With its cyberpunk stylings and gameplay that reminded me of Metal Gear Solid with twin-stick shooting, I had been super excited to get my hands on Disjunction for some time. I mean, come on, that description alone should be enough to get most gamers intrigued, right? (Even if the word ‘cyberpunk’ might hit a little too close to home right now).
Taking place in the year 2048, Disjunction tells the story of a New York city that is rampant with crime and a deadly drug known as ‘Shard’. With things spiralling out of control, the Mayor is encouraged to bring in external policing and security via a mega corporation; something that the public is slowly warming to thanks to the ongoing rivalry between Russian and Chinese mobs on the streets. Something sinister is going on behind the scenes though and it’s up to the private investigator Frank, the war-hardened hired-hand Joe, and the secretive hacker Spider to get to the bottom of it.
Disjunction deserves a heck of a lot of credit for the depth it goes into with its narrative and lore, with plenty of detail to be found as you progress through the game’s story. There’ll often be key words in the dialogue that you can highlight to find out a bit more information and history, whilst each level contains documents that flesh out what’s going on too. It’s clear a lot of care and attention went into fleshing out the world and it’s something I appreciated when playing.
Best of all though, it’s just a really intriguing tale to see through to its conclusion. Whilst it didn’t necessarily do anything that surprised me, the way it develops relationships between characters and fleshes out the motives for their actions was impressive. The player has a hand in shaping the story too, with the choices made throughout missions ultimately affecting the outcome of the game. It’s good stuff and definitely one of the highlights of the experience.
Disjunction’s main gameplay loop revolves around exploring an assortment of non-linear levels made up of multiple routes, taking out enemies, opening locked pathways, and reaching your objective… simple. There’s an emphasis placed on being sneaky, with the player able to utilise a stealth mode that allows them to see their each enemy’s cone of vision and move around unheard at the expense of their movement speed, whilst they’re also able to hide the bodies of enemies they’ve defeated by moving them into unseen areas. You’ll feel just like Solid Snake by the time you’ve finished the first level, sans the cardboard box to hide yourself in. Of course, you’re well prepared when the s**t hits the fan too, with a twin-stick shooting element also in place when you need to pick off foes with your firearm.
You’ll control one of three different characters as you progress through levels (Frank, Joe, and Spider), with each bringing with them their own unique skillset that makes them feel distinct to control.
Frank is a private eye so acts as a bit of a jack of all trades, with his first aid making it easy to recover health when in a fix and his smoke grenade providing a perfect cover for him to stay out of view of enemies. Joe on the other hand is a bit of a powerhouse, with his charge ability allowing him to smash through any enemies in his path whilst his shielding grants him additional health blocks that can always recover. Spider is a lot stealthier in her approach, with her cloaking allowing her to completely hide her presence from enemies momentarily and her projection ability allowing her to divert the attention of patrolling guards elsewhere.
That’s just a few examples of their capabilities, with each character equipped with three main abilities and one passive ability to help them get through each encounter. Their use adds a really strategic touch to proceedings and makes each character feel versatile in design, but be warned: they also require energy and the abilities themselves have to be recharged between uses, so you’ll want to pick the perfect moment to use each one if you don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable.
There was something satisfyingly intense about Disjunction’s gameplay that made each level feel pretty thrilling to get through, with the barrage of patrolling enemies and open level layouts giving players plenty to think about. Do you go all guns blazing or do you try to sneak around? Either way, the game caters for multiple approaches and there’s never a simple way to handle each situation you find yourself in. Sure, there’ll be moments where you’ll utilise a bit of trial and error to see what works best (Disjunction can be tough so there’ll be times where you’ll do a lot of things over and over again before you succeed), but for the most part you can just do you – whether that’s sneakily taking out foes and hiding their bodies or making your presence felt by unleashing gunfire everywhere.
Whilst intense though, Disjunction’s levels can start to feel a little repetitive the more you play. There’s not a whole lot to differentiate them outside of a change of aesthetic, with each one following the same formula: you sneak past (or kill) enemies, you grab key cards to open locked doors, you progress to the next floor, and you repeat. The formula never really evolves any further than that throughout the game, outside of the occasional level hazard (which are few and far between) or new enemy to face off against.
The problem with those enemies is that they’re easy to exploit, with their cones of vision easy to follow and hide within to take them out. It could feel unrealistic that I was able to stand right next to an enemy and just mash him with my baton to take him out fuss-free, whilst enemies that investigate their defeated allies simply stand around and leave themselves as easy targets. There’s just no urgency to their movement in the game unless they can actually see your character and it just makes them easy prey throughout – they only ever pose a threat when there’s a large number of them.
It’s a shame, especially since actually playing the game is a lot of fun… it’s just a bit too easy to exploit the uninspired enemy AI.
One thing that I did like a lot in Disjunction was the levelling up system, with the player able to not only improve their different abilities but increase their stats too. XP is earned by simply completing objectives in the game, whilst upgrading your abilities requires one of the upgrade kits that can be found across levels – they aren’t so hidden that you’ll struggle to find them, but they are typically well-guarded to make obtaining them a bit riskier.
There are plenty of options in place that allow you to fine-tune your character build too. For example, Joe is much better at offensive capabilities than anything else, so strengthening up his attacks could really give you the upper hand. Meanwhile, Spider is able to cloak herself, so unlocking the ability to attack whilst cloaked will definitely prove helpful whilst sneaking around. The most useful ability I found for Frank was his smoke grenade, so the upgrade that allows it to also dish out damage was a big help. Add to that some upgrades that’ll give your characters things like extra health, faster reloads, more energy, or a faster speed and you’ll quickly find that there are a lot of options in place to set your characters up to suit your playstyle perfectly. You can always swap out upgrades too, so if something isn’t working for you it’s possible to change it up.
I’d be remiss not to mention a peculiar issue that would randomly occur when playing through Disjunction. Every so often, the game would slow down and see a drop in the frame rate – never to unplayable levels by any means, but it could make the experience feel a lot less smooth on occasions. It often fixed itself between levels or if I returned to the main menu and reloaded back in, but I couldn’t work out what caused the issue in the first place. I have been assured that a patch is due to launch soon that should hopefully fix it, but for now it remains a bit of an oddity.
It’s worth noting that I only really noticed it happening when playing in handheld mode (I played through about 80% of the game handheld), so that could be the issue? Either way, it’s something that I figured is worth mentioning.
Disjunction offers an intriguing narrative and some genuinely thrilling stealth action, but it is guilty of being a little repetitive in design. The enemy AI is pretty easy to exploit too, with their limited cones of vision and predictable patrol paths making it easy to take most of them out with minimal fuss.
Despite this, I still had a good time playing through the game, with the diverse skillsets of the protagonists and the open level layouts making for some satisfying scenarios in-game. It always felt rewarding when I cleared a room of enemies unscathed, whilst the choices I made during the story genuinely felt like they had repercussions.
I just wish that Disjunction had that little bit more variety to the experience – it’s the one real thing that makes it feel like more of a ‘good game’ as opposed to a great one.
Developer: Ape Tribe Games
Publisher: Sold Out
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC