SMT: Digital Devil Saga 2

So, anyone else pick this one up? I played SMT: Nocturne, but skipped the first DDS game. Luckily, the DDS2 intro and early exploration fills you in on the general background from DDS1.

Similar mechanics from Nocturne in that it involves a lot of dungeon-crawling and random battles, but although I miss the demon negotiation and recruitment from Nocturne, I enjoy the battles more in DDS2 because of the more permanent nature of the party members - I get a better feeling of building up unique characters’ strengths, rather than simply building up interchangeable demonic tools as in Nocturne.

Seems to be a rather fascinating story, at least a few hours in, with some interesting twists on the SMT themes of death and rebirth. The setting threw me for a loop considering I thought it took place in some sort of Afterlife plane. Of course, it might still be just that, although I’m not sure at the moment. At least now I have a better idea why it’s called “‘Digital’ Devil Saga”.

The demonic Avatars ooze personality and creepiness, and the character customization through the Mantra grid (a more refined version of the FFX Sphere Grid) shows a great deal of potential. I just hope there’s no way to gimp your characters for future levels/battles with the way you develop them in the Mantra grid. For example, if I develop Serph purely as a melee/physical combat monster, progressing solely along this advancement path, will I make him completely useless in the endgame? If I cover several progression paths on the grid with a bit more focused development down one branch, will he be too diversified and not powerful enough later on? I hope the game is still playable and enjoyable all the way through given this flexibility.

Oh, and Argilla is strangely attractive despite the two demon mouths on her Demon Avatar’s chest.

Like you, I picked it up after having played Nocturne but skipped 1.
I wish I knew the answers to your questions about the grid. I also wish there were fewer random battles.So far they all have been easy, and each one is quick, but that and the backtracking involved in flipping switches (boo, I am ever tired of that convention) have been a bit of a drag. I did manage to die on one boss fight; the replay went much better because knowing what was coming I could slot the character with the appropriate attack as leader, so she’d get an extra turn each round. (I don’t remember- did Nocturne also start each attack round with the leader, or would it start where it left off the previosu round?)

Shouldn’t be a problem…at least based off the first game which did an admirable job keeping enemy set weaknesses diversified enough to cover the skill makeup you happen to use. Generally you had to adjust a few parameters here and there in each dungeon, but you couldn’t exactly screw yourself.

Some tips from the first game are to at least give your main three auto-immunity to the element they are weak to. For instance, have serph learn the high level fire skill with immunity, so he doesn’t give any enemies free turns later on. Eventually physical immunity is probably a good idea(it was HUGE when facing some of the uber-optional bosses in DDS1), also having one character follow the hunt/physical path is a pretty wise choice. Everyone should have a devour/hunt skill equipped until you get someone the AP share ‘hunt’ skill; when that happens, the others can drop devour and fill those slots with something else.

This game is awesome but it’s too much like DDS1, so it’s lowering my motivation to play it. I do agree that it’s better than Nocturne largely because of the permanent party. In Nocturne I’m pretty sure battles always started with the leader.

Nocturne was the biggest and most boring combat grindfest with the least amount of dialogue and character animations outside of combat for an RPG.

Honestly don’t see why people liked it so much.

Because you did not have to watch 10 mn long cinematics between dungeons, and the combats whera fast and well balanced.

I’ve loved Nocturne so far (30+ hours in); by far the most fun I’ve had with the PS2 since I bought the console. SSX comes close, though. DDS1 and 2 await my pleasure; I’ve fiddled around a little with DDS 1 and like it too. I just rather like the general approach that Reasearch & Development 1 takes with their RPGs. For me, much more fun than the FF stuff.

On the subject of possibly screwing yourself over if you focus on one kind of attack style too much…

If DDS2 is anything like DDS1 (and it sounds very similar), then with some effort, you can customize your character’s skills as much as you want. Therefore I would say, why not build up Serph as a melee monster first? Even if it turns out that some boss is completely resistant to physical attacks, you can simply give Serph an ice-based mantra, then spend a little time in random battles until he masters the mantra and learns some ice skills/resistances.

DDS1 played a lot like Final Fantasy 10’s grid system - there may be an “optimal” way to build each character, but the game does not limit your choices.

That’s good to hear. I’m planning on buiding up Serph as a Support Magic/Melee’er - since he’s the party leader, he can start the fight by casting some boost on the party or curse on the enemies, then spend the rest of the fight doing the physical pounding and devouring. The rest of the crew will specialize heavily in their starting path - Force/Dragon for Gale, Earth for Argilla, Lightning for Roland, etc. although I also have to make sure to branch off enough to unlock some of those purple hexes.

In both Nocturne and DDS, you can certainly kick ass by concentrating on melee. However, in DDS I found it was convenient to let the obvious choices of elements work for me too, whereas in SMT, I just threw away most of my offensive magic skills for most of the game. If you just lag your magic skills one cost step behind whatever you are focusing on, you can pick up all kinds of useful secondary skills without too much cost and still be effective in multiple areas. So for example if you get the skill group with bufula and avalanche and hold off a while in picking up mabufula, your ice-magic capability won’t suffer all that much, but you will have plenty of cash to save up for something else. Meanwhile you will be easily dispatching the many foes with ice weakness that the game sort of assumes you should be able to deal with because you have Serph in the party…Note btw that it’s very useful for Serph to pick up the first level fire skill so he can void fire in difficult boss fights at times where some other character can’t for whatever reason.

I’m up to the point in DDS2 where… where… where suddenly your choices for Serph don’t seem so important anymore (though I daresay they will become important again soon). I.e., the power plant.

