A sequel provides a major opportunity to improve upon the foundation of the first game in a series. For example, Street Fighter had a rough first entry, and Street Fighter II is hailed as an influential, all-time classic. In the latest instance, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sequel of 2019’s Dusk Diver. While the original Dusk Diver game is serviceable, it’s bogged down by an uninteresting story, a monotonous gameplay loop, and technical problems. A few years later, WANIN had the golden opportunity to fix those problems with the new sequel, Dusk Diver 2. While Dusk Diver 2 doesn’t manage to fix every single flaw from its predecessor, the sequel greatly improves upon all aspects.
Plot and Writing
Set one year after the events of Dusk Diver, Yumo Yang is now a college freshman. With the help of her Kunlunian friends, Yumo continues to fight the Chaos Beasts of Youshanding, a dimensional rift in the Ximending district of Taipei, Taiwan. However, the concentration of Dragon Vein energy in Yumo’s body has taken its toll on her physical health, resulting in attempts to remove the energy from her body. However, her plans are put on hold when an increasing number of humans possessed by Chaos Beasts appear in Ximending. Coincidentally, a company called Hesperia attempts to buy out all of Ximending. Yumo must now contend with Meng Zhang, general of the Kunlun army, and other problems the crew faces head-on.
The plot of Dusk Diver 2 is more than a step above the first game. The characters feel more naturally written, and the amount of typos in the script is drastically reduced due to an improved localization. A few typos remain, but they’re fewer and further between compared to the original Dusk Diver. Additionally, the sequel’s runtime is relatively longer than the first game. The thematic depth that the story was able to incorporate was truly captivating and led to many memorable scenes throughout the chapters.
Dusk Diver‘s 3D brawler combat returns but plays much differently. Most notably, summon characters from Dusk Diver are now fully-fledged playable characters. The player is able to switch between these characters in a party of four. Yumo is an all-around fighter while the other three serve their own niches in tanking, range, and crowd control. Dusk Diver 2’s new features such as countering, unique character skills, and assist attacks make combat feel less monotonous compared to the original game. Additionally, increased enemy variety in the sequel makes combat feel more interesting. Dusk Diver 2 fixes the lack of difficulty and enemy variety to create a more compelling gameplay experience.
While out of combat, Yumo and the gang may explore Taipei with areas spanning beyond Ximending. Players may eat at restaurants for buffs, find collectibles, go shopping, and complete a wealth of side quests. While the overworld isn’t the game’s strong suit, it’s a nice break from the combat. The side quests still deserve criticism for lacking in variety, and some harmless side activities like the gachapon have been removed, which is disappointing. Fortunately, intricate stages are present with its own set of collectibles, encouraging backtracking to get rewards and clothing items for purchase.
The art direction of Dusk Diver 2 is noticeably better than before. Character models and portraits for main characters are much more vibrant and stylized. These improved models are showcased with more fully animated cutscenes. Dusk Diver 2’s UI has been vastly improved to complement the street art aesthetic. The artistic improvements stretch into visual effects in combat such the bright red “COUNTER SUCCESS!” graffiti visual that appears when hitting counters. Strong visual effects help make the combat more engrossing.
Dusk Diver 2’s sound design is incredible with powerful sound effects, especially with counters and break strikes. The fast-paced combat is accompanied by a stellar soundtrack just like the original game. The OST is full of heavy metal, rock, and EDM tracks, and a few tracks became personal favorites. My favorites include “Lost in the 44,” which is used in the World Trade Center stage, and the returning “Inquiry for Truth” track from the original Dusk Diver. English voice overs are not available in Dusk Diver 2, but the returning inclusion of Japanese and Chinese dubs is a welcomed feature.
Unfortunately, Dusk Diver 2 faces some performance issues on PlayStation 4. Some of the issues include stuttering, extreme pop-in, compressed voice audio quality, and music playback errors. At one point in the playthrough, the game froze for roughly 30 seconds with no audio playback. During the penultimate boss fight, an unknown bug caused an entire playable character to become invisible. However, these issues and bugs will be addressed in a day one patch. The issues encountered were not prevalent enough to hamper the playthrough.
While Dusk Diver 2 doesn’t entirely patch up the holes of its predecessor, it does more than enough to create the must-play experience. The combat has been completely overhauled to create an enticing gameplay loop. The main issues that held Dusk Diver back from greatness were remedied in Dusk Diver 2. Dusk Diver 2 is my favorite game of 2022 and a proper lesson in making a worthwhile sequel.
Dusk Diver 2 releases August 30 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PS5 in North America and Europe.
Disclaimer: Idea Factory International provided Final Weapon with a review copy of Dusk Diver 2 for PS4.