Overview – developed by WANIN International, with publishing handled by Idea Factory International and Reef Entertainment, Dusk Diver 2 is the sequel to the original action brawler set in Ximending, Taiwan. Continue the story of Yumo and her friends as they battle the monsters of Youshanding, explore Taipei and uncover the mysteries around them. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4/5 systems, with links to the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Dusk Diver 2 that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story for Dusk Diver 2. I will be breaking down the gameplay into different segments, giving detailed coverage of the different elements of the game.
Story – a year after the events of the previous game, Yumo, the protagonist of Dusk Diver is now a college student, while also working a daily part-time job. Although she is still suffering from the aftermath of the events from the year prior, life is slowly getting back to normal and she is living her best life. However, on a seemingly ordinary day, the chaos beasts starting reappearing in the streets of the alternate dimension of Youshanding, meaning Yumo must go into battle once again.
Gameplay – Dusk Diver 2 is an action RPG set in the iconic neigbourhood of Ximending, in the city of Taipei, Taiwan. Taking place over several chapters, the story for this title plays out in two distinct places, the human realm and the alternate dimension of Youshanding. The story uses these environments for two distinct purposes, with the city of Taipei being a sprawling city to explore, whereas the dimension of Youshanding is where the player engages in battle with its denizens.
First I want to discuss the mechanics of the free roaming areas of Ximending and the neighboring areas, so here are the core features when exploring the human realm;
- Explorable Areas – the player can roam the district of Ximending, along with more areas that will expand the overworld map that the player will be able to explore during the game. There are various inhabitants that can be encountered in this area, breathing life into the world of Dusk Diver 2.
- Shops – there are several shops that can be found in Taipei, including restaurants, a clothing store and more. The available stores will expand over time, giving the player more places to shop with their hard earned money.
- Home Base – the Tumaz Mart is the home base for Yumo and her team. While here the player is able to rest and recover health, save their game while in the human realm, purchase essential items/upgrades for their party and more.
- Side Quests – throughout the city, there will be side quests that pop up for the player to complete. These quests are time sensitive for the most part, with the capability for quests to be missed if the narrative progresses further before completion.
- The Possessed – some citizens of the city can be possessed by chaos beasts, sending the player to a special dimension to engage in battle if contact is made. These battles can be tied to side quests, as well as be used for special extended missions that can be completed over time.
- Battle Preparation – the player can alter equipment for the party, eat food from the various restaurants in the city to gain buffs and change different stats. The player can also level up their characters stats and unlocking skills, by spending EXP points and Dragon Wafers that are earned during battles.
With the human realm details covered, let’s move onto the core mechanics of Youshanding;
- Dungeon Crawling Exploration – the environments of Youshanding consist of large labyrinthine zones, with dungeon crawling style movement and exploration. While in Youshanding, there are battles that will activate when players enter different areas, with the only way to progress being to defeat all enemies. There are also objectives like collecting items, opening gates and finding hidden treasures.
- Safe Zones – there are safe zones throughout Youshanding, where the player can heal, save and prepare for the next battle by performing the actions possible in battle prep while in the city. It is important to use these sections frequently, as they will keep the party healthy during the missions in Youshanding.
- Boss Battles – at different points in the story of Dusk Diver 2, there are large scale boss battles where the player must fight against a very strong enemy. These battles can be very tough and will push the player to their limits, dealing massive damage to the party members and taking them down easily if the player is not careful.
- Item Collection – as the story progresses, new missions in Youshanding can be unlocked, with the player being tasked to collect special items that are scattered throughout the dungeons. These items can be used with special NPC characters to unlock special items and unlocks while in the City.
- Free Exploration – during the course of the game, the areas that have been explored will be opened up for Free Exploration. This is where the player will be able to go back into the previous zones and explore them again, finding items that have been missed, new treasures and battle with enemies to gain addition EXP and currency.
The combat for Dusk Diver 2 is fast and frantic, with an easy to pick up combat system. The player has access to a range of attacks in the move-set for each character, with light, heavy and special attacks that can be linked together into satisfying combos. There are also special counter skills that can be used to halt the enemy, augment character skills and create openings for a counter attack. The special and counter attacks use the resource SP, which must be recharged when it is exhausted.
To make the special/counter attacks more consistent, the player can gain SP and recharge the exhausted meter by dealing damage to enemies with combo attacks. Alongside the SP focused skills, there are two additional special features that can be used in battle. The first is the Break Strike, a special attack that deals massive damage and generates large amounts of BP (burst points). The BP fills a special meter that the player can activate in battle to augment their skills.