Incidentally, I managed to lose my DDS1 cleared game data – are the “bonus” features a big deal at all in DDS2?

Bonus features are pretty meh. You get a very slight boost to stats depending on how many of those mantras you mastered in DDS1, but it’s hardly noticeable unless you mastered every single skill. There are also bonus karma rings that are given to you as you progress based on which optional bosses you killed, early in you get an ice-void ring if you took down King Frost for example. Others are gifted to you later on for taking down the many other optional bosses in DDS1.

Probably the most intriguing aspect of importing data affects the plot slightly based on decisions made in DDS1. I can’t provide any specifics given I barely recall much of what I chose in the first game earlier this year. I’m pretty sure if you followed a certain conversation path, events are somewhat altered from the default script and a certain ‘character’ will eventually join up again that wouldn’t otherwise.

Choosing the first conversation option for the two instances in DDS1 provides the “good” result for DDS2.

I picked this up last night and so far I’m having fun with it. I didn’t play the first DDS, but I did play SMT:Nocturne and I enjoyed that until I got tired of always having to start from scratch with new party members. Looks like DDS2 has fixed that one big nuisance so I’m pretty enthused about this game.

Anyone got any tips on character development? The Mantra system is really nice, as it makes me worry about coordinating char development in addition to min/maxing each character with an uber set of abilities.

I’ve been going kinda all over the place with Serph - I gave him the Spirit Mantra, Fire Mantra (for Void Fire), a couple Physical Attack Mantras, and an Ice Demon Mantra, IIRC so far. The low level mantras are super-quick to master, and pretty cheap, but now I’m focusing on primarily physical attacks and support stuff for Serph. With the rest I’m focusing on their primary element as well as enough in their “weakness” element to give them the void spell or immunity to it.

I put another good night of play into this last night and now I’m probably 9 hours into the game. Money is really starting to get to be an issue. I’ve had people who’ve had to continue on for a bit with a mastered mantra because the mantra I wanted them to learn next cost 25-40k.

Right now I’m a big fan of everyone knowing devour which makes mastering mantras easy and mutual karma which makes party management easy since the party members that didn’t fight still get full XP. I’ve been trying to unlock the other esoterics on the theory that they must be good if the game is making it that hard to get at them.

Everyone’s first new skill should be Devour. At some point, everyone should get Rend Asunder, because it’s the best of the first 8 or so hunt skills, vastly better than Devour. The next good one after that is I think Consume, but that’s rather pricy.

Send a few characters through the Expel path at least to Angel and Archangel, not because you really want the attacks or even the defenses, but because you want the -unda debuffs. These are very useful in boss fights. The same applies to a lesser extent for the -kaja buffs. For some reason few bosses have Dekunda, and more have Dekaja, but of course Tarukaja and Makakaja are great if they last, and Sukukaja combines well with Sukunda.

There is a big magic power jump on the third skill in the sequence for each element, all the damage-dealing mages should get those as soon as they can – this is the skill group that always has a descriptive name like Avalanche for the aoe skill.

Mages should get multiple elemental attacks, even if they are going to focus on only one. You need them to exploit vulnerabilities, or to at least be able to do something when the enemy is immune to your specialty. It’s also good to have a raft of void skills to swap in for certain boss fights.

Give everyone Dia fairly early on. At least two characters should go a fair distance up the healing tree.

The physical and magical power-up skills are the signature skills for fighters and mages, respectively, very useful for damage dealing, but it’s fairly easy not to get them if you don’t already know how good they are. The magic one is in, umm, the 150k almighty skill group with Megido, and I completely forget where the physical one is.

Thanks for the tips. Where the heck is Rend Asunder on the chart? I’ve got someone chasing Consume I believe and everyone has devour but I must have missed Rend Asunder.

Also, for those with more knowledge of the game, what’s the best way to keep people topped up on Mana? Paying for items or restore stations is getting old, and devour only restores a small amount. As long as I stay up on Mana I can use spells to fix any other problems (HP, status, etc). I figure there has to be a skill somewhere that will let me steal/absorb/regen MP somehow.

Um. Well. I think Rend Asunder sort of in the middle of the phys/hunt skills. I forget exactly where. I think it’s a 10k skill. Maybe 15k. I think if you get the first 1K phys attack skills, then go up and to the right for the 2.5k one, that then it’s one of the adjacent skills, but I’m not totally positive on that score at the moment.

For mana, ingest mana does actually work pretty well for me, when I can load it, which is only rarely. Remember to fully heal HP before restoring health at a machine to get MP back. The MP thief ability is in there someplace, but I don’t find it to be all that useful except in farming weak monsters that I’m not going to run out of mana on anyway because it wastes an action.

Remember that the “data” treasure objects do full heals of hp and mp, so don’t just use them when you find them to buff stats – hold onto them for straegically refreshing your mana. Also if you are not fighting really serious foes at the moment, then stop using the AOEs and go down a notch on the power scale to just scare the foes, then you can use a hunt skill to finish them off. This has the combined benefit of not wasting mana in combat with getting some back.

But I do admit I’m a chakra droplet junkie.

I sell all consumable items, 100% of the time, cause I always need the money. I’m so cheap I even run back to the free healing spots and avoid paying at restore terminals unless I’m in dire straits :)

Questions on buffs:
is there a way to see what the active buffs/debufss at any time are?
if any of this information s hidden in the interface, I have missed it; if
its not there, why not?

can you have more than 1 void out at a time. or do they overwrite?
what about a void and a repel?
do the +attack and +magic spells last until dispelled?