2019 has been an excellent year for action games. We’ve seen the return of Devil May Cry, the Nintendo Switch got the excellent Astral Chain and now there’s Dusk Diver, a musou-style beat ’em up action game which release on Switch and Steam in recent weeks.
Set in a Taiwanese shopping district, Dusk Diver follows schoolgirl Yang Yumo as she becomes embroiled in a battle between gods, phantoms and humans. Yang must travel through dimensions portals to a dark version of the city in order to battle phantoms and gods who negatively affect the human population.
Yang is drawn back and forth between these two areas, the real world and the dark world. The real world involves running around and interacting with main characters, side-quests and stores, while the dark world is where the bulk of the combat takes place. There’s a lot of dialogue in Dusk Diver and it’s all without an English dub, so I hope you enjoy reading text… text that is riddled with typing errors.
Behind the masses of text there’s a decent story to dig into, giving an interesting enough backdrop to the main cast of characters. It’s in the conversations between characters that Dusk Diver is narratively at its most engaging. Relationships are a key part of the title. As you build up your friendship with other characters you unlock more skills and attacks, You can also build on the relationship between yourself and vendors across the shopping district, unlocking new items to purchase.
When you break into the dark world and the game’s main action, it’s mostly a passable action game with okay combat mechanics. One button controls the majority of combat with some special attacks mapped to the shoulder buttons. Players can also build up their special meter to turn Yang into a more powerful version of herself that deals extra damage. Combat feels quite rigid and there’s a big focus on fighting small groups of enemies. As the game progresses, larger and tougher enemies are introduced, but the combat never really develops.
There are also some light platforming and puzzle solving elements, but these often felt like a hindrance as opposed to something I should enjoy solving. Their inclusion feels like one out of necessity in order to break up the repetitive combat.
It throws in some simple RPG elements into the mix, which enable players to upgrade both Yang and supporting characters, improving their effectiveness in battle. Player performance is measured across each level and players can earn more experience and money for earning a better grade. Each level is also replayable from the main hub area, giving players the chance to improve on their previous score and earn more money and experience.
Dusk Diver’s strongest asset is ultimately it’s visuals. The world is beautifully designed with a sleek and crisp cel shaded style that brings each one of the character’s personalities to life. The fantastic visuals are a stark contrast to the game’s ultimately tedious combat, which is disappointing as the visuals are what initially piqued my intrigue. Performance on the Switch is a bit choppy at the best of times, although it tends to be the most dense areas of the game that affect performance to the point that it becomes noticeable.