Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gaming By The Numbers - Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

This is me understanding Disgaea 3.

It was just the other day when I was lamenting that, try as I might, I simply wasn't enjoying Disgaea 3 because, well, I wasn't.  However, as is often the case, as soon as I finally aired my frustrations, I was able to find a way around them and, as such, I have more or less spent the last two days playing Disgaea 3 exclusively on my Vita, monopolizing damn near all of my free time.  The bug has bitten, ladies and gentlemen, and it has bitten hard.  I wasn't quite sure that I would be able to actively convey just how much of the actual Disgaea experience has now begun to permeate my brain and this was originally going to be a very different post.  And then I said to myself, "Self, what -is- the whole Disgaea experience about?  Oh right, numbers.  But just how am I going to make a post conveying that portion of the ga-


Folks, the issue at hand here was that I just wasn't letting the real allure of Disgaea to sink in.  I was trying to play a different game (likely Final Fantasy Tactics) as if it just had a Disgaea skin.  And that dog won't hunt, good sirs, no it won't.  Disgaea is not a game about a team, about you building up a group of battlers shoulder-to-shoulder to stand firm in solidarity against anything.  Disgaea is not a clever mix of balancing classes, jobs, skill and gear amongst a select few to Min-Max them appropriately.  It's not even a game where you meticulously advance the story and pay attention to the enemy levels to anticipate how they'll advance from one stage to the next, taking those as your cues as to when to take your group out for a little bit more grinding for an average level gain of X.  Disgaea is not a series for any of this, which is generally some of the ideals that the Tactical RPG genre caters to.

Disgaea is a series about you pointing at any single character in your roster and saying "You.  You will become my Messenger.  The game does not yet realize this, but I am its God and it's through you that I will impose my divine will.  It is you who will be spoon-fed ultimate power and attention until all who oppose me are crushed underfoot.  It is you who will lead a glorious charge, cutting a swath through my enemies and ensuring not a soul remains alive to curse my name.  And upon that mountain of bodies, at the end of your bloody journey, you will think to challenge me.  And you will know the error of your ways."

If you couldn't tell by the screenshot above, Dinah is my Messenger.  And if you don't quite know the Disgaea series well enough, you might think her stats, her standings are impressive.  Perhaps in other games, they would be - I mean ~2,000 in her relevant attack stats (Attack and Speed)?  That's pretty nice by most standards.  In Disgaea, Dinah might as well still be Level 1 in the grand scheme of things.  Though, admittedly, she's doing quite a bit well for herself by this point for not being on a higher echelon juuuust yet.  Though, before I can really explain Dinah's progression in a proper way, I suppose I should do a crash course in Disgaea for those who might not be initiated.  After all, it's a fairly niche series and intimidating to those who know -enough- about it without having actually played it.

In most games, the maximum level for characters is like 99.  We all know this, this is a common thing and that's that.  Well, in Disgaea, the maximum level is, uh, 9999.  As in Nine-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine.  That alone might tell you why Dinah just isn't anywhere near impressive yet, but it's more than that.  You see, again in most games, max level means just that - maximum level, cannot do anything else.  Well, in Disgaea, you can reincarnate all the way back to Level 1.  Why would you do this?  Because you get to stat-stack.  Depending on just how much Mana (the stuff you buy skills and such with) you put into reincarnating determines just what sort of build you get this go around as well as what you inherit.  No matter how you word it, going back to Level 1 is a reset, but your base stats are going to be higher and they're going to grow better as well.  Through multiple reincarnations, you're going to have a Level 1 character that is only Level 1 in title, because that Level 1 could kick the living shit out of other Level 1's.

At this point in time (as that screenshot was taken when I started this post), that's what Dinah looks like after three reincarnations.  Pretty much every class gets higher tiered versions as you grow them up and move on into the advanced forms, and the 'Sky Faller' is the fourth iteration of what is basically the Female Monk class.  The first reincarnation, I went with a B-ranking, where the second and third, I held out for the A-ranked reincarnation, giving her the best skill carry-over (Which I don't think matters if you don't stray classes) as well as the most points to add to her base stats upon recreation.  With that last reincarnation clocking in at 9,900 Mana (400 for Reincarnation number three, 9,500 for A-Grade), it was quite a hefty sink of time and energy, but it's going to be worth it in the end.