This special meter is called the Burst Meter, a special system that increases the attack power and SP recovery for the active character. This power increases in three stages, which are shown by a percentage meter on screen. When the onscreen meter reaches the maximum level, a special Ultimate Burst Skill can be used, with the potential to deal catastrophic damage to those it hits. This burst state will last for as long as the yellow bar has energy in it, with Break Strike attacks extending the duration.
Now attacks aren’t the only skills that the player can use in combat. There are also defense and support skills that the player can make use of. The first is a dodge-roll which will allow the player to move avoid attacks, granting full SP refills if the timing is just right to dodge. The second is party tactics, where the members of the party can be called upon to assist, either by jumping in to use a skill to attack the enemy or to move independently and act for themselves.
The party tactics and support system is a key part to surviving in battle with the enemies of Youshanding, as party members will be incapacitated if their health is depleted. When this happens, they will be unable to continue during a battle unless they are revived or the battle is cleared. To help prevent defeat in battle, healing items are usable, health drops can be collected and a one-time use Crisis Dodge can be deployed when health falls below a specific point.
When enemies are defeated, they drop Dragon Wafers and loot for characters to collect. The loot consists of enemy parts that can be used for upgrades, item synthesis and be sold in the home base to be used in restaurants to purchase food. There are also unidentified equipment drops that can be identified when clearing battles with the possessed, or when entering the safe zones in Youshanding. Last to discuss is the rewards for clearing battle sequences in the game.
Once the last enemy is a battle is defeated, a results screen will show on screen, showing the performance of the player in combat. The first reward is EXP which is provided with a base level, with extra bonuses for combos and defeating enemies with the Burst Ultimate attack. The second is Dragon Wafers, which are provided for fulfilling special requirements. These are performing perfect dodges and counters, activating the Burst meter and successful Break Strikes.
There is much more that this game has to discover, but I want to leave some of the surprises that the game has for players as just as that. Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving into the other elements of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control layout for this title is easy to pick up, with two layouts for city exploration and dungeon exploration/combat. The movement in both modes is controlled by the thumbsticks, with the left moving the character and the right for the camera. The attacks and interaction buttons are mapped to the face buttons, with the support, special and evasive skills on the D-pad/shoulders. The inputs are relatively lag free, but there are instances where inputs can be missed, but generally the game plays very well with a pro-controller and Joy-Cons.
Difficulty – this title has a fairly moderate difficulty curve, with a gradually escalating challenge as the game progresses. While the game does lack difficulty settings, there are ways to adjust the challenge that can be faced. In order to make the game either easier or harder, the player can choose when to level up their party, alter their gear and more. There are a few unfortunate spikes in difficulty, but these are few and far between, making for an experience that most can enjoy.
Presentation – Visually, this is a solid title with an anime style aesthetic to the characters, with beautifully drawn portraits and character art. The details from the real world locations add to the immersion of the world, showing the different elements of Ximending and Taipei. The environments for Youshanding become wild and fantastical, with distorted versions of the real world that diverge significantly from their human realm counterpart.
The visual performance for this title is solid and while it is downgraded visually for the Nintendo Switch, the game performs very well, using resolution scaling to maintain a stable frame rate. The textures and models for characters can look fuzzy, this doesn’t detract from the experience as the overall visual fidelity isn’t significantly impacted. The game plays very well in both Handheld and docked play modes on the Switch, even with the weaker hardware of the system.
The sound for Dusk Diver 2 retains the charm and spirit of the original, with upbeat and happy musical tracks for the city of Taipei, alongside tense and exciting rocky tracks for the dungeons. The music sets the tone for each beat of the story, increasing the engagement of the game with the player. The voice work for this release is very good, with Japanese and Chinese vocal tracks available for players, with a cast that play their parts well adding to the overall experience.
Final Thoughts – I am a fan of the Dusk Diver series as I played and very much enjoyed the previous title, so I was very excited to get my hands on the sequel. There are many improvements over the previous game, with the expanded world map to explore, reworked party system and new characters that make the world feel more alive. I found the story very engaging, with the plot line and its twists and turns pulling me in, as well as a new game plus mode that had me returning for a second round.
I have no issues with recommending this game to players of the original, as well as those who enjoy roaming brawlers. There is plenty of content on offer, with the plentiful side quests and exploration of both Youshanding and Ximending. The game does have its unfortunate flaws, due to the limitations of the Nintendo Switch hardware, such as the slightly fuzzy graphics due to resolution scaling in handheld mode, but it doesn’t ruin the game experience.
In the end, I give Dusk Diver 2 a final score of 4. This is a solid brawler that brings the historic Ximending District of Taipei to life, along with the strange other world of Youshanding. The action goes at a solid pace, the cast of characters have their own unique charm and a substantial amount of story/side content that keeps the player engaged. If you want to check this title for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below (Out August 30th).
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)