After launching on PC earlier this year, JFI Games’ Dusk Diver 2 has made its way to consoles three years after the original game. While Dusk Diver was seen as a solid foundation, it lacked in several departments. Sadly, while Dusk Diver 2 makes some steps in the right direction, it comes with a host of its own problems that hold it back from being great.
A musou-style action RPG, Dusk Diver 2 takes place in the district of Ximending in Taipei and puts you in the shoes of Yang Yumo one year after the events of the first game, as she struggles to fully get to grips with her newfound dragon vein power. Yumo and the crew at Tumaz Mart (now joined by Nemea, the antagonist of the original game) are now dealing with any lingering dimensional fissures from Youshanding, the otherworldly version of Ximending and home to the chaos beasts.
Eventually, Yumo and the gang run into a mysterious boy in Youshanding and are assailed by a figure known only as the Dark Diver, who seeks the boy for unknown reasons. While this is going on it’s revealed that a rival group known only as Elysium is trying to wrestle jurisdiction of Youshanding and the Dragon Vein control system from the current holders, the Kunlunians. While Dusk Diver 2’s story takes a while to get going, it picks up towards the end to tell a good story, well-written with a strong supporting cast of characters. It’s also a story that you can get engaged in without playing the original game; while some elements may be a bit confusing, a short recap in the gallery gets you up to speed.
Dusk Diver's musou-style gameplay returns for the sequel. However, some changes have been made to the encounter design, and that's where the game’s biggest flaw comes to light. A lot of the fights in the original game fit that hack 'n' slash style, with loads of small enemies that you absolutely rip through and some larger ones peppered in there. The sequel’s fights are more in line with the likes of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, typically with four or five enemies that put up more of a fight — which is a completely valid option if you have the moveset complexity of a Devil May Cry or a Bayonetta. Musou relative combat’s simplicity works when paired with a large amount of mindless grunts as a sort of power fantasy; Dusk Diver 2’s decision to focus on fewer, larger enemies leaves combat feeling like a chore.
Not only is your moveset limited, but the enemies themselves offer up next to no challenge; this is paired with each foe being an absolute damage sponge. There were countless times when we would spend minutes just juggling the same enemy to take down their gargantuan health bar while not taking a single hit. This is multiplied by some of the boss fights, with the worst offender being a robot who has a health bar for each of its legs and spends the entire fight running away while performing an AOE spin attack. It’s a shame because in other ways the game does significantly improve on its predecessor in the combat department. Leo, La Viada, and Bahet, the Kunlunian guardians who were used as assists in the previous game, are now fully playable with their own unique movesets. That being said, we ended up spending 90% of our time as Leo, as his ability to deal the most damage made those long spongy fights more bearable.
Dungeon design is also a mixed bag this time around. Some offer up unique gimmicks like the opening gatcha machine dungeon or the Ice-based one later in the game. However, a lot of the dungeons devolve into long corridors in which you fight a group of enemies, walk to the next room, fight another group, and repeat. This is coupled with the game reusing locations like the highways or the underground passages, the latter of which shows up in four separate chapters. The encounter design also has a habit of feeling unnecessarily drawn out. You can spend five minutes beating on two spongy waves of enemies only to be faced with two more waves. These aren’t even at climactic moments; sometimes they just happen in the middle of dungeons, meaning specific encounters can long outstay their welcome.
Dusk Diver isn’t shy about showing its inspirations. Multiple elements of the game’s visual design — from the HUD to the silhouettes of civilians in the distance — feel ripped straight out of Persona 5, while the city of Ximending feels heavily inspired by Yakuza’s Kamurocho. There is nothing wrong with homage, but it does make the shortcomings in these parts of the game a bit more prevalent.
Like Yakuza, Dusk Diver plays host to a selection of sub-missions — both for random civilians and with your teammates — with rewards that range from cash to ultimate attacks for your teammates. While we didn’t complete every sub-mission, a lot of them followed the same template; go to place, talk to person, go to other place, get item/fight/talk to another person, repeat. While we may have just had bad luck in missing more unique missions, it certainly didn’t feel varied enough for our liking.
Performance is decent on the Switch, running at 30fps in both handheld and docked mode. We did encounter slowdown a fair few times, although these instances were typically during animations in which you aren’t pressing buttons anyway. The game could use a patch on the script front, however, as it’s littered with spelling and grammar errors. It’s not enough to affect the experience too negatively, but it’s common enough to be noticeable. The publisher has stated there will be a day one patch for text fixes, so hopefully they'll be zapped come launch day.
Dusk Diver 2, like the first game, has potential; the cast of characters and storyline are both engaging, and the world could definitely host more interesting stories in the future. However, this sequel sadly fumbles things on the gameplay front, with a disappointing mixture of damage-sponge enemies and drawn-out encounters. While we didn't enjoy Dusk Diver 2 as much as we had hoped, there is something there — a kernel of potential as yet unrealised — and there are going to be people who absolutely adore it despite its faults. For us, a potential Dusk Diver 3 will hopefully boast combat engaging enough to match the writing on display here.