Disjunction is a retro-inspired stealth-action RPG with three diverse playable characters that possess a wide array of unique abilities to master.
While combat is flexible, supporting both lethal and nonlethal playstyles, the game often requires you to use a specific approach to get past harsh spikes in difficulty.
With that said, Disjunction is best recommended for retro game enthusiasts, people who like methodical stealth RPGs, or anyone who admires cyberpunk and pixel art design.
- Flexible stealth-action combat system
- Multiple playable characters with interesting skill sets
- Cool pixel art animations and environments
- Reactive story affected by player actions and dialogue choices
- The game sometimes locks you into using a specific approach in order to progress
- Random difficulty spikes
- Generic-looking skill tree UI
- Overly aggressive enemy AI
- No in-game mini-map or alternative
- Limited checkpoints per level
With the gaming world still staving off its cyberpunk fever, now is the perfect time for developers to offer their own spin on gritty, tech-obsessed dystopian societies.
One such game that popped up on my radar at the start of 2021 is Disjunction, a 2D cyberpunk stealth-action RPG from indie developer Ape Tribe Games.
In this review, I’ll share my thoughts about the game’s story, gameplay, graphics, and sound design to help you decide whether to pick up a copy or pass.
Table of ContentsShow
Story and Setting
Disjunction is set in the year 2048 in New York City amidst global economic strife, environmental disaster, and decaying societal norms.
Due to increasingly scarce natural resources and the effects of climate change, civilization is on the brink of collapse but manages to hold on by the skin of its teeth through massive urbanization.
While this allows society to keep moving forward, the swelling population of densely-packed metropolises inevitably leads to civil unrest, higher crime rate, corruption, and overall lawlessness.
This sets the stage for Disjunction’s three protagonists: a police detective who’s lost his way, an alcoholic boxer with a cybernetic arm, and a female hacker with family ties to the Chinese mob.
Each character has an intriguing backstory that’s revealed throughout the game, though their path is not exactly set in stone and can be affected by decisions made by the player.
In terms of story, this is done via dialogue interactions that typically offer two branching statements; depending on your choices, your characters will come across as hostile, sympathetic, indifferent, etc.
Like many RPGs, there’s a lot of text to read through, whether it be conversations, bits of lore scattered throughout levels or exploring each character’s skill tree.
Despite Disjunction’s flat 2D visuals, I found the game did a great job making me feel immersed through good dialogue and atmospheric world-building.
Disjunction presents itself as a stealth-action RPG that supports both lethal and non-lethal playstyles.
Each of our three heroes comes equipped with special tools and abilities that allow them to excel in certain situations and become vulnerable in others.
The detective has a tactical baton that deals non-lethal damage, a pistol, a stun dart, a smoke grenade, and a healing ability.
The boxer can deal non-lethal damage using his cybernetic arm to either hit nearby enemies or charge towards them, along with a shotgun, a force grenade, and dermal plating that provides armor.
The hacker has a non-lethal baton and Uzi submachine gun but relies more on her secondary abilities, including an adorable cat-shaped holoprojector that distracts enemies, a pulse grenade that deals non-lethal damage, and an ability that turns her invisible for a short duration.
While I enjoyed having multiple characters with distinct strengths and weaknesses, I found some of them were less flexible than others in terms of playstyle.
Both the boxer and detective can play fast and loose, running and gunning their way through levels (to an extent), whereas the hacker was far too frail to survive pretty much any shootout.
Additionally, the AI felt way too smart at times, to the point I would be shot and killed before I even had a chance to react.
With that said, the game does include different skill trees that allow you to min-max in certain areas depending on your preferred playstyle.
However, this falls into the usual RPG trope of having to struggle for a few hours before your character build really comes into its own.
There also various environmental objects to consider, such as electrified traps, surveillance cameras, and shadowed walls you can stand near to reduce the enemy’s vision cone.
Levels contain checkpoint locations that can be activated manually at any time, though they are limited to one or two depending on the size of the level.
I found this aspect of the game relatively outdated, considering how many modern games employ an autosave system instead of traditional checkpoint locations.
Since your character can only see a small part of the level at any given time, I would occasionally get detected by a guard I hadn’t even known was near me.
And due to the aggressiveness of alerted enemies, more often than not, this resulted in me getting killed and sent back to a checkpoint on the other side of the level with my progress wiped.
By the end of my journey, the checkpoint system felt like more of a nuisance than a safe haven, though it did add a layer of strategy to how I played.
Graphics and Sound
Although Disjunction’s 2D pixel art design may not be anywhere closer to the hyperrealism of similar 3D games like Deus Ex or Cyberpunk 2077, it still manages to nail its desired look and sound.
One of my favorite aspects has to be the level loading screen, in which the train your character is riding on is shown traveling against the backdrop of a sprawling Neo New York City.
The in-game UI is decent and easy enough to understand, though the skill tree interface felt a bit bland and generic, lacking any sense of personality.
While many of the levels are set in all-too-similar fortified enemy bases to the point of repetition, there are a few that stand out, such as a wealthy villain’s penthouse complete with fancy purple wallpaper and luxurious furniture.
Since the game doesn’t provide you with a map of any sort, it’s easy to get lost while backtracking to pick up an upgrade you may have missed or activate a checkpoint.
However, this issue really only affected me in the second half of the game when levels became much larger and more elaborate.
I found Disjunction’s soundtrack to be a real treat, considering how much time you’ll spend listening to it as you methodically sneak around environments.
When your character performs a non-lethal blow, you can really feel the weight of its impact, both in the audio cue and animation that plays out.
Like many cyberpunk games, there’s an emphasis on synth-heavy music, though Disjunction takes things in a darker direction by assigning an ethereal-like quality to its music that fosters a strong sense of atmosphere.
The Final Verdict
In an era of overhyped and mismarketed games, including other cyberpunk games we won’t mention by name, Disjunction is a refreshing indie romp that delivers on what it sets out to achieve.
While I found the stealth mechanics refined and the combat serviceable, the relentlessness of alerted enemies and the game’s brutal checkpoint system definitely tested my patience.
If you’re a fan of the high degree of challenge found in retro 2D games, then you should feel right at home in Disjunction’s bleak futuristic world.
For everyone else, I recommend taking your time with each encounter, investing in health and detection-based skills, and strategically using checkpoints to get past the game’s difficulty spikes.