to the cap of 9,999. When I do this with his SS+ skill, Last Damnation, it uses 1qt SP. If you’re like me and unfamiliar with this sum, it’s quintillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Though, due to design limitation, the sum is somewhere between 1qt and 1.5qt, which is more SP than I had at that point.
While I found it was easier to just upgrade my skills and just see how high I can go (it can be increased or decreased to that point for free if you purchase it), numbers like this hit a point where they’re impractical. And, it isn’t just that eventually level 20 million characters with stats in the trillions and multipliers that potentially increase that sums far beyond that, it’s the insane power creep that it causes.
For anyone unaware of the term, the basic idea of power creep is that new alternatives are vastly superior to previous ones, making the previous ones irrelevant. By the time I beat the story and alternate story, I was basically ready for Carnage difficulty. This brings certain changes, like reincarnation can bring stats to 500 and the level cap goes from 9,999 to one point under 10 million. Along with that, new “carnage” tier items drop, which are indicated by the items name being a new color. So, the rank 11 Massager gives 7,119 or more attack, the carnage version is 1.3 million and the tier above that, rakshasa, is 69 million. While it’s true higher level gear will have a less drastic difference than a whole series, the highest level fist I have, Ultimus, gives 100,500 attack, plus a bunch of other stats, but still can’t compare to basic carnage items.
What makes this important is how it impacts various mechanics. There is no point in grinding reincarnations, item world, innocents or many other things because it’s easier to just unlock higher content and use those elements instead. The newly added juice bar, where extracts are stored to boost specific stats and metrics in exchange for HL, but even never using the feature it offers a small portion. My main, Zed, would increase by about 25 percent attack, at the cost of all my attack extract and enough HL to wipe me out three times over. Instead, most of the value comes from power leveling weapon mastery and class proficiency, allowing you to go into the cheat shop and set both to zero. At the same point I have enough stored EXP that I could max out all 22 classes and eight weapon mastery on over 100 characters without it even making a dent in my resources besides HL.
To be completely honest, I wouldn’t even mind this is gameplay was remotely engaging. One of the biggest changes in Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is adding auto play. Unlike the mobile game, Disgaea RPG, this is an absurdly robust system. Almost every command you can think of is present, be it weapon or elemental attack, a full 100 point slider on almost every command, items that are only useful in specific places like item world and so much more. It honestly puts a lot of games to shame. Now, I never found myself needing more than the default all out attack and if that didn’t work, doing the stage myself was better than creating a specific set of commands (extremely common when there were high damage effects or required stuff like throws).
What made all out attack perfect is, if you’re going to bed, just find a stage you know the AI can do and auto it. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny will keep doing the stage endlessly, then you bump up the speed. I went to bed at level like 1,400 on day one, set it on a stage with a lucky board and 10 hours later had a full team of 9,999 people. This allowed me to blitz story, some of the post game stages and really all it took to overturn those was things like not using the gear that was relevant when I was level 1,400.
By the time I beat the basic super boss, a feat I only barely accomplished in Disgaea 5 before release and relied heavily on my tactic, it was just the same tactic only longer. You basically have to commit to going to the absolute peak just to find value that it’s hard to say a game where I autoed most of the content in 100 hours, which includes my Switch literally playing itself as I slept, is good.
Don’t get me wrong, all the beloved mechanics are here. The new attacks have their own charm and work better than I expected. A good tactic can more than make up for a bad build, but I absolutely put more thought and effort into Disgaea RPG. Here, literally every problem can be solved by playing the same stage endlessly in the background. And while you can do it all without the AI controls, it absolutely feels like the grind is intended for someone to set it on auto pilot and walk away.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny Review Verdict
As a huge fan of Disgaea, I’m simply disappointed in the direction Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny took. It went from a charming RPG that had larger than life bosses with equally impressive stats to numbers so inflated it’s legitimately hard to know what exactly your stats are. Add in auto play that will literally grind while you sleep, various mechanics that make the mechanics irrelevant and it’s literally just a pointless grind until the next pointless grind. For some that might be fun, but that simply isn’t what Disgaea is for me.
[Editor’s Note: Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]