There’s a fine line between streamlining and hand-holding; Disgaea 6 has finally crossed that line.
Not too long ago, I was given the opportunity to review Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny. You’re more than welcome to read the full review if you’d like, but, if you’d rather not, I’ll sum things up the best I can for you within the rest of this paragraph. The game was fine in terms of basic SRPG mechanics, but NIS also stripped away quite a few features from Disgaea 6 that were basically Disgaea staples at that point—and simplified others that they didn’t completely do away with—which ultimately resulted in something not-so-great.
While Disgaea 6 takes away many things that players have grown accustomed to, there is one thing that it proudly presents to players over and over again—Demonic Intelligence. A Disgaea-ified version “autoplay” feature, Demonic Intelligence allows you to have the AI control all of your characters for any given level. I’m sure that, on its own, that sounds just fine—maybe it even sounds cool. And, you know, I can’t even blame you for thinking that, because I thought that at first, too. However, it doesn’t take long to see that this mechanic is something that should never have been summoned into the world of Disgaea.
The Easier, the Better, Right?
Let me start by saying that I’m not blind to why Demonic Intelligence exists. I mean, the game kind of beats you over the head with why it exists, but I totally caught on before that. Trust me! Disgaea games have always had a ridiculously high-level cap, and Disgaea 6 literally multiplied that level cap by 10 (from 9,999 to 99,999). And, when you add such a high-level cap together with the fact that this game revolves around Super Reincarnation—a mechanic which resets a character’s level back to 1 in exchange for bestowing permanent stat/skill bonuses upon them—you’ve got to have some way of making leveling up easier. I mean, can you imagine if this game had the same pacing as Disgaea 1? Thanks, but no thanks.
I also get that Disgaea 6 isn’t the first game to make leveling up easier. As far as I know, every game has made it at least a little bit easier for you to level up in some capacity or another. Sure, there wasn’t much of a jump from, say, Disgaea 1 to Disgaea 2, but by the time we got to Disgaea 4 and Disgaea 5, there were plenty of methods to pick and choose from. …You just had to find out what they were and actually manage to kill whatever enemies you were using to power-level. After that, though, you were golden!
Now, I’m no mind reader, nor do I claim to be, but I’m pretty sure that Demonic Intelligence was, in NIS’s mind, the “next logical step” when it came to lightening the burden for players in regard to power-leveling. Before I go any further, I’d like to make one thing clear; I am in no way against finding ways to make leveling up easier in Disgaea games. Heck, I’m even fine with cheesing the leveling process. Going out of your way to find the most efficient ways to power up your characters has always been a part of this series (and for good reason!)—but there have always been certain caveats to doing so.
The first, and most obvious, difference between previous attempts to make leveling easier and Disgaea 6‘s Demonic Intelligence is the fact that it requires zero player interaction (aside from the initial setup). I’ll get to that later, though. For now, I’d like to the second difference that, while directly related to the first, is still important enough to warrant discussion—the fact that the game can’t place any kind of soft limit on the player. While previous Disgaea games do have ways to power-level, and even ways to cheese said power-leveling, grinding your way through the ranks takes both time and effort. Even if you know what you’re doing (and especially if you don’t know what you’re doing), you’re going to have to be willing to dedicate some time to maxing your party out. Tougher enemies may pose too much for you at your current level, and, even if they don’t, you as the player have to be willing to commit some of your own time in order to see things through. Ironically, the game almost got there by adding the Juice Bar, but it appears as though they couldn’t leave well enough alone. By letting the player bypass all of these traditionally Disgaea-esque obstacles, Disgaea 6 is quite literally stripping itself of its own identity.
What Button Do I Press to Win?
Looping on back to my first point, the amount of effort that NIS put into Demonic Intelligence has very much bestowed upon it the potential to turn it into a “win button,” depending on how much effort players are willing to put into it. Initially, D.I. serves as a basic autoplay feature, which just has the player’s party mindlessly attacking. After a bit of upgrading, however, D.I eventually turns into an impressive flowchart with a considerable number of options for players to utilize, as seen in the picture above. While I won’t get into specifics for the sake of time, I will say that it is possible to have your characters to do almost anything through Demonic Intelligence, given your D.I. chart is properly plotted.
An AI system this advanced feels wildly inappropriate in a game like Disgaea 6—or any SRPG, really. While the ability to create an advanced set of commands to give to AI-controlled party members makes sense in more action games—such as with Final Fantasy XII‘s Gambit System—I fail to understand why NIS would spend so much time creating something like this while simultaneously gutting so many other features. I was always under the impression that giving the player such a complex set of commands to work with was done so that the player could work with their AI-controlled allies in a way that best suited them. All Disgaea 6 Demonic Intelligence is doing is letting you create a perfect algorithm that will let you beat any level at any given time. And, yes, I’m aware that “you can just not use it,” but do you really think that most people have enough willpower to resist unlimited EXP?
Too “Smart” for its Own Good
Disgaea 6 made a lot of changes to the series. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t for the better. And Demonic Intelligence was certainly among one of the worst. I understand wanting to craft a more player-friendly experience, but making the game play itself isn’t the way to go about it. Why take away and/or streamline so many beloved features only to give us something like Demonic Intelligence? I love Disgaea, and I hope to see the series continue on for a long time—but boy do I sure hope that they learn from the mistakes that they made with Disgaea 6.