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Review: Dusk Diver 2 (Nintendo Switch)By juzzy At 23.08.2022 15:03

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The simple answer to the above question is 'yes'. Dusk Diver 2 is an enjoyable, stylistically satisfying action title that is even more compelling than the original. It's unable to escape some of its predecessor's pitfalls, but it nevertheless doubles down on the charm and makes a strong case for returning to the worlds of Ximending and Youshanding.

The story picks up a year after the conclusion of Dusk Diver, with Yang Yumo continuing her work at Tumaz Mart as both a store employee and inter-dimensional combatant under the supervision of the enigmatic and demanding 'Boss'. Just as she's starting to get a handle on her strange powers, the hidden world of Youshanding - which runs adjacent to Taipei's Ximending - starts to act up once again. The Chaos Beasts are growing restless…

The story in this sequel is a major upgrade, with an intriguing premise and an underlying mystery with an enjoyable payoff. Helping it tick along is the returning cast of compelling characters, which was one of the best parts of the original title. They're accompanied by some interesting new faces who likewise make an impression. Of course, those who haven't played the original will be at a distinct disadvantage, as Dusk Diver 2 loves to reference the events of the first game. Luckily, there's a 'Gallery' section with Previous Story information to bring unaware players up to speed, and the lore is straightforward enough that it's not too complicated to grasp.

The world of Ximending itself has been expanded, with more explorable areas to wander around. Sadly, it feels as lifeless as it did in 2019, especially on the inferior hardware of the Nintendo Switch. The visuals are often blurry and jagged, and the NPC density is much reduced compared to the PC and PS5 versions. Still, you don't play an action game for the hub world alone, so this likely won't be a deal breaker for most Switch players.

The real meat of Dusk Diver 2 is its combat, which has been totally overhauled. The first Dusk Diver offered a musou-like combat experience, which despite being a hit with fans, didn't offer much in the way of new ideas. Dusk Diver 2 sheds the musou style entirely, becoming more of a traditional action game that focuses on stringing together long combos and enhancing characters with new abilities and stat-boosting items.

Battles aren't a case of mowing through mindless enemies anymore; instead, there's a smaller number of more intelligent, harder hitting foes per encounter. This lends a strategic element to the beefed up combat to great effect. One of the headline additions in this sequel is that the party members from the original are now entirely playable. Leo, Bahet and Le Viada return, and can be switched between during battles to freshen up the flow - albeit with a rather hefty cooldown period. If you're worried about them all playing the same, never fear; they each have distinct combat styles and unique strengths, adding multiple new dimensions to an already refreshed gameplay loop.

Levelling up each playable character is also entirely in the hands of the player. EXP gained during battle is stored up and can be spent at your discretion, enhancing any number of stats for your party members. It allows the player to tailor Yumo, Leo, Bahet and Le Viada to their preferences, adding a level of personalisation to combat.

The combat is Dusk Diver 2's bread and butter, and it shows flashes of real greatness at times. It can be satisfying to chip away at enemy health bars with well-constructed combos, switching to another character and activating the super-powered Burst mode to finish them off. Boss battles can be really fun, too, with some unique encounters that don't allow for mere button mashing. The only substantial complaint here is that the camera sensitivity can make navigation rather sluggish, even on the max setting.

The Switch's technical shortcomings do sadly have an impact in combat, however. The frame rate can suffer from some dips in the midst of busy battles, especially when playing with a full party of four. It's not enough to make it unplayable, but it detracts from the experience in a manner that's unforgivable for a fast-paced action title. To distract from this somewhat, the environments of Youshanding have been given a facelift, with a variety of new levels each with its own aesthetic. From frozen wastelands to giant arcade-like worlds, platforming and fighting through Youshanding is more enjoyable than the singular aesthetic offered in the previous entry.

Ximending is less great, however. Where the combat has been enhanced to feel more alive, the hub world of Ximending feels noticeably less so. Of course, it is just that - a hub world to explore between battles, buffing your party with meals and undertaking a multitude of side quests that conceal Dusk Diver 2's many, many unlockables. It's sluggish to navigate on the Switch and is rife with pop-in issues.

Still, there's plenty to enjoy here. This is so clearly a labour of love for the developers, and they've improved upon the Dusk Diver world in almost every way with this sequel. It's also due a day one patch on the Switch, which may address some of the technical problems mentioned in this review. Nevertheless, it's perfectly playable in this state, and fun for those who enjoy this style of action RPG.

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Final Score
While [i]Dusk Diver 2[/i] mostly feels geared towards existing fans of the series, those looking to step into this franchise for the first time will still find it rewarding - provided they are down with the beat-em-up combat and anime tropes. The story is more compelling and the gameplay improvements are most welcome, resulting in an across-the-board upgrade to a well-liked hidden gem. The great thing about [i]Dusk Diver 2[/i] is that if it looks like your kind of game, then it probably is. Just bear in mind that the Switch version has some technical issues, at least of this writing.

6

/10

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