Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked – review

If you wanted to boil down Devil Survivor Overclocked into its most basic components, it’s relatively easy to describe; it’s got a fairly hefty and interesting story, a battle system that is rewarding but difficult to get into, a tonne of character customisation, plenty of demons to find and capture, and – it wouldn’t be a JRPG without it – grinding. That is a very superficial way to look at it, but that is what it contains at its heart. Grinding aside, everything else listed has more depth scattered across it and intertwined with the other aspects.

The story can be summed up as “demons invade Tokyo”. Underneath that premise lie various character relationships and subplots that vary depending on what actions you take during the story. You and your friends happen to have access to small computers or “COMPs”, which allow you to summon demons and utilise them in battle also allowing you to see how many days someone has left to live. The characters are varied, if not a little trope–y; so if you like anime you’ve probably seen these characters before. It does suffer from some dialogue being inhuman but it fades the further in you get.

The game is almost completely voiced and if you’re a fan of anime, then you’ve likely heard the actors at some point or another. It is however all English dubs; so purists will have to make do or turn off the voices.

The general gameplay during battles is half tactical turn-based like Fire Emblem and the second half is during actual attacks; which play out turn-based  like the older Final Fantasys and its ilk. With the way parties are formed and the general difficulty, there is enough variation that you really can’t make solid predictions on how a fight will turn out. Three members of each team means three sets of abilities, resistances etc; making it quite possible to have a character wiped out with what originally seemed to be a quick and easy victory.

Factor in extra attacks, status effects that prevent an individual making an attack, and all the movement and abilities used outside of the skirmishes; no single encounter can be predicted with any certainty. With you always being so heavily outnumbered, it comes down to – at least on normal difficulty – being sufficiently levelled up as well as being quite tactically minded. To say that it’s difficult on Normal  – even for someone with experience in the genre – is being generous. It can mostly be traced down to the way non-story battles take place but luckily there is an easy difficulty for those who want less grinding.

Battles outside of the story are limited to specific areas chosen from the story menu; early on however you tend to maybe get one or two instances to choose from which seem to contain the same set of monsters and map. If you need to level up because you can’t beat the story mission, it is a little frustrating to grind the same area until you are more powerful or get a chance to buy more power.

On the subject of buying power, Demons, while initially gifted to you towards the beginning of the game (just three to get you started), will need to be gathered up via the auction house, and eventually through fusion and the demon compendium. All of which costs a fair amount of the game’s currency – Macca. The auction house is your staple way of obtaining demons of a known quality; it’s an interesting way of competing for your troops but it will either be tedious or a nice distraction, depending on what you’re after or what you lose out on.

Fusion gives you the chance to create a new demon by fusing two others together, but it also allows skills from either “parents” to be inherited by their progeny. It does allow for a huge amount of complex chains of fusions to get what you want, in a fashion not dissimilar to move inheritance in Pokémon. It is a little selective, as certain skills can’t be carried over; so trial and error plays a big part into it all. It’s also worth noting that several creatures are only available initially by fusion, elementals being the first that you come across, but they do carry a hefty Macca requirement as well.

The compendium on the other hand holds copies of demons that you’ve previously collected. While it only holds one of each type, you can choose which version of them you keep; skills and all. It’s helpful for creating copies of hard to get demons but it costs an almost extortionate amount in comparison to buying them fresh off the auction house.

Demons aren’t the only ones with skills to learn; your human characters all get access to any skills learnt. Unfortunately this is where another major aspect of difficulty jumps in – of all the skills you know, only one character at a time may equip each skill. So you have to be particularly selective on who takes what and why. Further complicating matters is the way you learn skills; requiring you to choose during deployment who needs to kill what creature to unlock a specific skill. So if anyone but the correct member kills the creature you lose out on learning the skill in battle.

It’s got a fair amount going for it in the story – multiple endings included – and plenty of tactical depth to the game both in battle and within customisation. While tactical depth and customisation is generally a good thing, it is slightly over-complex and it leaves some things unexplained both in-game and within the manual. If you’re willing to persevere through the steep learning curve and the high difficulty, then you’ll find it both rewarding and challenging, with an interesting story to boot. There’s a lot to get your head around and it is really quite difficult, so even Easy isn’t the “cop out” you might expect it to be.

critical score 8

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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