Deception IV: Blood Ties (PS3) Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 03.31.2014
411mania’s Marc Morrison explores the world of traps and heroes in this long awaited sequel to an underrated series.
Title: Deception IV: Blood Ties
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Genre: Action Strategy
Rated: M for Mature
I was actually kind of shocked another Deception game was announced a few months ago. There had been three games of varying quality on the original Playstation (Deception 2 being the best), and after a mediocre follow up on the PS2, I assumed the series had become dormant. Imagine my surprise a few months ago when Deception IV was announced and was due out soon. Well, the game is upon is and…it has some issues.
The basic gameplay of the Deception series (from Deception 2 on) is you take control of a young woman in a mansion/castle as other people come in. You can set traps up on the ground, wall, and ceiling to stop the humans from coming in and trying to kill you, or just because they found their way in by accident. There are also some environmental traps to stop people as well, which are room-specific. You have to lure your enemies into the trap activation zones, as you dodge their attacks, waiting for the right time to activate a trap which can hopefully combo the enemy and kill them. This is the barest essence of what the Deception series is all about.
As said above, there are three classifications of traps: floor, wall, and ceiling. Floor traps can only be placed on the floor (obviously) and are more about immobilizing your foes, or throwing them around the room. Wall traps are set onto walls in the rooms and have to do with either firing things from the walls (arrows, fireballs), concealing weapons in the walls (buzz saws and mallets), or else drawing an enemy to the wall and making them helpless for a time. Ceiling traps drop from above and can either cause massive damage or else move the enemy around the grid-like stage. You can only carry a set amount of traps per stage, but the deeper you go into the story, the more you’ll be able to carry around. You also can’t put floor and ceiling traps on top of each other which can make parts of the game difficult.
The story is focused on your character, Laegrinna, a part of the devil. You’re tasked with trying to collect 12 holy relics that when put together will let the devil be born onto Earth. Helping you are three demons with their specializations: Caela who is blue and focuses on elaborate traps, Veruza who is red and focuses on sadistic traps, and Lilia who is yellow and focuses on humiliating traps. These are the trap “schools”, which then fit into the trap types. You can have a humiliating wall trap for instance, or a sadistic floor trap. Generally, sadistic traps are good for all-around damage, elaborate traps have high damage potential but can be hard to hit, and humiliating traps are good for delaying your enemies or leading them into dangerous situations.
As you play the demons will have requests for you to partake in the missions. Some are easy like “Kill the archer”, or “Cause an armor break on an enemy”, but others are more difficult like using a chandelier on enemies, or hitting an enemy with the pipe organ pipes. Completing these sub-missions will net you more experience in that specific trap school, which you can then use to buy more traps later on.
One other thing I’ll mention is, I just enjoy the humor in the game. I like the perspective this game (and prior Deception games) have taken with you essentially being a bad guy, killing a lot of innocent people. When you meet someone you can use the “Devil Eye” to see what stats/equipment they have. Certain characters have armor you can break off for more damage, or immunities to specific traps that you need to plan around. More than the stat screen though is every enemy has a little story that is behind their actions. These range from intense greed, to being a family of hunters, to just wandering into the castle unexpectedly. A lot of these are kind of funny and that made it all the more enjoyable to cut the people down as they try to escape.
Above all, the problems with the game are linked together: a punishing difficulty, unreliable traps, and waves of endless enemies. I’ll start with the first one:
The difficulty in the game is kind of insane. At the start, there is an option to turn on an “Auto Defense” mode, it’ll cut the amount of money you get by half, but the game will make your character dodge out of attacks. I highly recommend this. The game is punishing, almost beyond all measure. Chapter 1 is fine, chapter 2 is hard, and I only managed to beat chapter 3 by cheesing the AI and running around the castle in circles. The game is extremely punishing, so this is my far warning to you.
The difficulty is compounded by just how many enemies you fight. If you only had to fight one or two enemies and then be given a chance to save, or buy/swap out your traps, it’d be great. You don’t though. The game has a chapter and mission structure that boggles the mind. In chapter 3 you fight three waves of enemies, the first wave has 5 enemies, the second has 6, and the third wave has around 9 (with a boss fight), with no break in between at all. The only respite is that a few rooms have a healing tile, but it gets burned out after a few uses. Also, a few enemies can pretty much stun-lock you into oblivion which is just great.
Lastly, trap behavior itself can be unpredictable, especially with launcher (throws an enemy around) type of traps. Here’s an example: You try to set a 3 part combo trap system, the first part is a floor launcher, the second is the spiked gullitone (which also throws an enemy) and the third is the boulder. You want to line up an enemy to the first trap, launch him into the second, which can launch him into the third. Only the first trap doesn’t throw the enemy into the second, it over-shoots the angle, which ruins your combo. This happens routinely during the game and can make an already masochistic game even more demaning.
The visuals and audio bits get the job done but aren’t exactly impressive. Graphics are fine, and there is some nice detail in your character model, and how some of the enemies look. However, the castle you are in is fairly ugly and it can be hard to discern where you need to go. It never slows down though, or has frame rate issues, something the PS2 version couldn’t claim in the slightest. The sound is largely “ok” for the game, the music can get repetitive, but that’s just because missions go on for way too long at times. Voice work is only in Japanese, which actually suits the game rather well.
If you manage to survive the brutalstory, there is a large amount of replayability in the game. There’s a mission mode where you’re given tasks of killing a group of enemies quickly, or using only specific traps. There’s also just a free battle mode where you can try to have fun with enemies, although sadly, it doesn’t get as customizable as I’d want. Lastly, you can make your own quest yourself, lay out enemies and objectives and upload them online. You can also download other people’s maps and try them out yourself.
Largely same Deception action as before
Some humor in the enemy back stories
When a combo goes right, it feels great
Lack of mid-mission saving or trap switching doesn’t work
Punishing difficulty with certain enemies
Trap inconsistency can throw off the combo system entirely
Deception IV isn’t quite the return of the Deception series I wanted. The basic building blocks are largely there but the rough edges really make the game more punishing then it ought to be. It is fun having a pumpkin head fall on an enemy’s head and watch him stumble around to his untimely death. The game is designed to make it as frustrating to have these moments as possible though which puts the brakes on your enjoyment of it. If you liked the older games in the series, it’s a lot more of that, but if you’ve never played, or even heard of the series (most of you, I’d wager), I’ll give a word of caution about how difficult it’s going to be.
A bit technical simple, with the castle having some unimpressive textures. There is nice details in the character models though.
The core of Deception’s gameplay is always great, and the new trap schools do change things up, but the game feels like it against you non-stop.
The music is pretty quiet, for the most part. I actually appreciate the Japanese voiceover work, because I know an English translation would be awful.
To the game’s credit, it can keep you occupied for a fairly long time, with a mission mode and creation mode. I’m unsure of how many people will stick with it, though.
There are moments of fun to be had, but the amount of overt frustration to reach them is huge. Why can’t I save between rounds at all?