Coming from Ape Tribe Games is Disjunction, a game that seems to take the near future as its inspiration. In 2048 New York City, it appears that everyone has been enhanced by cybernetic implants to some degree, and obviously with this new technology comes lots of new problems. It really does sound almost like another game we’ve been witness to recently, a game whose name escapes me… anyway, obvious comparisons to that other Cyberpunk setting aside, what we have here is a game that is all about the choices that three distinct characters make.
The most obvious place to start with this review is in the narrative, mostly as I am a sucker for a strong storyline, and if it doesn’t hook me I tend to lose interest quite quickly. Luckily, Disjunction is in no danger of succumbing to this fate, as the tale on display is strong. In an interesting twist, the game is portrayed from the point of view of three very different characters, that at the beginning don’t seem to have anything in common. We start off in the shoes of a private detective, straight out of the film noir style, except more robotic. A prominent community leader has been arrested, and found with the new drug of choice, Shard, on his person. We are contacted by the leader’s wife, who asks us to investigate what has happened to him, and how he came to be in the position he is. We are given a lead of where to go, and one loading screen depicting a lovely train later, we begin the story in earnest.
The next character is a cybernetically enhanced fighter, with a bad attitude and recently dead daughter. He is looking for answers, and goes to find them in the only way he knows how, with maximum aggression and brute force. The final character is a hacker; an expert in technology that is drafted in to unlock a terminal, leading to the Mr Big of the shadowy culprits, and clues as to what’s going wrong in the city. She is the most squishy of the characters, and definitely suits a more measured approach to the levels than running in, all guns blazing.
Now, as I was rattling on about the story earlier, a nice touch in the narrative is that in the subtitles, every now and then a word will be highlighted. If you hover the cursor over this, the game will fill in some of the details, explaining who people are, and things about the world as well. I really like this approach, and while it’s only a little thing, it does ensure that Disjunction explains things very well.
Once you have traveled to your destination of choice, you’ll find yourself presented with a top view of the facility or building you are about to infiltrate, and here the game branches out a little way. You see, Disjunction is a bit like Hitman, with no correct way to approach the level; success or failure pretty much depends on whatever mood you are in at the time. Want to kill everyone and leave nothing but a pile of corpses? You can, but equally you can use a modicum of stealth and avoid conflict for the most part, moving through the level like a cybernetically enhanced ninja.
Each character has a series of cyber skills to help them as well, ranging from a healing ability that keeps you alive, via smoke bombs to abilities that make you more damage resistant and capable of hitting harder. Using the right ability at the right time can make a big difference to your chances of survival, as despite seemingly being made of more metal than flesh, the enemies seem adept at hitting your squishy bits and will take you down in short order if you aren’t careful. Luckily, your foes have clearly defined vision cones when you are sneaking about, so creeping up behind someone is pretty easy. That’s all well and good when there’s just the one guy to take out, but how about when there are about five people in the same room? Well, some lateral thinking will be needed! Every level has a cybernetic upgrade to locate and claim, and getting these allows you to change and upgrade your skills, making you tougher, or harder to detect, for instance. All in all, the way the gameplay feeds back into itself, with the loop of mission to upgrade skills and in to the next mission, is very well done indeed.
Graphically, Disjunction is a throwback to the pixel art games of yesteryear; in the way it looks, and to some extent plays, it reminds of a little indie game called Serial Cleaner. The top down view, the vision cones, it all felt quite familiar, so maybe if Cyberpunk 2077 and Serial Cleaner got together, Disjunction would be the outcome. It’s all very lovely too – from the design of the characters and NPCs, and even up to the guard robots that turn up as you get further into the game, there is a lot of personality bursting to get out. Seeing your character tiptoeing about the place always raises a smile, and all you need is some suitable sneaking music and it would be perfect.
The sound is perfectly serviceable mind, with gunshots and meaty thwacks as you creep up behind your poor, unsuspecting target all present and correct. You can even choose to hide the bodies of your victims as you go, adding to the Hitman vibe.
The variety of ways to approach the levels, and the dialogue you can have between the stages, will lead to differing outcomes, and the developers promise that the game reacts to the choices that you make. Obviously, this adds to the replayability quotient of the game, as doing a stealth playthrough is a lot more difficult than taking an all guns blazing approach. Making sure that you explore each level properly to get the Upgrade Kit, and picking up various articles explaining the backstory of the future New York, is always rewarding, if not always easy.
There is very little to pick fault with here. Disjunction plays very well indeed, it rewards exploration and careful play, and is all the better for doing so. The only niggle I have is with the AI, who are an amazing blend of really stupid (the human AI) and incredibly sharp and seemingly able to see through walls (all the robot AI). It’s no exaggeration to say that you can creep through someone’s cone of vision, and as long as you move fast enough they’ll forget the sneaky guy that wandered past their nose until you clobber them on the back of the head. The robot guards are the exact opposite, and the number of times I’ve been killed because an electro zappy robot guy has seen my big toe sticking out from cover from the other side of the room is a little on the high side. Other than this, and with a willingness to exploit the mechanics, good progress can be made.
A conclusion would seem to be in order then, especially at this point in the review. Disjunction on Xbox is a game that I hadn’t heard anything of prior to playing it, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how polished and assured it is. The story is a cracker, getting to know the three main characters and their abilities has been interesting, and all in all it’s provided an extremely enjoyable time. This is helped by an appealing hook and gameplay elements that are strong enough to ensure you keep on playing.