Disjunction Review – Cyberflunk
Repetitive levels and a disjointed story leave Disjunction without much to stand on.
I first saw Disjunction at Play NYC back in 2018. The game impressed me at the time, being one of the first Cyberpunk games I’d ever played. Little did I know that the genre would quickly blow up, but that’s beside the point. I played a demo of Disjunction and was impressed by its storytelling and approach to gameplay. Now, almost three years later, I’ve played a majority of the game, and while some of those things that impressed me back in 2018 still do, much of Disjunction has left me wanting.
Like many other pieces of Cyberpunk media, Disjunction is about the actions of a corporation with the power of a nation and the people it affects. In this case, there are three main characters with a bone to pick; Frank, a disgraced cop turned P.I, Joe, a former boxer turned vengeful father, and Spider, a hacker. The trio starts their stories separately, but soon enough come together, linked by the actions of the previously mentioned corporation.
While many Cyberpunk titles center around this kind of story, Disjunction‘s is hardly captivating. It quickly introduces characters and plot devices, then asks players to make decisions based on them without enough time to get familiar. It doesn’t seem like that’s intentional design either, there’s no mad-dash going on in the game to crack its central mystery. If there was, the main cast of characters wouldn’t be getting their eight hours between most missions. They certainly wouldn’t be spending so much time with erroneous chatter that leads to a slow fade to black before getting to actual story beats.
The pace of Disjunction‘s story is terribly slow, but it does players one favor. While other Cyberpunk games throw players into an extremely detailed world and tell them “figure it out,” Disjunction doesn’t. Instead, the game highlights the names of important people, places, and things in dialogue boxes. Figuring out what the characters are talking about is as simple as hovering your cursor over those subjects and reading the detailed description that pops up. I genuinely appreciated this thoughtful way for the game to get more information to me without me having to guess.
I didn’t really need those details though, because I never really cared for them. The story of Disjunction tried to pull in my interest, it’s full of death, revenge, and mystery. But I never connected with the characters, not for lack of trying either. They all have their own backstories and connections to the game’s dystopian version of New York City. However, the moments when they were actually talking about themselves were, for lack of a better term, boring. Sure, in a dialogue box Joe might be yelling at the top of his lungs, but on screen, his pixelated character is unmoving and unfeeling.
That disconnect between what was being said and what was happening on screen made it impossibly difficult to feel empathetic towards any of the game’s characters. While they’re are well written and at some points interesting, I was disconnected from them for the most part. Instead, they became foils of their playstyles.
Frank, Joe, and Spider are all playable in Disjunction, and each is supposed to play differently. I say “supposed to” because I didn’t really play them differently at all. Disjunction can be played in one of two ways, with guns blazing or with stealth. However, it’s nearly impossible to go that first route. The number of enemies in a room will always outnumber you, and they’ll certainly outgun you too. That goes double in the game’s later levels when mechs with mounted machine guns and rocket launchers are thrown into the mix. It doesn’t help either that once an enemy is alerted, every baddie in that room will rush to your character. That’s not terrible when there’s only two, but when there are five or six, you’re better off reloading the checkpoint.
That rule even applies to Joe, who is geared towards combat. Each character in the game sports a main weapon and three special abilities. Joe comes equipped with a shotgun, a combat stim that makes him take less damage, a force grenade, and a charge attack that stuns enemies. In theory, he’s great for clearing out rooms of enemies and tanking damage. But if you try that on any level, he’ll get torn to shreds just like the other two characters.
The main reason for that is the extremely small amount of health the player has. Your HP is shown in a small bar made up of squares in the game’s UI, but it doesn’t say exactly how much you have. That’s not to say it matters though, it’s not enough to withstand many blows. Getting into a fight with multiple enemies results in a death screen in just a few seconds.
Disjunction tries to balance the odds with upgrades and abilities for each character. These range from stopping time when an ability is used to simply speeding up a character. However, the end result of combat is almost always the same, regardless of what you’ve unlocked.
The only way I was able to play Disjunction was through stealth alone, and sadly, it’s not that satisfying. Holding shift makes your character sneak around and makes enemies’ cones of vision visible. Avoiding them is simple as long as you stick to shadows, where those cones of vision are shortened. Actually beating enemies like this is excruciatingly repetitive though. While the game wants you to sneak up behind an enemy for extra sneak attack damage, you can come at them from any angle. The first time you hit an enemy, they’re stunlocked for long enough for you to down them. For me, the entire game was just getting up to enemies and knocking them around until they fell unconscious. For the first couple of hours, it wasn’t that bad, but as I reached hour six of Disjunction, I was eagerly awaiting its ending.
It’s a shame too because the game apparently has different endings depending on your approach to missions. If you kill enemies, dialogue from NPCs would change to reflect your actions. I don’t know if I’ll ever find out though, as I was unable to actually finish Disjunction. An update for the game rendered it unplayable just before I hit its conclusion. The devs have said they have a day one patch on the way, but I can’t confirm if that fixes the issue. Here’s hoping.
However, I don’t feel that I’m missing much. Disjunction has so much potential — it has a great soundtrack, interesting ideas for combat, and a serviceable story. These are all bogged down by frustrating and imbalanced combat mechanics, unimaginative stealth, and plain visuals. Disjunction impressed me when I originally played it some time ago, but it may have benefitted from being bite-size. Taking in the entire game, I couldn’t help but want the experience to be over and done with.