Disjunction is advertised as a stealth-action RPG with a narrative that changes depending on the actions the player takes. It’s an eclectic mix of gameplay elements, but I ultimately came away from the experience enjoying the stealth gameplay most of all. This isn’t intended to diminish the work done on those other aspects, but Disjunction is an incredibly solid stealth game dripping with atmosphere, and that alone makes it worth picking up.
Being a top-down stealth game, Disjunction is relatively easy to come to grips with. The simple pixel art and the subdued yet varied color palette make the action clear and decipherable, and the enemies all use the classic vision cones to clearly indicate where the player should stay hidden. Staying close to walls and other obstructions to decrease the vision cones’ size feels intuitive and adds a welcome layer of decision-making to the gameplay. In fact, Disjunction in general excels at giving players a variety of tools to solve challenging situations however they wish. Players are given firearms to make use of, but since they can die very quickly if spotted, they can take advantage of the many nonlethal options available, which vary depending on which character is currently being controlled. Concussive melee attacks from behind are one of the simplest and most efficient nonlethal options available, and various gadgets such as stun grenades and holograms can be used for particularly tough situations if players have enough energy available. These already expand the player’s options significantly, but there are also more creative strategies that can be used to bypass sections, such as distracting guards with knocked-out bodies to leave them open for melee attacks. These options by themselves are nothing groundbreaking for the stealth action genre, but combined they make for a robust toolkit that allows players to easily formulate their own strategies.
It’s fortunate that Disjunction allows these strategies to take place, because it offers a remarkably stiff challenge. Although the early levels are relatively beginner-friendly, it’s not long before the enemy layouts and patrol patterns begin to ramp up. Even small mistakes can easily result in death, and aside from the tutorial sections, checkpoints are spread decently far apart. Recovery items for energy and especially health are never guaranteed, so simply using the most useful gadget whenever a difficult situation crops up may not pay off in the long run. This may sound overwhelming, but the clear visual language ensures that deaths are always the result of player error, and the wealth of gameplay options gives players considerable leeway to conquer any challenge.
The split-second grace period that occurs when players enter an enemy’s vision cone improves the game’s fairness considerably as it grants just enough time to correct a mistake before the enemy spots the player character. The upgrade kits hidden in each stage are fantastic at giving players optional challenges to aim for while offering ways to make the game easier in the long term. This is where the RPG elements come in; players can spend upgrade points and experience points on specific perks and stat buffs to improve the character for future levels. These upgrades do not add significantly to the experience, but it’s great that players are not stuck with the ones they choose. If they try an upgrade in a stage and find it cumbersome, then they can freely disable it and spend their points on another buff of their choosing, granting even greater customizability on top of the already plentiful gameplay options.
The gameplay is remarkably well-considered, but it does have some problems. Nearly every level contains two floors with a midway checkpoint in each and an upgrade kit hidden in either one. In some ways, this structure works; players know exactly what to expect within each level and can plan their routing accordingly. Unfortunately, this leads to the levels feeling fairly similar to each other. It does not help that although there is a decent variety of enemy types on offer, they are all carried over from stage to stage. This is even more unfortunate considering that each level is guarded by a certain faction. It would have been interesting to see different enemy types or even just differently colored enemies depending on the level, but the fact that they are all shared makes the gameplay less varied and the world less believable. I appreciate that the experience is consistent, but even just a few levels that change up the enemy types or the floor count would have gone a long way toward making the campaign more memorable. Although the framerate is mostly solid throughout, there are a few instances, particularly during the endgame, where the framerate started to tank during my playthrough. It is entirely possible that my PC simply did not have the right specs for these segments, but it sticks out only because the issue is almost entirely nonexistent elsewhere.
If there is any area Disjunction succeeds in other than the gameplay, it’s the aesthetics. The cyberpunk world is lovingly rendered in a captivating style that is both simple to parse and rich with detail. The title makes strong use of color in many of its stages; one level in particular features calm blues and greens contrasted against a bright pink background to produce an image that really sticks in the mind. The soundtrack is also excellently produced. It’s not particularly catchy, but its slow, droning synths make for a wonderfully moody atmosphere. The visuals and the soundtrack perfectly mesh together, and they make for a style that really engrossed me into the experience.
In the end, it’s difficult to go wrong with Disjunction. It’s surprising how finely-tuned the stealth-action gameplay really is, and although I found the RPG and story elements to be mostly serviceable, they are solid enough that I can really see some people connecting with them. In contrast with its title, Disjunction is a remarkably cohesive experience well worth trying out.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows 10 PC