It is often said that home is where the heart is and, in the case of protagonist Yang Yumo of the action RPG Dusk Diver 2, that means at least one of her “homes” is located in the heart of bustling Taipei City. More specifically, the neighborhood of Ximending and its surrounding areas where her “home away from home” workplace, Tumaz Mart, is located. A seemingly innocuous convenience store often struggling to make ends meet, Tumaz Mart is actually a front for a group tasked with protecting the mostly ignorant human realm from various interdimensional threats.
Yumo is central to Tumaz Mart’s undertaking as she is a Dusk Diver: a human whose access to spiritual and dimensional forces allows her to combat enemies of Taipei City and the world at large. She acquired this unique ability a year ago when, during the first game, she and her friend Yusha were thrust into the affairs of Kunlun, a higher dimension monitoring the human realm. Now a college student assisting Tumaz Mart in her spare time, Yumo faces a potentially greater threat when a mysterious boy appears in the otherworldly dimensional realm of Youshanding as it bleeds into the human realm. Following the enigmatic child is a mysterious “Dark Diver” hunting him down. At the same time, truths about Kunlun and its battle with the peculiar Elysium faction over energy resources could spell disaster for the world at large.
Yumo does not face these threats alone. Along with the cheerful Yusha, she is joined by the following Kunlunians: Leo, a gruff-looking guy with past military connections and an insatiable sweet tooth; Bahet, a musician finding himself in the human realm away from his influential family; and Le Viada, a bouncily carefree model with little patience for Kunlun politics. They’re given orders for both store upkeep and Youshanding events by the appropriately named Boss, a profits-obsessed scientist stuck in the body of a ceramic bear. Joining this mismatched “family” is the mischievous Nemea, a little girl central to the first game who now lives an everyday child’s life.
Tumaz Mart also picks up two brand new employees for Dusk Diver 2. One is Bette, a ninja-maid linked to Bahet, who doesn’t quite understand human social cues. The other is Ull, Le Viada’s gangster-acting underling. They’re a fun and likable bunch, and you get a strong sense of who they all are. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite the “2” in Dusk Diver 2, playing the first game isn’t required to enjoy the sequel. From a narrative stance, the game effectively fills in the blanks about the previous year’s happenings and even has a more in-depth summary of the first game’s events accessible in the Tumaz Mart lounge area.
Gameplay in Dusk Diver 2 is easy enough to pick up. The game starts with a relatively extensive tutorial that covers combat basics. Attacks utilize button combos for either light, speedy attacks or heavy, brute force ones. As you learn skills and strengthen them by raising their levels, you can also assign specific individual skills for characters to immediately access during battle. Depending on how much SP you have (a meter that depletes when certain skills are used but replenishes as you fight), you can initiate devastating special attacks; each party member has unique special abilities tailored to their individual combat styles.
There is also the BP gauge that increases as you fight, eventually putting you in a heightened combat state called Burst. Successfully performing special moves during Burst raises a special percentage bar. Reaching 180% enables your character to unleash a powerful super move called Burst Ultimate. If you reach 200%, you’ll unleash a stronger variation called Burst Ultimate EX that’s guaranteed to inflict massive damage to any enemy you face! You can also dodge, time counterattacks, and break armor on certain types of enemies, including bosses, to leave them dazed and vulnerable. The combo-based combat is fast and fluid, reminiscent of a fighting game. Beating hordes of enemies or taking down singular gigantic creatures is quite fun in Dusk Diver 2!
Armor is split into rank and level categories, with characters having to be at or above a certain level to equip specific pieces of armor. The higher an armor’s rank, the higher the chance to equip more or stronger orbs to it, providing further boosts or stat increases. Orbs are created using crafting materials found throughout the game, which can also be sold for extra income or used to upgrade weapons. You can get some truly powerful builds with the right armor and orb pieces, though the system is more simplistic than comparable customization features in other ARPGs.
As Yumo and company explore dungeon areas in Youshanding, they will find or scavenge collectible objects of interest. Such items include Dragon Vein Shards (for a particular sidequest), outfit designs, treasure chests, or even destructible boxes leading to Dragon Vein Wafers (a type of currency used by Boss to fund weapon upgrades and orb fusions, as well as to spend on higher level character skills). Most dungeon areas are straightforward, but there are some with directional puzzles to solve or visual light puzzles for bypassing enemy encounters. To the game’s credit, each dungeon provides a somewhat different experience.
Although you spend a lot of time in Youshanding, you also spend a fair amount in the human realm. Tumaz Mart is your base of operations. When there, you can talk to your coworkers, collect helpful food items from its shelves, upgrade weapons and fuse orb enhancements for your armor pieces. You can also rest and recover health at the lounge, change character outfits, look at a gallery of acquired images, listen to game music you purchased at the in-game music store, see a list of all the foods you’ve eaten, and look at character profiles. From there, you can explore Ximending and other areas of Taipei City to your heart’s content!
Taipei City is a bustling metropolis where people from all walks of life mill about, either perusing the shops and restaurants or taking in the scenery. Advertisements and merchant stalls are around every corner. The bustle in the crowded streets is palpable as the party makes its way around town. You can eat at, or order takeout from, restaurants. Visiting Yawen’s clothing stores shows what new outfits and fashion accessories you’ve uncovered during your adventure. At the Red House, May hands out gourmet cards whose special menu options allow you to check your progress. Why not take trips to the local anime shop or music store too? Optional battles can be initiated by interacting with people possessed by Chaos Beasts. Performing rituals at shrines opens up challenging special battles that offer high-level materials as rewards.
