Deception III: Dark Delusion review
The classic RPG genre seems to love putting players in the role of adventurers who explore dungeons or ruins in search of treasure while evading and combating the various traps and monsters that lurk around. Deception III twists this around by putting the player in the role of the trap setter, as you lure people into fatal predicaments. Oh, but they're all assassins out to kill you so it's totally justified and not just an excuse to indulge in sadistic means of dishing out increasingly painful means to kill virtual characters.
You take on the role of Reina who suffered tragedy in childhood when her family were killed and her sister kidnapped. She was saved b y a woman who took her in as family, but fate wasn't satisfied with that and, on her 17th birthday, decided to have a nearby kingdom kidnap her and kill her new family as well. All seems lost until a mysterious boy gives her the power of TRAP, letting her kill the jailers and escape. The story then pretty much looks upon the conflict within the kingdom and Reina getting dragged into it, as well as the goals she wants to achieve. There's more than enough substance to events to tug on a few emotions and players will want to take an interest in the dark story that unfolds.
Which makes the poor delivery all the more jarring. Some events just seem rushed through as if they couldn't wait to get them over with, and while this is not a common problem it is something to note. The translation is also something that needs fixing. While those of use old enough to remember the 8 bit era have undoubtedly seen worse, this game's text is still filled with errors a simple proof reading would have caught. Each story campaign missions is also accompanied by a summary screen, just in case you weren't paying attention. The issue here is that while numerous events showcase subtle details about character connections and motivations, the summaries have the subtly of a raging bull by outright stating these things, which ruins the mood set up by the cutscenes.
So anyway, the point of the game is to set up and lure enemies into traps to kill them. This is because Reina herself doesn't have the usual action combat commands you might expect and so relies entirely on traps to succeed.
Available traps can be split up into portable traps and environment traps. Portable traps are the ones Reina can personally set up. These are categorized as floor, wall and ceiling traps. Reina can equip up to three of each for any given mission and can change them around between levels. She can only set up one of each trap in each room, but can set up sets in every room in the given level. These limitations are largely due to the controls, as active portable traps are triggered by button input: X for floor, SQUARE for wall and TRIANGLE for ceiling. This setup allows for fast trap activation which is ideal for snapping onto victims. Each trap also has a charge time, which means that traps are not immediately active as you as you set them down. This is prevent breaking the gameplay as you can't just plant traps directly under enemies as they will have moved by the time charging is finished.
These three trap types are split into further categories, such as ceiling variants consisting of rock, pendulum and vase types. Picking the types of traps to work with and which ones work well together is really what the game is all about.
These traps can also be modified and upgraded through a simple system. Reina earns dreak for kills, remaining health and combos at the end of a mission, which can be used to alter existing traps or create new ones based of existing types. The game limits what you can do by slowly adding new materials as you complete story missions, but this level of freedom is very welcome and lets you customize your gameplay needs. The base circle determines the type of trap and the only component unneeded if modifying an existing object. The element affects the properties, such as adding lightning damage or inducing a forced impact. Rings can add a special trait like automatic activation or reducing charge time. Orbs are the standard booster that increase things like power when added. The more changes made the more expensive the cost but you will find yourself tweaking away to get the perfect setup.
Environment traps differ in that they are already set up in levels. Some are one use only such as causing bridges to collapse, while others can be used repeatedly like lumber saws that will cut up anyone silly enough to get too close. Activation methods can also differ greatly. Some are automatic and only require you to "convince" people to touch them. Others have yellow switches that must be touched (by anything), or you use traps to strike, push or knock over objects. It's one thing to abuse portables, but it's quite satisfying to make use of the level itself to cause some of the harm too.
Each mission will send in between two and eight enemies for you to kill, but will never have more than two in a level at any given time. I don't know if this is a processing necessity but it definitely helps the gameplay, as you will find that even two enemies can be challenging when they travel together. Enemy types vary but you can review the current enemies and their special talents at any time. Said talents can range from immunity from certain types of damage to warping and status spells. Then you have various stats and weapon types to consider. Huge slow guys with axes are easy to keep away from by themselves but pack a punch, while the weaker assassins are generally hard to avoid with their speed and spellcasters will gladly blast you from a distance. All these things are aspects players have to consider when playing and help vary up the approach to some degree.
