How to get into Disgaea 5 without completely losing your mind

It took its sweet time getting here—and is missing some online functionality available on consoles—but Disgaea 5 is finally available on PC. This is only the third Disgaea game to come to our platform but it's actually the sixth game in the main series, and it's easily the most complex Disgaea yet. The sheer feature gap between Disgaea 5 and last year's PC port of Disgaea 2 is enormous and can be overwhelming, since PC players totally missed out on Disgaea's gradual growth and iteration. And even from the beginning, these were tactics games you could lose hundreds of hours in.

We've basically skipped to the end of a 300-page book after reading the first 50 pages. We've gone from studying for our learner's permit to racing in the Daytona 500. Do you see what I'm getting at? There's a lot of advanced stuff happening in Disgaea 5, and it's all happening at once. With that in mind, I want to offer some tips that will help you navigate this treacherous—but incredibly fun and rewarding—JRPG. I'm not going to meticulously explain every single mechanic in Disgaea 5, but I will help you keep your head above the water until you learn to swim for yourself.

Focus on the story chapters

Between Item World dungeons, the Chara World board game, Netherworld Investigations and plenty more, there are approximately one bazillion side activities in Disgaea 5. They're all fun and worth doing, but—and that's a huge, capital-B but—you don't want to get hung up on them. Don't be like me and spend 70 hours in the Item World before even finishing the story. Disgaea 5 is a huge game and the story is just a small part of that. It's easy to get overwhelmed.

Feel free to dip your toes in different activities as you unlock them, but always prioritize the story missions. They are the best way to come to grips with Disgaea 5's many systems, and you'll unlock new characters, activities and resources as you progress. You'll also unlock new abilities for those characters and new features within those activities, all of which will make your life easier. 

Change the difficulty and settings often

Outside of the actual settings menu, Disgaea 5 has what's called a Cheat Shop which lets you rewrite the basic rules of the game. For example, you can increase how much experience you earn by decreasing how much money you earn. At any time, you can choose between one of 20 difficulty levels. If you really want to, you can even make all your characters explode (don't do this).

The point is, Disgaea 5 was made to be broken, so use the Cheat Shop to your advantage and break it in half. If the story missions are getting too easy and you want a challenge, crank the difficulty up a couple levels. If you're short on money, jack up your gold rates. Whatever it is you're doing, always visit the Cheat Shop and tailor it to suit your current goals. And while you're at it, tinker with the settings, too. I recommend increasing the combat, text and cursor speed, and I strongly recommend playing with Japanese voices enabled. 

Check the Dark Assembly and Quest Shop regularly

I could write a hundred 'Don't forget to do this thing' tips for Disgaea 5. Instead, I'm just going to write a few, like this one. The Dark Assembly and Quest Shop located in the hub are both absolutely essential resources that are dangerously easy to ignore. The Dark Assembly lets you spend mana on "bills" which provide useful one-shot abilities like combat bonuses and grinding tricks, as well as life-changing features like upgrades to the hub's other resources.

The thing is, you aren't told when these incredibly helpful bills become available, so you should check in with the Dark Assembly regularly to see what's been added. The Quest Shop is in a similar position. If anything, it's even more important than the Dark Assembly because you have to complete quests to unlock new classes. Some quests also reward rare scrolls which you can use to add new skills to a character's repertoire, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Remember these combat essentials 

At first blush, Disgaea 5 plays like a pretty typical turn-based, grid-based JRPG. You choose your dudes, you move your dudes, you attack some dudes. Easy, right? And yeah, those basics will get you pretty far. But to get the most out of Disgaea 5's combat system, and to stand a chance in end-game battles, you're going to need to switch things up. Here are three maneuvers you can and should weave into your strategies: 

Capturing: once you unlock the Capture Squad in the Netherworld, you'll have the option to capture enemies instead of killing them. You can interrogate captured enemies to earn special items, or you can put them to work in other squads or your Netherworld Research teams. If you want, you can also gear them up and use them in combat. Whether you plan on using them as fodder or as teammates, be sure to capture enemies when you can. 

Towering: you can deploy up to 10 characters at once in Disgaea 5, and you can also stack those 10 characters on top of each other to form a tower. Towered allies have access to devastating tower attacks, and the more you use them, the more tower attacks you'll unlock. Attacking as a tower has the added advantage of distributing experience evenly among every unit in the tower, which can help with leveling. 

Throwing: to build a tower, you can simply command your allies to walk onto the same square, or you can pick them up and throw them onto that square. You can also throw allies to cover more ground in one turn, clear holes in some maps, or reach elevated platforms. Enemies can be picked up and thrown as well, and if you throw an enemy into another enemy, they'll combine and form a single, stronger enemy worth more experience. It's easy math: level 50 enemy + level 50 enemy = level 100 enemy.

Get these classes 

Speaking of combat: here are a few indispensable classes that can simplify or outright trivialize some battles. Even if you don't use these characters all the time, it's worth keeping them in your reserves. 

Armor Knight: A super tank that can defend up to three allies from enemy attacks every turn, no matter how far apart they are 

Wrestler: A pugilist who can throw allies all over the map, making large maps much easier to traverse 

Thief: A catlike miscreant who excels at stealing items from enemies, providing easy access to some of the best gear in the game 

Maid: A jack of all trades who wields unique buffs which can strengthen your allies' skills and base stats 

Professor: a support character who wields stronger versions of staple buffs 

Keep your active party compact 

Apart from the core cast of main characters, there are dozens of unlockable "generic" classes in Disgaea 5, most of which have male and female variants. You'll end up using most of them at some point, if only to unlock new classes, but that doesn't mean you need to use all of them regularly, nor should you. It's fine to have a bunch of different characters in your party, but don't try to keep them all geared and leveled—at least, not at first. You can only use 10 characters in battle, so instead of spreading your resources across dozens of characters, I recommend building a souped-up A-Team of around 10 characters. These are your go-to go-getters who will carry you through the story and into the post-game.

And don't be afraid to use the main characters—they're really good. Use them in combination with your favorite generic classes to build a balanced party with access to melee and ranged attacks, a mix of attack magic, some support magic, and at least one good healer. 

Don't sweat the small stuff 

While we're talking about building a party, I should mention that it is impossible to irreparably screw up your party or any one character in Disgaea 5. You're going to reincarnate (or respec) all your characters at some point anyway, so don't obsess over min-maxing in the early game. If you aren't happy with the way a character turns out, you can always reincarnate them or just make another one. And by the time you start worrying about that, you'll have access to insane grinding spots that will make leveling new characters a cinch. With a little time and planning, you can make any character you can imagine. Have fun with it, experiment with different classes, and don't worry about the downsides—there are none. 

And really, that's the correct approach for Disgaea 5 as a whole. Once you get your head around this beast of a game, you'll find an irresponsibly large selection of systems and strategies and stuff to do. So, do yourself a favor: apply these tips, take it one step at a time, and for the love of all things holy, read every tutorial you come across. 

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.