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[Preview] Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless – PAX West 2023

Posted on September 4, 2023 by in Previews, Switch

If you’re a longtime fan of Disgea, you’ve probably had the upcoming entry in the series – Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless – on your radar for some time now. It’s a series I’ve always been curious about, but my love for strategy RPGs is somewhat of a recent development, and so I’m still cutting my teeth on the genre as a whole. That’s exactly why I was eager to get a taste of this high-energy franchise at PAX West 2023, and while I only got to sample a small portion of the game, I’m already interested in playing more – if not a bit intimidated by the prospect of it.

The sheer scope of Disgaea 7, mechanically, is so large it’s a bit unfathomable. There are over 40 different character classes to choose from, far more than I feel like I would ever be able to explore deeply in a single playthrough. You can place and directly control a large number of party members on Disgaea 7’s grid-based maps at any time, far more than I’ve ever managed in other games in the genre. Pull up a menu – take your pick, really – and you’ll be faced with an immense amout of statistics and character parameters that will take some real effort to parse.

These are all potentially great things, depending on the type of player you are. Disgaea 7 is not a game that’s easy to demo in the crowded expo hall of a place like PAX. It’s a dense, systems-rich strategy game that favors those with the patience and time to learn its rules and tactics. After playing it for a little under half an hour during the show, I know I barely scratched the surface of what is very likely to be an incredibly rewarding experience for those willing and able to approach the game on its own terms. At the same time, as a newcomer, I very much was thrown directly into the fire.

One thing I immediately grasped? Disgea 7 is a very silly game, and does not even remotely attempt to be serious or gritty. The protagonist, Fuji, was described by the PR rep I spoke with as “a huge otaku”, and while I can confidently tell you I have no idea what’s going on in the game, being thrown in without any sort of tutorial or opening sequence, I can definitely get behind the game’s standout new combat feature, “Jumbification.” This, as the name implies, supersizes one of your characters and lets you select an edge of the stage to place them at, where they will loom over the battlefield at massive proportions. By building up a Rage meter – of which there are several ways to do so, including simply having allies take damage – you can enter this form that not only lets you fight giant foes, but also deal special attacks that heavily impact activities on the ground below.

There are a lot of other variables to consider. You can put as many characters on the battlefield as you want, I was told, spawning them from a portal and then arranging them to your liking. As is series tradition at this point, when allies get close enough, you can launch them across the battlefield, extending the range of your movement considerably. But attack patterns are highly variable – some only attack in straight lines, for example, while others have broader areas of attack – so it really pays off to be familiar with these elements going in. You even have the choice of executing attacks one-at-a-time, or waiting until the end of a turn to perform all your actions at once.

Your generic characters – ie, those 40+ classes I mentioned earlier – can eventually be “reincarnated”, essentially allowing players the freedom to respec their characters with elements from another class while retaining some key abilities from their starting class. Hardly a new mechanic for the genre as a whole, but again, it’s the scope of how this could possibly be used in Disgaea 7 that impressed me the most.

Hell Mode adds another wrinkle to battle; as a side effect of building fury in battle, players can eventually enter party members into this state where they can unleash special attacks that can wreck a foe, dealing absurd 10-digit damage numbers to opponents and perhaps literally blasting them from the atmosphere of the planet and into space. It’s suitably absurd, and seems to track with the charmingly overzealous voice acting that feels right in line with the sense of humor the Disgaea series is famous for. It retains the colorful 3D-chibi stye of the last game, and doesn’t do much to distinguish itself visually in that regard, so I could se returning fans feeling a bit unenthused about that point, but as a newcomer I really enjoyed the whole cute-and-quirky anime style that the game had going on.

While it’s far too early for me to even begin to unpack all the elements that make Disgaea 7 tick, the fact that I wanted to play more is a good sign for me personally – the depth of it all is a lot at first glance, but as I played I found myself becoming more invested in wanting to find interplay between the game’s systems, and battle some giant Prinnys, hopefully.

Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is scheduled to release on Switch on October 3 in the US, October 6 in Europe, and October 13th in Australia and New Zealand.

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