Beginning with Persona 3, the series adopted a style of play that has you going to school, spending time bonding with friends, working part time jobs, dungeon crawling, fighting shadows, and ultimately saving the world. It's weird, unorthodox, and completely unheard of, but anyone who's played the last two main entries will tell you just how well it all works. Thankfully, none of this is changing in Persona 5.
Instead the changes that Persona 5 makes aren't to the formula, but rather much needed fixes and improvements that will deepen your gameplay experience in the 100-hour or more journey.
1. Dungeons Are Hand-Crafted
If there's one point of reference that the later Persona games haven't received much praise for, it's the dungeons. Persona 3 only has one dungeon: Tartarus, a twisted manifestation of the school you attended that would only appear at night. Persona 4 features several dungeons that have varied visual flare to fit the motif of the present situation. However, both games' dungeons had a common flaw: repetitive layouts.
The dungeons in both the previous games would randomly generate each floor's layout. This would cause floors between dungeons to become nearly identical, ruining any sense of discovery, leaving the only purpose of these locations to either power through for story purposes or grind.
Persona 5 is a different beast altogether. While each dungeon will retain it's own theme in relation to the story, just like in Persona 4, #P5 rectifies the repetitive layouts. The new dungeons, called "palaces" are pre-designed and will have the player navigate through multi-route layouts and light puzzles to reach the end. This is great considering you'll be spending plenty of time in these locations to progress the story.
Oh, and if you enjoyed the randomized dungeons, that still exists in the form of an optional dungeon called "Momementos"; filled with sidequests it makes a great place to grind since you cannot return to completed palaces.
2. The Stealth System Is The New "Stamina Mechanic"
Persona 3 had the "conditions" system, where your characters would start off feeling either in "Good" or "Great". The latter obviously being the preferred, any character with a "Great" condition would receive an increased critical hit rate and improved accuracy. Likewise, should a party member become "Tired" or "Sick" after spending time in Tartarus, their battle performance would become subpar, making fights much harder than need be. The only cure was a night's rest, meaning when either all party members or the protagonist would succumb to negative conditions, your exploration of Tartarus for the night was at it's end. Thus, requiring you to come back another night to finish.
Stealth is the replacement to "conditions". Here players will need to carefully start battles against enemies by taking to cover and striking at the right moment to ambush them. The success or failure to execute ambushes affects the security level. If this level reaches 100%, you'll be booted from the dungeon for the remainder of the in-game day. While this mechanic is forgiving, this isn't Metal Gear Solid after all, it's still recommended to proceed with caution.
3. Acquire New Personas By Negotiating With Shadows
Persona 5 adopts a method closer to the series it was spun-out of, Shin Megami Tensei. Unlike the last two Persona games which had the player acquire new Personas by selecting the right card after a series of shuffles; in Persona 5 you'll acquire new Personas only after you "hold up" a target.
After being downed, you may have the chance to speak with a shadow. From here you'll be asked to pick one of several choices: request an item or money in exchange for the the shadow's life, kill it, or ask it to relinquish a persona. If you choose to ask for a Persona, then a series of questions will follow, choose the right answers and you'll be rewarded with a new Persona, mess up and the battle continues.
4. There's New Elemental Affinities
In addition to the fire, wind, ice, and electric spells of previous games, two new elements have been added: Psy and Nuclear. As per usual, some enemies will either be weak or have certain resistances to these new elements and these new spells have special effects:
- Psy skills gain Technical damage bonus to enemies under any mental ailment
- Nuclear skills gain Technical damage bonus to enemies under Burn, Freeze or Shock.
So if you knew exactly how you were going to fuse your Personas in order to create one master-Persona that can cast all elemental spells, you may have to rethink your strategy.
Also adopted from the Shin Megami Tensei games, your party members will be able to use guns in addition to melee weapons. Just like spells and traditional physical attacks, enemies will have resistances or weaknesses.
Each character will have access to a differing class of guns such as pistols, sub-machine guns, and shotguns. A shotgun will only attack one enemy and deal a powerful blow, whereas a sub-machine gun will attack all enemies at random and deal less damage. You'll also have a finite amount of ammo per character, and it'll only replenish when you re-enter a dungeon.
5. The Game Is Set In A Real World Location
Persona 3 and 4 were both set in fictional Japanese locations -- the small island city of Iwatodai and rural town of Inaba respectively. Persona 5 is set in Tokyo. When you're not exploring dungeons, you'll be able to explore the city either alone or with friends. You can get around by subway. and the game will actually have you switch subway lines like in real life, or you can make use of fast travel once you've already visited a location.
The city has plenty to do outside school. From restaurants, part-time jobs, to batting cages, and dating. Without getting into it all, I'm sure you want to discover somethings on your own, there's more to do here than any previous Persona title. So if you're looking for a distraction when you're supposed to be saving the world, you're in the right place.
Persona 5 releases internationally April 4th. Tell us what changes you're looking forward to the most!