With cyberpunk fever already lingering in the gaming community, now is the ideal time for developers to put their own twist on grim, tech-obsessed dystopian communities.
Disjunction, a 2D cyberpunk stealth-action RPG from indie developer Ape Tribe Games, was one such title that caught my eye at the start of 2023.
In this review, I’ll discuss the plot, gameplay, visuals, and sound design of the game to help you determine whether to buy it or not.
My experience with Disjunction is based on the PC Steam edition supported by developer Sold Out, but the game is also available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and GOG.
The Story and the setting
Disjunction takes place in New York City in the year 2048, in the middle of global economic turmoil, environmental crisis, and deteriorating social norms.
Civilization is on the verge of destruction due to extremely scarce natural capital and the impact of climate change, but it continues to cling on by the skin of its teeth thanks to rapid urbanization.
While this encourages civilization to progress, the increasing population of heavily populated metropolises eventually contributes to social strife, increased violence, inequality, and lawlessness.
This sets the scene for Disjunction’s three protagonists: a missing police officer, an alcoholic boxer with a cybernetic weapon, and a female hacker with Chinese mafia family connections.
Each character has a fascinating history that is explored in the game, but their course is not fixed in stone and may be influenced by the player’s choices.
In terms of plot, this is accomplished by dialogue exchanges with two branching statements; based on the preferences, the characters may seem aggressive, sympathetic, dismissive, and so on.
There’s a lot of text to read in this game, whether it’s interactions, lore sprinkled across stages, or discovering each character’s ability tree, as in many RPGs.
Despite the game’s flat 2D graphics, I considered Disjunction to do an excellent job of immersing me in the environment through solid dialogue and atmospheric world-building.
Breakdown of the Gameplay
Disjunction is a stealth-action role-playing game that allows for both lethal and non-lethal playstyles.
Our three heroes each have unique resources and abilities that enable them to succeed in certain cases while being weak in others.
The detective carries a gun, a stun dart, a smoke grenade, and a healing capacity in addition to a tactical baton that deals non-lethal harm.
Along with a pistol, a power bomb, and dermal plating that includes armor, the boxer can do non-lethal harm using his cybernetic weapon to either strike surrounding opponents or rush at them.
The hacker has a non-lethal baton and an Uzi submachine gun, but she prefers to use her secondary powers, which include a cute cat-shaped holoprojector that distracts opponents, a pulse grenade that does non-lethal harm, and a skill that makes her invisible for a brief period of time.
Though I liked seeing a variety of characters with different strengths and disadvantages, I noticed that some of them were less diverse in terms of playstyle than others.
Both the boxer and the cop would run and fire their way through levels (to an extent), while the hacker was much too weak to withstand any shootout.
Furthermore, the AI seemed much too intelligent at times, to the point that I was shot and killed before I had a chance to respond.
However, based on your chosen playstyle, the game has various ability trees that enable you to min-max in specific locations.
However, this follows the standard RPG pattern of needing to fail for a few hours before the character develops completely.
There are also a variety of environmental items to remember, including electrified traps, security devices, and shadowed walls that you may stand by to minimize the enemy’s view cone.
Levels have checkpoints that can be accessed manually at any moment, but the number of checkpoints is restricted to one or two based on the level’s scale.
Given how many modern games use an autosave mechanism instead of conventional checkpoint locations, I considered this part of the game to be quite obsolete.
Since your player may only view a tiny portion of the level at a time, I was periodically spotted by a guard I had no idea was nearby.
And, more often than not, due to the aggressiveness of alerted opponents, I was killed and sent back to a checkpoint on the other side of the level, my advancement erased.
The checkpoint structure became more of an annoyance than a secure refuge by the end of my trip, but it did introduce a dimension of strategy to how I played.
Sound and graphics
Disjunction’s 2D pixel art style does not come close to the hyperrealism of similar 3D games like Deus Ex or Cyberpunk 2077, but it still achieves the perfect look and sound.
The level loading screen, in which the train your character is riding on is seen running against the background of a vast Neo New York City, is one of my favorite features.
The in-game UI is adequate and understandable, but the ability tree gui feels flat and repetitive, missing some sense of personality.
Although several of the levels are set in too familiar secured enemy bases, there are a handful that stick out, such as a rich villain’s penthouse with fancy purple wallpaper and lavish furniture.
It’s possible to get lost when backtracking to pick up an update or unlock a checkpoint because the game doesn’t supply you with some kind of chart.
However, this problem only became apparent in the second half of the game, as the levels became larger and more complex.
Given how much time you’ll be listening to it while you creep through environments, I considered Disjunction’s soundtrack to be a real treat.
When the character delivers a non-lethal strike, you can sense the force of the blow in both the audio prompt and the animation that follows.
The reliance on synth-heavy music is common in cyberpunk games, but Disjunction takes it a step further by giving its music an ethereal quality that helps to create a clear sense of atmosphere.
The Final Decision
Disjunction is a refreshing indie romp that does what it sets out to do in an age of overhyped and mismarketed titles, like some cyberpunk games we won’t tag.
Though I considered the stealth mechanics to be refined and the gameplay to be adequate, the game’s harsh checkpoint structure and the relentlessness of alerted enemies put my patience to the test.
If you like the high level of difficulty seen in retro 2D games, you’ll fit right in with Disjunction’s dystopian futuristic universe.
All else can take their time for each encounter, invest in health and detection-based abilities, and use checkpoints wisely to get through the game’s difficulty spikes.