Thursday, September 15, 2011

Disgaea 4: 10 Hour Checkpoint

Item World, where freetime goes to die.
Having finished Chapter 2 of the plot at the end of the 5 hour checkpoint i decided it was time to dive into the Item World element of Disgaea 4. However, to describe my opinion of Item World I have to explain how it has changed from previous iterations and discuss the mechanical side of Disgaea games.

Item World Basics:
Item World itself is a side-area of the game used to improve your items. This is accomplished by working your way through a random dungeon associated with the item you want to improve. After completing 10 floors of one of these dungeons you are given an opportunity to leave, alternatively there is a special item that can be used to leave the Item World early. You can also enter the same Item World several times, picking up on the floor you previously stopped at. 

Item World and Leveling:
Item Worlds act as an optimal place for leveling. Each item has an initial experience level for its monsters, and each floor you clear leads to progressively tougher enemies worth even more experience. While you can gain experience by replaying Story missions, it is often far less efficient than attempting an Item World of an appropriate starting level.
Additionally, completing floors in Item World increases the stats of an item, and allows you to create items vastly superior to those that will be readily available from the item shops.

Item World Layout:
One of the major features of Item World, which goes back to the original Disgaea, is the use of complex random maps. It's not unusual to get a highly diverse mixture of monsters and condition panels that make each floor unique and interesting. This new version also adds a branching paths map and known event locations which makes Item World feel more interactive, and provides additional motivation to go 'one more floor.'

New Features:
I was pleasantly surprised by  the number of new features that have been added to Item World. A Mini-Map displaying event location gives you guidance, which can help inform what path you take through Item World. Item World suddenly feels a lot less like grinding down a tower, and more trying to maneuver toward events you want. 
The choice of paths is a new addition to Item World and has the effect of either making the individual item better, or making the stat improving residents better. The advantage of improving the residents is that they can then be transferred to other items, so the branching paths make you chose between short term power or long term improvement.
Another new feature added to Item World is Player generated Pirate Crews, a potentially very difficult but interesting random encounter compared to the previously fixed Pirate Crew encounters. Disgaea 4 has added a number of network features to this newest iteration of the Disgaea series, with the ability to create your own Council Senators and Pirates to gum up the online works and make the game feel like more of a community of players.
There are several other additions to Item World as well such as Leveling Spheres and special event platforms, all of which seem to help break up the monotony that Item World can sometimes have. 

WTF Moments:
Is that Pirate riding a spinning space turtle?!?

Closing Thoughts:
Having spent almost this entire checkpoint in Item World and the Cam-Pain map, I now have an appreciation for the new features of Disgaea 4. While the Story hasn't completely sold me yet, the improvements to Item World and the creation of the Cam-Pain map features, as well as the addition of several new online features, have sold me on this latest addition to the Disgaea series. I'm impressed with their taking the Item World mechanics, that have been more or less the same between all the iterations of the Disgaea family of games, and improved it noticeably.

Next time, the twenty hour checkpoint. Advancing the Story, and the lure of side-quests.

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