Disgaea is a franchise that means a lot to me. Not only did I identify with Laharl, it was also through the series I met my long-standing amazing girlfriend. Naturally, I was disappointed with the direction Nippon Ichi Software went with Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny. It felt less like the franchise I knew and more like someone assumed they understood what made the originals great. These feelings were shared by many, resulting in Disgaea 6 holding the lowest Metacritic average of a mainline entry. Given such strong feelings, Nippon Ichi Software attempted to course correct with Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless. With lessons learned, is it a step forward or backwards for the franchise?
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is very reminiscent of earlier adventures. The narrative starts with a surprisingly straightforward premise. Things start with a brief introduction to Fuji’s character. Like a “good” demon he relies on tricks and underhanded tactics to ensure victory against his foes. Unfortunately, he is in debt, so when he meets the misguided otaku, Pirilika, he saw this as the perfect opportunity to scam her out of the money he needs. However, she was not being entirely honest either, so now you need to aid her by collecting several legendary weapons.
Can’t be too Nice
Keeping true to Disgaea, the narrative eventually expands well beyond the initial premise, though a big part of the fun is the characters themselves. For example, Fuji is “allergic” to empathy and feels physical pain when people thank him or do nice things. Pirilika gag is being an air head that messes up common idioms. It’s a relatable quirk, even if her errors are exaggerated for comedic effect.
Not only are the quirks quite amusing, the characters have strong rapport. A lot of the jokes land and are amusing, despite being predictable. That doesn’t mean everything is works flawlessly, Yeyasu is far from the franchises best supporting character, just that it works far more often than it does not.
Gameplay isn’t far from earlier Disgaea titles. At its core it’s a tactical RPG where creative moves have a substantial impact on whether you win or lose. Even with several quality of life improvements, like cheat shop allowing for altered growth rates or squads to passively improve characters, the difficulty is surprisingly steep.
At multiple points as early as chapter two I found myself unable to win without exploring other options. Often I could choose to grind levels, replay stages for HL (cash) to purchase better equipment, or utilize buffs/debuffs to make up for whatever I lacked. This won’t appeal to everyone, though it’s always nice when an RPG rewards players for exploring every option. Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless also shakes things up with its challenge system.
Instead of rewarding players for achieving points, something that could be abused by geo effects, there are set missions. Some restrict actions, limit deployed units, or simply reward efficiency. These are a nice way to gain additional rewards without forcing players to come up with crazy tactics to achieve everything.
Along with the usual stuff, Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless adds a few new twists. One is hell mode where players can activate an enhanced state that grants access to unique skills/abilities. While it isn’t anything special, jumbify hits that sweet spot where it’s fun, even if it is a bit gimmicky.
Prepare to be Crushed
To activate the mode players need to accumulate rage, which is generated by units taking damage. Once enough rage is obtained, players can activate this mode to turn giant for a couple turns. Part of what makes it fun is enemies can also use it, so don’t think it won’t add new challenges, with the rest stemming from it being satisfying to attack a massive area.
One of the last things I want to touch on is auto-battle mode. This was one of the most divisive elements in Disgaea 6, since you could go set the game to play itself while you sleep and wake up with endless resources. Thankfully, this is not how it works in Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless.
CGI Looks a Lot Better
While players can use auto-battle to level, it now uses a resource. It’s obtained by finishing levels manually, PVP, or as a quest reward. This strikes a far more fair balance as players are rewarded for their investment, though still expected to put in work. If nothing else you can’t set it to beat the game for you.
Finally, I wanted to touch on the newly added PVP. While it is not played in real time, so you can’t outwit your opponent, it gives players a reason to make complicated auto-battle systems. Since PVP does not use said resource that is often the better option unless you want to ensure you win as many matches as possible. It won’t appeal to everyone, especially since some people will grind to the point where they’re essentially unbeatable, but it’s still great to see a new reward for chasing after the absolute highest stats.
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless Review Verdict
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless: Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless doesn't stray far from the familiar formula, but it stands out as one of the finest entries in the Disgaea series. For fans of its humor, storytelling, and core gameplay, the game rectifies some past missteps. While it's not without flaws – notably, the post-game content falls short of previous entries – it's still a must-play for those seeking a challenging RPG with extensive grinding opportunities. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.