Into the deep end.

When thinking of games I’m usually a fan of, the Devil May Cry series fits neatly into place. It’s got a supernatural story, challenging combat, and an abundance of style, but beyond attempting the first as a tween, I regrettably never truly dove head-first into the story of demon hunter Dante. So for all intents and purposes, Devil May Cry 5 is my first foray into the series. Here’s what I thought as a newcomer.

I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble jumping into it, combat or story-wise, but man, I was fairly confused within the first five minutes. Though, yes, chronologically DMC 5 is set after 2 and 4, it also thrusts veterans and newcomers alike into generally unknown territory. Nero is being shepherded by an entirely new character, V, into the demon world to assist Dante. Nero’s inexplicably missing an arm, and Dante is getting his backside beat.

The story time-jumps from there and is shared between the perspectives of Nero, Dante, and V. The thoughtful “story so far” selection from the main menu caught me up to speed with Dante and and Nero’s background story, but didn’t clue me in on the opening hour of DMC 5.  I’m under the impression everything will become clear with time as the story unravels between the three men – all playable characters that can’t be freely switched between, at least within the first few hours.

They all play pretty differently from each other as well. For close-range offense, Dante has Rebellion, a large claymore; and Balrog, a new weapon which covers his body in demonic armor, giving him extra agility for hand-to-hand combat. Later, Dante unlocks the Cavelier, a heavy-hitting weapon made of an accidentally demon-infused motorcycle (I know – but it’s oh-so-fun to smack enemies with)!

For long-range, Dante uses his trusty Ebony and Ivory, dual-wielded pistols; and the Coyote, a heavy-hitting shotgun. Dante gains access to more weapons as you progress, and he also has his signature styles to choose from on the fly, leaving his combat incredibly varied and unique.

Nero can perform a variety of moves with detachable, disposable Devil Breakers, robotic arms made for him by Nico to replace his newly stolen right arm. For example, in one boss battle, I used a Devil Breaker called Gerbera to maneuver and dodge midair, which seemed otherwise impossible. Nero is also equipped with revolver, Blue Rose, as well as his sword, the Red Queen.

I didn’t have quite enough time to experiment with more than two Devil Breakers, but they altered the way I’d play as Nero, and it was hinted that there are plenty.

Though all three characters felt great in their own unique way, with Dante feeling the most natural and Nero more technical, I especially loved playing as V because of how fresh he felt. You can read all about V and his mechanics here, but here’s a short summary.

V fights in a way unlike any other action hero I’ve ever played. He’s physically weaker than the other two, but is able to control two beasts at his side. He can summon Griffon, a giant, demonic raven with power over lightning; and Shadow, a black panther draped in darkness with a shape-shifting body able to form into dangerous weapons.

V commands them in real-time from afar, awaiting a chance to strike the killing blow. When his Devil Trigger bar is maxed out, he summons a third beast – Nightmare, a hulking demon V can ride on with the correct ability unlocked.

Adding to an already abundant variety, each character has different abilities to unlock. It’s honestly all very overwhelming, trying to learn the ins-and-outs of these characters and trying to feel stylish while doing it. But, Devil May Cry 5 makes it palatable.

Before committing to a purchasing a new skill–like Table Hopper, which lets you sidestep into shadows–you can test it out in a place called “VOID Mode.” Here, you can try everything before you buy it, which is so helpful for someone as indecisive as me! It’s also a great mode to learn combos and determine the style of play you vibe with most.

As skills are unlocked, more options become available in combat, but they also change what each face button press does, depending on your directional input. With as fast-paced as Devil May Cry 5 is, internalizing this muscle memory to perform mind-numbingly awesome combos to rack up style points is absolutely intimidating, but the prospect sounds exhilarating as well.

the kind of gameplay loop I can absolutely get behind.

Learning the most efficient way to play isn’t just a matter of flashy style though. Devil May Cry 5 is challenging and demands players to be better or face the consequences of repeated defeat, a lower Mission Score, and fewer Red Orbs – the currency required for just about everything. Chasing after the evasive SSS Mission rating and more money is a driving factor to avoid relying on the forgiving nature of DMC 5’s checkpoints and respawn system, and I’m glad that balance is there – it makes learning the ropes considerably less frustrating, even if it is expensive.

DMC 5 even offers an Auto-Assist mode that completes complicated combos automatically, which can be toggled on or off in an instant. It let me look flashy without having to worry about precise controls, though it did instill the penalties of an automatic .8 multiplier at the end of missions, and, of course, the dissatisfaction of knowing the fluid combos on the screen aren’t really of my own doing. But, it is a way to show what DMC 5 could look like after really learning the ropes, even if its auto completed combos and style changes were more limited than what could be achieved manually. It’s nice the option is there for those who want to enjoy the ride.

I finished my few hours as a Devil May Cry 5 newbie still a bit in over my head, but intrigued by the mysterious origins of V and the fates of Nero and Dante. I just started getting my feet wet with the combat, and I have to say, it was a ton of fun figuring out how best to master it.

Though Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t seem like it necessarily has to be mastered to complete it, it does seem like it would be especially fun if that effort is made. I can see myself replaying a mission multiple times in preparations for more difficult enemies to come, and that’s the kind of gameplay loop I can absolutely get behind.

The fact it’s backed up by pretty demon boys with mysterious origins is just an extra driving force, even if one of them wears sandals. Come on guys, I can let slide your edgy-as-hell and admittedly too-cool-for school duds, but at least wear appropriate footwear while saving the world!

For more on Devil May Cry 5, read Devil May Cry 5: I’m Obsessed With What The New Character’s Sandals Mean – it’s all about V, and you don’t want to miss it.

Casey DeFreitas is an Editor at IGN. You can catch her on Twitter.

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