Deception IV: Blood Ties feels like the half-baked first attempt at a good idea. It’s the kind of game that leaves you thinking, “Well, if they build on this concept, it will make a hell of a sequel!” The problem, unfortunately, is right there in the title — Deception IV is no first attempt — it is the fourth game in a series. That’s bad, really bad.
The concept is novel, even today, despite being the same basic idea that Tecmo’s original Deception title proposed way back in 1996. You play as Laegrinna, the daughter of the devil, whose asscrack-revealing outfit tells you everything you need to know about this game’s intended audience. Her goal is to collect 12 holy verses and release the devil. To do this, she draws saintly warriors to one of four locations, and then proceeds to rip them to shreds with a variety of traps.
That translates to gameplay where you set sequences of traps, and then corral the warriors into them. The fun is in crafting a Rube Goldberg machine where one trap launches an enemy into another trap, and so on. Beyond killing each warrior that enters your home base, you’re encouraged to kill them in style. Laegrinna is aided by three demons, each representing a style of trap — elaborate, sadistic, and humiliating — and each sporting a different bust size and revealing outfit, just to make sure every kink is covered. Each demon offers up a set of challenges to complete, encouraging you to change up your traps and use every inch of the stage.
The process of setting up traps into combos is simple and satisfying at first. It wasn’t long before I was coaxing an enemy into a swinging axe, throwing them into a saw blade, blasting them into the air with explosions, and then catapulting them into one of the many stage-specific traps, like a rollercoaster that takes them for a ride before crashing violently. Each time I entered a new stage I had a blast discovering the new trap combos I could create, but the limited tools only kept me occupied for so long. Deception IV’s biggest problem is repetition.
With only three categories of traps, and only subtle differences from one trap to the next, there are only so many combos you can create. Making matters worse, you spend so much time in each location that I exhausted all of my unique trap options a third of the way into each new location. The result is a 15 hour game that only provides about 5 actual hours of meaningful content.
By the end of many of the missions I got into a routine of setting up each room for maximum damage and running enemies through the gauntlet as fast as possible. Making matters worse, the game frequently hits checkpoints that reset your traps for no good reason. Enemies are introduced with resistances to certain traps, and sometimes something that should work just doesn’t, because the game’s physics aren’t always consistent. The result is a ton of time spent recreating the same trap sequences, running through the same hallways, and fighting the same types of enemies again and again.
It’s odd that after you finish the main story, the game offers up a deluge of additional content. A challenge mode offers up 100 short challenges, and cross-quests allow you to customize encounters to suit your needs. You can even save your best trap sequence replays and share created sequences online. But since all of this content reuses the environments I’d exhausted through the story mode, this extra content is a pointless addition. Why play remixed versions of content I’m already aggressively bored of?
As annoying as the repetition is, though, my main gripe with the game isn’t the trap system, but how you lead enemies into them. I was frequently reminded of games like Splinter Cell and BioShock, which let you use stealth to lead somewhat intelligent AI into traps. Deception IV is set up more like a Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry but without the ability to attack. Laegrinna will automatically dodge-roll away from danger if she can, but otherwise you’re just walking around flat environments and leading dumb enemies to their demise.
For as much time as you spend setting up traps, you spend at least as much wandering around in front of them, waiting for an AI to step into the right spot. Most will simply walk at you and try to attack, but some ranged enemies are annoyingly unpredictable. It feels less like outsmarting an opponent and more like poking holes in a game designer’s AI pathfinding algorithm. It’s especially sad when games like the aforementioned Splinter Cell and BioShock successfully nail the trapping concept as one small aspect of a much more complex game.
Without a compelling mechanic for navigating the environment, Deception IV is substantially less interesting than it could be. It borders on feeling unfinished — again, much like an initial idea that could get developed into a sequel. Unfortunately there is no Assassin’s Creed 2 equivalent for the Deception series, nor is there a Steam Greenlight alpha phase to justify this game’s half-baked state. Far worse, Deception is a series comfortable with resting on its laurels, falling further and further into a niche, pandering to a fanboy audience with ridiculously pervy outfits, and squandering a really cool idea.
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