It’s been a long time since this particular reviewer was a student, but if memory serves it can definitely be a bit of a stressful time. Keeping up to date with your studies, holding down a part-time job, whilst also hanging out with friends can be surprisingly tricky. Now just imagine how much more difficult it must be if you also had to fit beating up huge inter-dimensional beasties into your schedule.
Those are the cards that fate has dealt to our energetic young protagonist, Yang Yumo, in Dusk Diver 2. Taking place a year after the original game, the sequel sees you back in Ximending, a trendy shopping district in Taipei, where you’ll be draining Dragon Vein energy, fighting Chaos Beasts, and chatting with visitors from other dimensions. There's an in-game summary which tries to get newcomers up to speed, but it’ll definitely help to have played the original; the game assumes you’re already familiar with many of the returning characters and terminology.
It seems that, despite previously restoring balance to the dimensions, strange fissures have started to open up across the city and violent Chaos Beasts are appearing in nearby realms. What follows is a not particularly memorable story involving shady corporations and aggressive military organisations. Despite the somewhat lacklustre story, it’s worth sticking with things in order to get to know the charming cast of characters as well as experience the entertaining combat system.
Most chapters have a similar game flow. Yumo will be chatting with her fellow co-workers at her part-time job at the local store and will then go out and explore Ximending or hop on the Metro to explore a nearby area. You’ll then come across a rift which will take you to a strange alternate dimension, where you’ll have to battle until you reach the exit.
There are some really interesting and unique dungeon designs here. For example, one of the first dungeons you experience will have you exploring a ginormous arcade. Dodging huge air hockey pucks while also trying to hack away at your enemies definitely makes for some entertaining fights. Every time you get access to a new area it’s always fun to see if there are any new quirky obstacles that will be thrown your way.
A lot of your time will be spent beating up Chaos Beasts, so it’s a good job the combat is pretty solid. Yumo will have to take on dozens of enemies but this time around you’ll also be able to switch between other party members. Each combatant has a different weapon and combat style. Whether you like the idea of playing as Leo and getting up close and personal with his fists, or taking a more distant approach with Viada and her handguns, there’s sure to be a combat style that works for you.
It’s a blast to play as Yumo and her friends, flinging yourself gracefully across the battle arena, and throwing out flashy special moves looks great. It also feels really satisfying to successfully dodge enemy attacks, especially as doing it with perfect timing will briefly slow down time. It can be a little tricky to get the feel for the correct timings, but it shouldn’t take too long before you’re beating up your enemies with ease.
While it’s great that there are multiple characters for you to switch between, there isn’t really much incentive to do so. It’s not like certain characters are noticeably stronger against specific enemy types or have any extra abilities that enable you to explore different areas. Instead, it feels much more efficient to just focus on levelling up one or two of your favourites and ignore the rest.
Talking of enemy types, there’s not much variety here. There are many times where you’ll be introduced to a new foe but it turns out to just be a slightly different coloured version of something you’ve already been fighting, with a larger health bar of course. The frequent battles can start to wear thin, especially in some of the longer dungeons, but there is an attempt to spice things up with some of the boss fights. One particularly memorable battle will see you trying to destroy a boss' armour by flinging its own bombs back at it, all while dodging out of the way of its laser attacks.
When you’re not running around trying to save the world there are plenty of side quests to keep you busy. Sadly, many of these tasks will see you completing some pretty mundane chores. Sure, handing out flyers to promote Ximending might make you feel like a good citizen but it’s hardly the most glamorous or exciting way to spend your time.
Visually, Dusk Diver 2 looks great. Character designs are packed with plenty of charm, and you can also pick up new outfits to personalise your party. The vibrant colour palette makes Ximending feel warm and inviting while the dungeon dimensions have an eerie, otherworldly feel to them. Of course a special shout-out has to be given to all the absolutely delicious-looking food and drinks that you can buy to buff your party.
If you’re a fan of the original Dusk Diver, there’s plenty here for you to enjoy. Better combat and more time to hang out with the delightful staff of the Tumaz Mart is sure to please, but it's a shame that both the story and many of the side quests are fairly forgettable. Overall, this is a fairly solid hack-and-slash adventure with some really creative dungeons to explore, but it does have a little bit too much busywork and not enough variety.