Sunday, May 19, 2019

Devil May Cry 5 Review

After chipping away at it in bits and pieces over the course of a month, my first serious foray into a character action game has come to an end. While Devil May Cry 5's campaign of demon-slaying action had its ups and downs, I largely enjoyed the ride. Since I wrote pretty in-depth impressions in my previous post, this review will primarily focus on my thoughts on the second half of the game. Since its natural for some chinks in the armor to emerge as any game goes on, these observations may come across as stacked toward the negative, but keep in my that most of the positive things I had to say in my impressions still hold true.

Anyway, without further adieu...

  • In the first few of DMC5's missions, you play as the gun-and-sword wielding Nero. In subsequent missions, two more characters become available, V and Dante. Most of the game's 20 missions require you to play as a particular character, but a few allow you to choose who you'll control at the start of the mission.
  • Shortly after writing up my early impressions, I got to play as the game's new character, V the summoner. Conceptually, V is a really cool character; he himself if very frail, but can summon demonic pets (primarily a bird and a panther) to fight his enemies for him. However, since demons can't kill each other, his pets can only reduce foes to a sliver of health and V himself has to finish them off by whacking them with his cane. This creates an interesting situation where the player is controlling V with the analog stick to keep him a safe distance from harm, while using the face buttons to send in the bird and panther to attack on their own until its time to deliver the finisher. While this is a really novel concept, I found myself missing being more directly involved in the action. Once I got used to his mechanics, I realized that V had the least depth from a gameplay standpoint and playing as him became stale after a while. I continued to enjoy his presence in the story, however. The scrawny, soft-spoken, and mysterious V was a nice contrast to loud tough guys like Nero and Dante.
  • Later in the game, the original DMC protagonist, Dante, becomes available. Initially, he plays extremely similarly to Nero, with his use of a sword and handguns. The thing is, Dante is the most expandable and customizable character in the game. Pretty much every Dante mission involves acquiring a new technique or weapon. Before long, he has an arsenal of four melee weapons, four guns, four different types of martial arts styles, and two types of demonic power-ups. It's a lot to get your head around in the second half of the game. Once I figured out which of his weapons and fighting styles worked for me, I pretty much stuck to those to avoid confusing myself. Playing a character as versatile as Dante made the other two characters, especially V, feel somewhat limiting.
  • Due to their initial similarities, I'd get a little thrown off every time the game would have me switch between Nero and Dante. In time, I came to appreciate Nero's third weapon, that I neglected to mention in my impressions, his prosthetic arm. The arm's main use is as a grappling hook, but it also comes with a variety of attachments that each execute their own special moves. In a pinch, Nero can also remove an arm attachment and detonate it like a bomb to clear a room. I never really got proficient at tactically swapping attachments in a given situation, but they were fun to play around with none-the-less. 
  • There are two female demon hunters that join Nero and Dante on their quest, Lady and Trish, but they never become playable characters. I thought that was a little disappointing. 
  • My biggest gripe about this game is its rigid difficulty selection. As I mentioned in my impressions, changing between "Human" (easy) or "Devil Hunter" (hard) requires restarting the campaign. I ultimately ended up doing this so that I could switch to Devil Hunter. Unfortunately, Human is so easy that I realized I could skip blocking or dodging enemy attacks altogether and still survive. This made the game feel kind of boring. Devil Hunter felt about right since it gave the combat stakes and required me to make effective use of my characters' skills. The game also throws enough healing and revive items at you that I never had to worry about getting stuck.
  • While Devil Hunter made the gameplay much more exciting, it did cause some of the late-game boss battles to drag on a little longer than I would have liked. I found myself making liberal use of Gold Orbs (instant revives) during the last few boss battles just so that I didn't have to restart them if I got knocked out. The game reduces your score for doing this, but I was glad to have the option to keep moving forward. I'm sure that if I took the time to really learn the late-game bosses' patterns, I could have gotten through them without reviving, but I have too many other games I want to get to!
  • Ultimately, I feel like DMC5's generosity with revival items makes the Human difficulty level irrelevant. I heavily abused Gold Orbs, which fully revive your character, during the game's last few bosses, and still had 19 left in my inventory as the credits rolled on my Devil Hunter playthrough... and this is without making any conscious effort to hoard them!
  • Beating the game on Devil Hunter unlocks even harder difficulty levels, but I didn't have a chance to try them.
Level Design
  • In my impressions, I mentioned that I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of level designs. It seems like the game designers may have used up most of their ideas early on, as many of the later stages eschew the platforming and puzzles for more kill rooms. This may play to the game's biggest strength, its combat, but it still would have been nice to see these other mechanics incorporated more evenly throughout.
  • At first, I found the lore and story to be intriguing. As the game went on, I found that the plot simplified to a fairly typical heroes-vs-the-big-bad affair (similar to a shonen anime). Also similar to a shonen anime, DMC5 would sometimes insert bizarre comedic gags, usually from Dante, that felt a little out of place.
  • The game's characters kept me interested in watching this game's plethora of cut scenes. While most of these characters are pretty firmly rooted in their tropes, I found that they were just fun to watch.
As the credits, rolled on Devil May Cry 5, I was certainly ready for it to be over, but I also really enjoyed the ride. For me, a game of this style and length was just right to give me a story and some action in a streamlined way; a great break from all the lengthy RPGs I tend to play. I don't think character action games or the DMC series will ever rank too high for me among my favorite genres or franchises, but I can definitely appreciate them now. I'll be keeping an eye out for another game like this next time I feel the need for a change of pace (in fact I took a break while writing this to rewatch the trailer for Astral Chain 😅).

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 14 hours, Devil Hunter (i.e. hard) difficulty

Note: I flip-flopped between a 3 and 4 for this game's score a couple of times as I played it, but ultimately decided to round up.