It should be noted that I'm at chapter 5 and, at their 'normal' levels, the story-related enemies are like, Level 35.  Tops.  Level 76 doesn't -actually- mean Level 76 since she's been reincarnated thrice, so figure it more around...oh...100 something and you'll see why Dinah is a bit ridiculously OP for this point in the story, but, again, that is not what Disgaea is about.  Disgaea is all about ratcheting up the absurdity to 11....and then a little beyond that.  At your own pace, of course, since there is a definite possibility that doing too much will leave you in a situation where you are completely and totally overwhelmed.  But with great risk comes great rewards - like leveling a newly reincarnated character from Level 1 to 76 within half an hour with minimal issues.

"So Mogs", I can hear you say.  "How exactly do I get to where I can make someone like Dinah who is awesome and violent and dangerous?"  Well, it's quite simple.  First off, the most important thing is gear.  Raise your customer rank in the store a bunch and pass the bills that make the stores sell more expensive stuff.  Gear is what will save your ass when you've just reincarnated and are working your way up the ladder.  Second, make sure you have at least the third mission in Chapter 4 beaten.  You'll know the mission because literally the entire field is "Enemy Level 10% Up".  This is, of course, Vital.  Third, pass a "Stronger Enemies" bill or two.  You might think that you don't want to do this, but you want to do this.  Trust me.  Now, at the start of the level, the enemies are like 20-something - easy pickings.  Run your desired character counter-clockwise through the Warslugs, murdering them as they slowly begin leveling up.  By the time you get to the last one, it'll presumably be in its 70s.  At this point, it's up to you whether or not you want to just kill it -now- (shouldn't be too hard because its HP doesn't scale a whole lot and your character is likely doing 800-2000 damage, well over the 500-600 HP they'll have, even at level 70+) or let it get to something a little higher, like 100 something.  The only thing you have to worry about is how much damage it can do to your character.  End it before it can come too close to one-shotting your character because, given the next turn, it -will-.

That map is, basically, the map that keeps on giving.  Letting the last warslug get up to 100s nets you HL in the hundreds of thousands which quickly adds up for some of the better gear that you're likely looking at by this point.  Personally, the mid-six-hundred thousands is the top-tier of gear I can buy at the moment, but I can pass like four more "More expensive stuff" bills to catch up with my customer rank.  Because of the amount of Warslugs and the levels they can get to, the Mana you get from the map is not negligible either, though I haven't calculated it because it fluctuates a little too wildly because of the very nature of the level.  Of course, the experience is wonderful as well.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect map since it hands you a rather large amount of control.

Of course, if you're freshly reincarnated, you're likely not ready for that map.  So what should you try, then?  Why "Strongest Crossroad" in Chapter 1, of course.  Five Prinnies and Three Orcs means this is not a difficult map, even with a couple "Stronger Enemies" bills passed.  The beauty of this is that for minimal effort (especially so if you're rolling a character that counters a lot) you'll get a nice handful of Mana per run because the field effects are "EXP + 50%" and "Mana + 50%".  With no bills passed, the Mana is still something like a hundred, whereas with three bills passed, I believe the Mana total that you get is 337 per run.  It's something close to that anyway.  Depending on your character, they can finish the map in half a minute tops or perhaps just over a minute if they don't counter at all.  At 337 a go, if you have a lofty goal to reach, like, say, 9,900 Mana, that's 29.377 times or 30 times.  With the times provided, that's 9,900 Mana in Fifteen to, let's say Thirty-Five Minutes.  That's -only- if you stop at three Stronger Enemies bills which you by no means have to since, even with those passed, the enemies are only like Level 16.  If that.

Is it grindy?  Certainly, it is probably the most grinding I've done in any game in recent memory.  Is it worth it, however?  Given that Dinah has already carved out a niche as an engine of destruction four times over now with each incarnation taking less and less time to get to that point, yes, yes it is worth it.  Most importantly, this mission of making Dinah the singularly most awesome character in my team has succeeded in making Disgaea 3 fun enough for me to continue playing.  That was something I didn't think was possible days ago, yet my entire day today begs to state that there is certainly something in Disgaea 3 to look to if you like Strategy RPGs at all. mindful of how you approach it since that has a direct impact over what, if any, enjoyment you will derive from it.

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