Review by Dilpil
Beatiful story with ugly, ugly gameplay
Digital Devil Saga 2 is the third Megaten game to come to the ps2 in America, and it has pretty much all the flaws of the previous two games (Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga One). It also has an amazing storyline better than both of them.
First lets discuss the story (minor spoilers ahead). Digital Devil Saga 2 begins at the exact moment the original game ended. So if you don't want to completely spoil the first game, play it first. You play as Serph, leader of the Embryon Tribe, and after a pretty cool opening cut scene, you find yourself and several of your companions in a strange and unfamiliar world. Wherever you are, it is certainly not the nirvana you were seeking in the original game. The story is full of references to Hindu and Christian mythology, many of which are interesting and meaningful. Some of them are quite thought provoking, and the world DDS2 creates is very interesting. Furthermore, the ending is great, and ties up a lot of loose ends. The story of Digital Devil Saga 2 is one of my favorites, ranking up there with Planescape and FF7 as one of the best stories I have ever played.
The story would get a 10/10 if it weren't for one key flaw: the silent protagonist. I don't understand this rpg convention. Serph, the main character, has no personality. He does not talk in cut scenes, and has a scant few dialogue options throughout the game, mostly things such as 'Hmm...' and of course '...'. How did Serph manage to become the leader of the Embryon Tribe without talking anyway? Digital Devil Saga 2 would benefit greatly from dialogue trees such as those in KOTOR or other Bioware rpgs, as your characters are all very interesting, as is the setting.
The graphics in DDS2 are fairly good. Many deities and mythological figures are competently drawn, and there is a wide variety of enemies to fight, mostly very different from the enemies of other rpgs. The spell effects are pretty to watch, especially the later ones. The graphics of this game aren't amazing, but it is certainly pretty to watch. They certainly dont impact the game negatively.
If Digital Devil Saga had even mediocre gameplay, I would have finished it in a week. However, it's gameplay is exceptionally bad. I have never been a fan of the traditional turn based rpg fights, and thats exactly what DDS uses. The only real difference in DDS is the press turn system, wherein you can gain or lose turns via criticals, weaknesses, or misses. Its a cool concept but its really just cheap when you do it to bosses and frustrating when it happens to you. You will lose a lot of turns unexpectedly after missing with physical attacks. You will then, in turn, lose a lot of battles unexpectedly if, say, your healer loses their turn after your fighting character misses. And trust me, you will lose a lot of battles. DDS is hard. I played on normal, and I rarely beat a boss on my first try, unless I looked at a walkthrough beforehand. Furthermore, the battles just arent fun. Most of them degenerate into selecting the same option over and over. How other people can enjoy these battles is a mystery to me. I found myself wanting to fast forward through every one. And boy are there a lot of them. This is a Shin Megami Tensei game, and that means your going to be fighting random battles every few steps. It also means that the game is filled with long, maze like dungeons, rife with opportunities for random battles.
There are 5 characters in your party for the majority of the game. Only 3 of them can participate in battle at any given time. There is never any explanation for this. Letting you use 5 characters in battle would've helped the game significantly, giving you more strategic options, and lessening the impact of misses (you would lose 1 of 5 turns, not one of 3).
The character advancement system is pretty cool. There is a giant grid of hexagons, and each hexagon is named after some kind of religious concept (fire shrine, ice fiend, loving god, ect). Your party members all gain atma points after every battle, and once they have enough atma points, they master the current hexagon ('mantra') they are equipped with. They can then purchase a mantra adjacent to any mantra they have mastered. The system allows for a lot of character customization and planning. My only complaints are that the spells are fairly boring (think fire, fira, firaga type progression), and that the mantra cost far too much money to activate. Furthermore, all characters have the same advancement choices. Moreover, as good as the leveling system is, the actual leveling you do is still painful.
All in all, the game is a chore to play. The dungeons are way to long, there are far too many random encounters, all of which are totally unentertaining, and the game constantly jerks you around with fetch quests and long, branching labyrinths. The story however, is brilliant. I wanted this to be a great game. I really wish it was fun, but it is not.
Final Score (not an average): 6
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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