The MRT Station allows you access to the various areas surrounding Ximending and eventually areas of Youshanding. I must say, The maps used in Dusk Diver 2 are extremely detailed and precisely pinpoint quest locations. They also indicate what type of quest you’ll partake in. The maps also show where special battles are unlocked, the locations of food stalls, and other points of interest. As a result, I never found myself getting lost.
There’s so much to do in the city beyond visiting places and collecting items, photographs, and music. Outside of the main storyline, the biggest chunk of time is devoted to sidequests helping NPCs with personal issues. Sidequests typically send you from place to place to fetch items, though they occasionally require Chaos Beast fights or visits to Youshanding. A few characters, such as reoccurring tourists Ai and Emily, have multiple sidequests attached to them, offering a semblance of life in Taipei City. Party members and Tumaz Mart allies also have their own personal story quests, which are the most story-heavy and involved. Doing sidequests and specialized Chaos Beast fights nets you generous rewards, and I found myself completing even the less interesting ones.
Despite being a generally enjoyable experience, Dusk Diver 2 has a few design weaknesses. Sidequests, while neat from a narrative building purpose, aren’t the most memorable. The game also habitually drags out or prolongs events, making it feel longer than necessary. The pacing was particularly odd in the last couple of chapters, with the sudden chunk of late-game free time to finish up sidequests not making much narrative sense when the stakes had been raised so high. Many sidequests also ignore obvious visual disturbances, making them incongruent with the main plot. Other sidequests also get a bit aggravating when your progress within them gets hindered multiple times.
The immensely fun battle system is also quite easy to break. The active party consists of Yumo and three others, where you control one character while the other three are AI supported. Because your characters share the same experience pool, and Yumo is the one constant party member, it makes strategic sense to pool all of your experience into leveling her up. I maxed out Yumo’s levels before leveling the others, and she became super-powered enough to take on enemy hordes by herself. Later fights were not incredibly challenging at all. The challenge lies more with the dynamic camera. Camera angles are not fixed, and it sometimes spins around wildly during fights, making them disorienting. It gets better if you lock onto a target, but that could be bothersome when fighting large groups of enemies.
The AI for the other party members wasn’t particularly aggressive, even when I opted for that via tactical layout choices. Yumo often did the heavy lifting unless I happened to guide or knock an enemy directly into a party member’s vicinity. I love having party members from a story standpoint, but the party management system here feels like an afterthought.
While the game autosaves at regular intervals, manual saving limits you to save points. You can only save in the lounge area of Tumaz Mart while in the human realm and at save points while traversing through Youshanding. While in Youshanding, you also lose access to your battle prep menu options unless at a save point, which also grants access to the Tumaz Mart storefront. This means you have to wait until you reach a save point to level up, equip gear, or eat stat-enhancing food. This is mildly frustrating when several lengthy back-to-back battles occur before reaching another save point.
From a graphics stance, Dusk Diver 2 won’t break any current-gen console’s graphical capabilities. The game uses cel-shading with a clear anime influence to great effect, though there is a dubbing oddity in certain scenes where lip movements and talking are wholly mismatched. For example, some characters say a lot, but their lips don’t move at all. The game also uses beautiful and highly detailed portraits for more important characters during scenes, but those didn’t match the more drab and less-detailed character models. Generic NPCs lack facial features entirely; this is an artistic choice not everyone appreciates.
I like the colorful ambiance, especially how the menus and UI are playfully designed. It is, however, easy to spot the influence of titles like Persona 4 Golden. This game does not have as high a budget as others, but I think the developers creatively got around that issue rather successfully. The fanservice is ridiculously over the top, particularly with certain characters like Le Viada. All I could do was roll my eyes and go along with it since the characters themselves are well-written. In addition, the clothes-losing mechanic for showing major damage is equal opportunity for both male and female characters, so it strangely didn’t bother me as much!
Dusk Diver 2‘s OST is an eclectic blend of sounds. Some songs lean heavily into the pop sphere, while others have more rock, techno, or metal-inspired sounds. I enjoyed listening to most of the tracks, from the more calming ones that play while exploring Taipei City to the more intense dungeon themes of Youshanding. There are even a few well-done vocal tracks! In terms of dubbing, you can opt to either play the game with Chinese or Japanese voices. Both language versions feature wonderful voice work, and I opted for the Chinese voices simply because the game takes place in Taiwan. The localization has a few errors but is a generally solid translation that gives a good sense of the story and characters.
Truth be told, you have seen Dusk Diver 2‘s story and characters before. If you’ve watched enough anime or played enough JRPGs, then you’ve seen similar characters and plots. However, the way the narrative is conveyed helps the title stand out. The plot motivates you enough to keep playing, and I liked the unexpected final villain reveal. The characters, while undoubtedly trope-y, are all likable, well-developed, and have some great moments. Even minor characters get their time to shine. Protagonist Yumo is a helpful Good Samaritan who is easy to root for, and I liked her speech about how most people just want to live their lives peacefully. The plot and characters wormed into my heart so much that the ending truly made me smile.
Dusk Diver 2 isn’t a flawless game, nor the most original. However, it wears its heart on its sleeve and provides a lot of enjoyment if you’re willing to give it a chance. It feels like a homecoming in many respects, even if it’s a series you’re only just now experiencing for the first time. That’s rather special in a way. For action RPG fans looking for a colorfully fun time, Dusk Diver 2 might be worth a look.