To help with the killing is the camp screen. The first part of this gives a large map of the area, which also shows your position and that of the current enemies. This is designed to help you plant traps in the direction enemies are likely to come from and to plot out potential escape routes. Going further in is the screen used to plant traps, which is quite straightforward in its use by providing a wireframe isometric view of the current room. You can also use this screen to get information on the current room's environment traps to help incorporating them into your attacks.
The emphasis in the game is largely on scoring combos. Hitting enemies with individual traps will only whittle their health down slowly and will not provide decent rewards. Stacking attacks to toss enemies around like ragdolls is the key to real victory. Why go for subtle damage when you can clasp the enemy in a bear trap, pierce them with an arrow before smashing them with a swinging hammer to fling them into a lumber saw. Not only will this kind of practice appeal to any gamer's sadistic side that revel in tormenting virtual creations (don't pretend otherwise) but will stack up the damage and rewards, as bigger combos dish out more dreak afterwards to help create even better traps.
Due to the way the game works I feel that predictable AI behaviour is both a good and bad thing. Enemies always know where you are and will run straight for your location, tend to follow recognisable paths depending on your position relative to them and typically don't wise up to trap locations and will gladly stumble into the same trap setup you'd just suckered them into previously. Rather than being too easy this just gives you the ammunition needed and you still have to deal with problematic enemies, like a healer sticking close to a big bruiser or getting caught from both sides.
Sometimes this can be a bit too abusable though, as certain situations can let you trap enemies near indefinitely with the right setup, which can lead to players avoiding bothering with alternatives when they can kill off the majority of the enemies in the same manner. Some of the restrictions also are not too interesting. Why can't ranged attackers look up or down to fire on enemies at different heights? You can use height to almost hide in plain sight.
Controls for Reina can be a little shaky in places. Traps respond quickly and the camp screen controls are fine. Alas the movement controls are digital, which can lead to some awkward running. Bad enough when dashing through loading corridors, but can prove dangerous when navigating around environment traps or enemies. It's not unplayable but actual analogue input would have made this so much smoother.
Story mode is the main game mode as you progress the plot and is the only place to unlock new levels and traps. This is likely where you'll spend most of your time. This mode is padded out by multiple endings and the game path branches off into two partway through to maximize replay value. Between levels you get a chance to sort out your trap collection, scope out the upcoming enemies and map and participate in a little practice.
Away from that we have free training, where you can practice in any unlocked map to your heart's content, which even allows you to spawn and position a dummy enemy to test traps setups on (assuming you're not like me who just decided Reina was a good enough test dummy). Trap License mode sets out many basic tasks that let your get to grips with the game - consider it a much more indepth tutorial mode. Expert mode is, as the name suggests, for the pros where you can take on difficult challenges such as launching an enemy out of a room or racking up a certain amount of dreak from trap combos. It's not really possible to play this mode properly without upgraded traps from the story mode though.
Visuals look good for the time with some odd things here and there. Main characters have some nice designs, especially for Reina who stands out with her primarily blue outfit. Enemies don't look too bad either but naturally have a sense of genericness to them as they share similar body models. Faces look a little weird at times, especially depending on the angle but it's nothing too bad. Levels have a largely greyish drab appearance befitting of places of torture and death with some solid structure layouts but rarely does anything in the stages jump out at you.
One thing that might strike as odd is the low blood count around. Considering this is a game that lets you launch victims into whirling blades, slash with guillotines and pierce with spikes it comes off as odd that the most blood you see is a pool that spreads out as they die and the usually dried on blood stains that Zelda has already done itself. Not bad but just odd.
The game also mixes in some high quality FMVs for certain story sequences, mainly for key events. These look quite nice and help push the story along.
The music is suitably haunting and plays out in the background to help increase the effectiveness of the circumstances. None of the tracks stand out inparticular but instead it serves as a good addition to the package. Vocals are fine enough although you may get tired of the death cries so far in and outright vocal conversations are reserved for the select few FMVs dotted around. Sound effects hit with more than enough impact that the traps need.
Even without the novelty value, Deception III is quite a fun game with some degree of creativity that just suffers from some design issues. Still, it's not often you get a game like this so I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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