To be frank, it’s quite honestly refreshing to see a realistic depiction of Taipei’s trendy hub, Ximending. I’ve been craving for another game like Akiba’s Trip for a while now, and Dusk Diver, developed by Taiwanese studio Jera, seemed ready to provide that to me. Sadly, while combat itself can still feel good, the exploration element seems underutilized.
Let’s talk about the action gameplay first, which I did admittedly like. Essentially, it’s what you expect from an action game fighting hordes – you have your light attack button, heavy attack button, mix and match for combos. You can dash and jump as well. The big defining feature of this game is Yang Yumo’s ability to summon guardians with the A button, which can be used to continue combos or deal with many enemies at once. Doing so also drops SP that can be used to open up a superattack with R, and it looks flashy and feels great especially with HD rumble.
Combat is done in a warped version of Ximending, called Youshanding. It’s an alternate world that is full of monsters, and opens up during a certain time of day story-wise. I’m really surprised at how well Ximending lends itself to action combat, especially as its confusing, winding streets, and wide roads leading to a few central crossroads is perfect for gauntlets of enemies. I’m very impressed by how it’s incorporated into the gameplay.
Sadly, this is made up in a bad way with the hub world of Ximending. While faithful, there’s a distinct lack of things to do in it, although it’s recreated faithfully, even including some actual store names. You can eat at some food stores to gain temporary stat buffs, and complete some side missions for Boss, but otherwise there isn’t much to do in the overworld. I would have preferred segmented areas like Akiba’s Trip if it meant there was more side missions to do, like helping the citizens of Ximending by solving their issues via fighting in Youshanding.
Even worse is the gated progress of the game, meaning that even if you want to skip exploring Ximending, you aren’t able to. The game requires Dragon Vein Shards in order to enter new levels, and these are scattered all throughout Ximending and Youshanding – meaning that you’re going to scour the two towns for these shards seen above. They are somewhat hard to spot on the colorful overworld, especially since NPCs far away are shown as colored silhouettes a la Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and they don’t show up on the map even if you happen to pass by them and not spot them. You only get a radar beep once and a verbal hint that it’s nearby whenever you pass one, but otherwise, I might spend 15 minutes just looking for the stones to progress just like I did.
Finally, I’d like to make mention that I’m playing the Switch version. Console controls are great, and while supposedly all versions of the game are locked to 30 FPS, Ximending regularly goes below 30 FPS on the Switch, and so it can actually feel nauseating sometimes just going around town.
I really want to like Dusk Diver. I like it’s style and setting, and the combat is pretty decent too. But there just isn’t much to do outside of that, and the gated progress is a near dealbreaker as well. If you are planning on getting the game, I’d implore you get it on other consoles at the very least.
Dusk Diver is immediately available on PCs via Steam Early Access. It will show up on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in Japan and PC worldwide on October 24, 2019, before heading to consoles in Europe on October 25, 2019 and in North America on October 29, 2019.