While it might not quite be as high budget as a certain recent cyberpunk-styled game, I came away with my time on Disjunction having had an absolute blast (perhaps even more than the aforementioned game…).
The set-up and premise is pretty straight forward; playing as one of three differently skilled characters, we need to sneak through various levels to get some info or talk to the character at the end. Along the way, combat is best avoided as it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed as soon as we’re spotted, though that’s not to say out heroes are incapable should shit hit the fan. This is a stealth title at its core, and a really rather good one at that.
To aid us in sneaking about the place our characters can crouch, revealing the vision cones of any nearby enemies. We’re able to move while crouched – albeit slower – and this is how the majority of our time is spent. The vision cones are easily identified, but are by no means infallible. If we end up in their sight it can take about a second for them to become alert, so a short skip through someone’s eye line is sometimes possible. They are also blocked by various furniture around the areas, so a stack of boxes for example might provide a cunning place to lay in wait before sneaking past, or delivering a sneak blow from behind to knock them out. Finally, by sticking to the walls and vision-blocking objects the range of the vision cones actually shrinks, though the shadows aren’t going to help if we end up within even this shrunken cone. If you’ve played Mark of the Ninja, think of how the line of sight works there and you’ll have a good idea of how Disjunction operates, though there is no fog of war to contend with also.
As I said though, characters Joe, Spider and Frank are far from defenceless. While the majority of the time we will be delivering silent blows to the back of the head and dragging the unconscious bodies out of sight, each have their own abilities to use to avoid detection – or buff them up to take on all comers head on. Spider can briefly turn invisible, Joe can hulk up to soak up extra damage, and Frank has lethal grenades at his disposal, in amongst a couple of other abilities for each character, one passive, the remaining three requiring energy points to use. This bar can be refilled by drops from dispatched foes, but they are often few and far between, so it pays to pick our moment to use them wisely. Each also has access to a firearm should they need it, but 90% of the time it came to this for me I’d end up full of holes, resetting to the last checkpoint.
Speaking of checkpoints, each level only has one (that can only be used once) and while the levels themselves aren’t overly long the slow pace of gameplay can easily see 15 minutes of play wiped out should we screw the pooch before activating it. It can make the game tense to play as we enter a room that is practically swamped in enemies, though also a little frustrating as we get killed literally inches from hitting it.
There are also upgrade points to be found in stages that offer up extra perks for each character. In a neat twist, any upgrades chosen are not permanent but can be toggled on and off at the start of each stage according to our play style. So, if we pick one that doesn’t suit us, we can reset (or wait for the beginning of the next stage) to change it up penalty free. XP also lets us upgrade health, weapon power etc, and follows this same rule. Big fan of this non-permanent solution, I am.
All of the above is meshed together is an excellent way. While the stages do tend to look a bit samey (whether it’s a secret drug den or crime bosses hideout, they all seem to have the same architect) the actual layout of the enemy placements, and the variety of enemies to contend with, is engaging and just great fun to play. Sitting just out of sight, planning the moves needed to ninja between enemies without being spotted, whether to risk leaving everyone standing or systematically take them down one by one, and ensuring your abilities are ready to use at a moments notice rarely got old. Only when I died and had to replay a not insignificant amount of time again did I begin to waiver, but these brief moments were soon made up for by suddenly spotting an extra route through, or managing to pull off a series of knockouts by the skin of my teeth. The only other minor niggle I had is that after checking the map in the pause menu, our character will automatically stop crouching, more often than not causing me to be caught out as I stepped forward and straight into the vision of them enemies (the vision cones aren’t visible when standing). It’s minor, but if you’re in the middle of a room and just wanted to check your route it’s easy to get caught out this way.
The story here is pretty good, as laden with tropes as it might be, but another neat touch is the way that back story is delivered. There’s no dialogue, but within the text boxes are highlighted words that we can hover a cursor over. This then gives us a secondary overlay with detailed info on that point of interest, be it person, company, drug, or location. It’s a great way to give the player optional extra info without the characters droning on filling in specific details. There are also choices to make at times, though it’s not overly clear how much of an effect each has and seems to serve more as just a flavour to your story.
Disjunction boils down core elements of stealth games past in a brilliantly effective way. There are a few niggles, sure, but overall the gameplay is satisfying, easy to read and overall just a lot of fun.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.