Disjunction is an excellent example of an indie cyberpunk title. Forget about all the other nonsense that goes hand-in-hand when talking about the genre at the moment; this features the key ingredients of a decent title in the making.
We’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until the full release, but you can play the demo in the meantime. Just as you start getting into it (which is the first couple of minutes), it’s all over, and you want more. A perfect demo experience.
We’re not going to come back to this later on as it’s not that relevant for a write-up about a demo, but the music in Disjunction is stellar. It has to be one of the best scores/soundtracks about – on par with Ruiner and its eerie tones.
Seriously though, the score in this game is superb and understated. Back to the ingredients of ‘what makes a cyberpunk title’, which applies to books, film and cereals. It needs to have an evil corporation, a dystopian state, advanced tech and hacking abilities, and perhaps a sprinkle of neon and film noir.
But you know what the best part is? The story. Sometimes these stories set in the future make observations of the present day, and the running theme here is corruption. A leading defence company in Central City is about to launch cybernetically engineered security personnel on the streets, and Mayor Montgomery has a lot on his plate to contend with.
In the game, you get to play one of the two playable characters. The first is Frank, a P.I. who is to investigate the murder of a police officer where the suspect may well have been framed – the connection may or may not point to the corporation, Bishop-Krauss’ agenda. The second is Joe, or Lockjaw – a brute of a man dealing with the loss of his daughter with the assistance of a whisky glass.
Both characters have a decent amount of exposition for demo purposes, but they both play out with similar traits. Like other cyberpunk-like games such as Deus Ex, you can choose to go the stealth route or all-out blasting.
The stealth route is good. Assuming the position, the crawl button, the enemy’s line of sight shows up on the screen for you to sneak past, get up behind them and knock them out. Alternatively, you can kill them.
At your disposal with both characters is the non-lethal melee attack, and the ranged attack – you guessed it, lethal. Additionally, you have abilities too that are fueled by energy which can be replenished with drops.
For the first ten minutes, I was meticulously creeping around the first level executing silent takedowns until an enemy was alerted. As the cursor was already highlighted on them, it didn’t hurt to shoot them with the mouse button. Well, Frank was unharmed but left the poor NPC for dead.
Though this method doesn’t warrant a bloodlust, the response and accuracy of one-hit kills were far more satisfying than the stealth option. See an enemy up ahead? Shoot them from a distance, then the next who investigates the bodies. There aren’t any consequences. Right?
Lethal/Non-Lethal – The Choice Of A Generation
Wrong. After the first mission, Frank headed back to his Deckard-like apartment to speak with his client. They weren’t happy with all the dead bodies. At least there was a dialogue tree to make the excuses, and each option was great.
This exchange prompted a more systematic approach, a.k.a. non-lethal, but in the next stage, other than the henchmen, there were drones as well, and it was just so much more fun to kill ’em all (great album). Still, you can’t complain about the options as the earlier perks are well worth it.
The first is a simple one that explains itself: healing, then there’s the grenades. For Frank it’s a smoke grenade, for Joe a concussion type – either way, they’re both non-lethal. To launch, you press F, then once more to detonate. Additionally, Frank can fire a stun gun for temporary disablement, and Joe will dash across the screen to stun an enemy.
The UI is uncluttered, and while there isn’t anything like an inventory or mini-map, you don’t need it.
Each stage is a small labyrinth to navigate, occasionally finding a key to unlock an area, evidence for the story and optional upgrades that will improve your abilities – well, upgrades and talents. There’s a lot of premise for these and looking forward to the complete game to experience them.
Classic Features For A Futuristic Title
Perhaps the most important thing here is the gameplay and engagement. The storyline lures you in with corruption and conspiracies without the need for an aluminium hat from the outset. These narrative devices are separated by a news reporter describing the events in Central City, dialogue sections and monologues also help piece it together.
In context, the presentation is marvellous. The UI is uncluttered, and while there isn’t anything like an inventory or mini-map, you don’t need it. Disjunction has a 16-bit feel to it, circa the Amiga and 486 PC’s – and that’s a good thing. Though it’s not retro for the sake of it, the design works perfectly for the story.
If anything, the way the characters move is a bit floaty and could have done with a bit more animation in-between, but that’s completely trivial. The accuracy of ranged attacks and overall movement through each stage is excellent, though Disjunction is a little challenging if you cock up an area.
While there are notable checkpoints to respawn from and regenerating health, I inadvertently took a few hits when starting a new area and this made is pretty tricky to get through. That’s no slur on the overall difficulty, but more of being a knucklehead who should have been a tad more sneaky.
Disjunction is on Steam from the 28th of January, by Ape Tribe Games. If this has piqued your interest, may I recommend you also download the demo and give it a go for yourself?