The more I play Dusk Diver, the more I like it. It’s introducing new things at a good pace, and it feels like the game is gradually expanding with each major milestone you reach in the story. I wouldn’t say it’s “unrecognisable” from the point it was at the outset, but it’s definitely got a distinctly different feel as we unlock additional mechanics and take on more varied missions.
In today’s Dusk Diver session, we take on a variety of tasks, including a platforming-style side mission, a story mission on a beautifully rendered rainy night (albeit a rainy night in a hell dimension) and plenty of general busywork for the locals of Ximending.
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First order of business today is to take on one of Dusk Diver’s optional side missions. These appear in a terminal at the convenience store that acts as the game’s main “base” area — you can also buy items, change outfits and take care of other business there.
The terminal allows you to replay previous missions, as we’ve seen in previous explorations of Dusk Diver, but it also provides access to both the “Boss” side missions such as the one we try here, as well as missions specific to the Guardian characters’ friendship levels; these allow you to unlock new moves for them.
The side mission we try today stands out quite noticeably from the other missions we’ve done to date in Dusk Diver in that it’s a platforming and puzzling challenge without any enemies to worry about until the very end. There’s jumping between fixed platforms, there’s manipulating switches to make new platforms appear, and there’s zipping from one place to another before the timer on said switch expires.
I initially found the platforming in this mission a little hard to judge — as you’ll see from my embarrassing attempts to get off the first platform — but after a while you’ll doubtless find a suitable camera angle that makes things a bit easier. I personally found that rotating the camera to an almost “isometric” perspective made the platforming sequences quite a bit easier to handle.
You’ll notice in this first side mission that we now have access to Bahet as well as Leo as a Guardian character. Bahet’s special function actually isn’t explained until the next story mission, suggesting that the game’s design perhaps intended that I do that first, but it’s not hard to work out if you’re paying attention.
His summon attack hits everything around you instead of Leo’s frontal cone, and the special attack you can use with a full SP bar is a devastating, wide-ranging hit. Both hits inflict a damage over time effect, unlike Leo, who simply provides burst damage, and as such Bahet’s skills are useful for keeping enemies in guard break status. In other words, using Leo to break their super armour and then Bahet to keep it broken is a good approach.
Following the side mission, I decided to head out into Ximending and seek out some more “Link” missions rather than just proceeding with the story. I’m that kind of player; I like to exhaust all the optional possibilities before moving along down the critical path, just in case some of those optional possibilities disappear. So far it doesn’t look like Dusk Diver is the sort of game to close things off from you if you don’t do them right away, but I still like to be cautious.
One thing that became apparent in several of the Link missions we took on today is that sometimes there are very short mini-action stages as part of these sidequests. Said action sequences don’t provide any specific rewards in and of themselves — unlike the story, friendship and Boss missions, which typically reward items and sometimes Dragon Vein Stone Shards — but the actual completion of the Link missions contribute to increasing Yumo’s overall power in her special D.Arms mode.
Wandering around Ximending also showed a few interesting things. Firstly, there are a lot of Dragon Vein Stone Shards hidden in plain sight around the place; you’ll get a brief dialogue snippet when you approach one for the first time, meaning you should immediately check the surrounding area. If you don’t, you likely won’t get another cue, so it pays to keep your eyes open. Alternatively, you can go and pay some money to the monk we met last time around in order to reveal some of the Shards on the map.
The other interesting thing about being out and about in Ximending is that there’s a lot of incidental dialogue from passing pedestrians. This is handled via floating text boxes that simply pop up as you pass by people rather than requiring you directly interact with others, and the things they say typically reflect what has been happening in the main story recently. They can also, in some cases, provide some interesting foreshadowing of what is going to happen sooner or later.
The way that non-major characters in Dusk Diver are represented as ill-defined, flatly coloured shapes until you get close to them is an interesting stylistic choice that we’ve seen a few times in other Japanese games over the years — most notably in games that share a similar Asian urban setting to Dusk Diver, such as Akiba’s Trip and Persona 5.
It’s a reflection of how when you’re out and about, you’re not really paying attention to the people around you, and even when you’re standing near others, you’re probably not paying particularly close attention to people other than those you know specifically. In fact, the game even comments on some people feeling like they’re “faceless” at one point, which is a nice touch.
This stylistic approach is also seen in other media quite a bit. Faceless characters are typically intended to be characters who we’re not supposed to develop any sort of emotional attachment to — or in some cases, who we’re supposed to actively dislike.
It’s not uncommon for random street thugs to be depicted as faceless while assaulting a main character, for example — but at the other end of the spectrum, we have cases such as Senpai from Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro, who deliberately doesn’t pay attention to people’s faces so he doesn’t get hurt, and this is reflected by the characters lacking clearly defined facial features in the manga.
Much of our time in today’s Dusk Diver session was spent wandering around Ximending interacting with characters and completing side missions, but one interesting thing that today’s progress revealed is that progressing the main story — whose action stages unfold primarily in Youshanding — affects the environment in Ximending. After the aforementioned rainy missions, for example, the locals start complaining about the rain, the sky becomes overcast and the overall atmosphere becomes a lot more ominous.
It’s intriguing to ponder how this might affect things as Dusk Diver’s story continues — and whether we’ll start seeing the lines between Youshanding and Ximending becoming blurred. I mean, obviously that’s going to happen at some point, but it’s a question of exactly what that’s going to mean for how the game works!
That’s something to discover in a future session, though; for now I’ve got more Chaos Beasts to punch, some old lady has lost her frying pan and a man has had his pants stolen. All work and no play and all that…
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