Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance review

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I need to know

What is this? A fantastic port of one of the best RPG games of this generation, packed with many extras

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release date June 14, 2024

Expect to be paid $59.99 / £54.99

Developer Atlas

Publisher Sega

Review on Intel i9-13900HX, GeForce RTX 4080 (laptop), 16 GB RAM

Steam deck Verified

To combine Official page

“GOD, YOU ARE SO ANNOYING! SHUT UP AND LISTEN! TIME FOR THE PAPER QUIZ!”

I only asked the giant mothman if he wanted to join my team, so I’m not sure I deserved an insult-laden lead-up to a quick demon recognition test. Still, it’s better than all the times a mad magic horse made me dig my own grave, or all the times I was mocked, called an idiot, or some sneaky spirit demanded I give up all my health, magic, or (Sometimes AND) money just to get away once they suck me droughty.

Negotiating with demons in Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance is as threatening, unpredictable, and fun as ever in the series’ 32-year run, and like much of the latest entry, it will be very familiar to fans of Atlus’ long-running apocalyptic RPG. Tokyo is once again a place where brazen mythological beings and neon-adorned science fiction meet, where programming and prayers have equal power.

(Image: Sega)

And as you’d expect these days from a show that treats reality-warping disasters and battles with every god and demon around like it’s just another Tuesday, Vengeance begins with a tantalizing mix of everyday life, ethereal mysticism, vague warnings of impending doom – and then drops completely a recent choice to make sure I don’t get too comfortable. A single recent interactive scene has been seamlessly integrated into SMT5’s original opening, and a uncomplicated decision determines whether the subsequent story will unfold in exactly the same way as it did on Nintendo Switch in 2021 (now called the Creation story), or whether the story will follow a recent route Revenge.

This recent path quickly develops into a fascinating string of significant changes that include everything from exclusive main characters, recent enemies and shocking plot twists to completely different takes on ancient events. Even if you’ve already cleaned up your ancient SMT5 in every possible way, Vengeance still has a whole lot of surprises to offer.

Demon Hunter School

And seeing them isn’t as tough as the show’s intimidating reputation might make it seem. Fittingly for a game whose central themes are freedom, choice, and knowledge, Vengeance wants to give me the tools I need to forge my own path through the trials ahead. Notable features are clearly explained in concise pop-ups as they appear, detailing the entire spectrum of potential issues, from the intricacies of the combat system to “What the hell is a main quest?”, ensuring no one is left behind.

(Image: Sega)

Destination-drenched maps clearly show where the next main objective is, as well as dozens of alternative ways to spend the evenings and roughly what I can get out of them if I manage to make the trip. Do I want to challenge really tough bosses? Finally return the items you wanted me to collect in the side quest I picked up a few hours ago? Head to some hidden treasure in the corner that I missed last time I was here? No matter what I’m in the mood for, Vengeance makes it simple to accomplish with the ability to quickly switch back to any leyline source (multi-functional recovery/shop/fusion points that can be found almost anywhere), turning cross-region journeys into quick detours .

Knowing where I am and where I’m going doesn’t facilitate me avoid struggles along the way, though, and I can learn a lot from the get-go. Even the simplest enemies have a lot of resistances and weaknesses as standard, and on top of that there are all these status effects, weird items, and moon phases to worry about. Aside from these and unhelpfully impenetrable spell names like “Masukukaja”, it would be simple to abandon it all in elemental rage.

This isn’t the case, however, as Vengeance tries its best to make everything as clear as possible, even when dealing with hordes of monsters lifted from every folk tale ever told. The UI explains everything, revealing enemy weaknesses, explaining the effects of skills and spells, showing who they are applied to, and indicating whether they stack with a buff or debuff. Getting all my demon ducks in a row is a relatively painless process.

(Image: Sega)

It’s crucial that I get the hang of it all quickly because unless I level up drastically too high, there’s a real chance that some random group of nobodies won’t be able to take down my entire team. I’m always one reckless decision away from returning to the title screen and one lethargic assumption that healing can wait, standing between me and my entire team, burned to ashes.

While Vengeance is unforgiving of any mistakes, it always seems fair because there’s nothing the game can do to me that I can’t do to it. The series’ signature Press Turn system offers huge rewards for making even the mildest effort to fight him, and every critical hit and enemy weakness exploited gives my team more turns in a row, which means even more opportunities to inflict pain – or recover from this.

Bullying bosses

And with so many deadly skills to learn and demons that combine into recent and increasingly bizarre abominations, it also encourages me to get artistic with my combat. If I can’t beat the boss, why not try to weaken it instead? Why not enhance my team’s evasion by forcing their attacks to miss and incoming damage turns disappear? Why not operate an item that completely blocks his favorite elemental attack right before he has a chance to unleash anything? The strategic possibilities here are endless and I soon leave bosses begging for a turn of their own, after which they will probably just punch someone on their team.

(Image: Sega)

Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes I’m too tired, too busy, or just too excited to see where the story is going, and I want to spend my free time carefully constructing teams and tactics that will be able to take down the gods and send the demons fleeing back to the afterlife. So it’s good that Vengeance is once again content to facilitate. Thanks to its simple approach to difficulty settings, the story can be continued for anyone from dedicated demon hunters to novices.

By default, there are three options – Casual, Normal and Hard – and the first two can be switched freely at any time outside of battle, with the only penalty being to my pride (players on Hard can also switch to any, but I can’t go back). So if there’s one fight that isn’t going the way I expected, I know there’s always a way to tip the scales in my favor that doesn’t involve rushing to copy someone else’s SMT homework or hours of mindless grinding, and I also know that when I find my legs/confidence/brain again, I will be able to go back to Normal and live my life as before.

(Image: Sega)

Or I can just keep trying. Vengeance’s recent save anywhere feature allows for more daring attempts at winning a welcome safety net. Why not try out some weird version of the demon or risk some weird negotiation option that’s never appeared before when all I have to worry about is losing a few minutes of progress at most? Maybe my attempt will result in a quick and embarrassing death, maybe I’ll end up laughing out raucous as a talking animal monster with a bad attitude insists that I’d be better off throwing out my brain, but whatever happens, at least I have the opportunity to experiment.

Vengeance is an simple game to like. It’s an epic adventure full of surprises, with enough depth and strategic depth for the oldest ancient players, and enough facilitate to facilitate newcomers feel at home. No series does the “tackle God” thing as brilliantly as Shin Megami Tensei, and seeing every deity and spirit imaginable wandering around Tokyo, right next to schools, trains and vending machines, will always be an amazing sight. On PC, the game’s edgy style shines and the otherworldly monster designs really come into their own at high resolutions. The game always runs smoothly, even when the screen is packed with detail, and the game’s relatively humble beginnings on Switch make it comfortable – and good looking – suitable for a wide range of hardware. This is an crucial RPG.

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