PAIN IS GOOD
Last year saw the release of Deception IV: Blood Ties, a somewhat puzzly action RPG with an unusual premise: instead of attacking your enemies, you lay traps for them to walk into. Much like another Koei Tecmo title, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, the game has been rereleased with some new content in order to get it on the PS4, with Vita and PS3 getting digital releases. This new version, Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess, features an extensive new campaign with a new main character, but is it worth buying the game again?
The new story follows the Devil’s daughter, Velguirie, who resides in a mysterious dreamlike space called “Dark Side Heaven”. The Devil had long ago been sealed away by twelve human heroes, each of whom had special powers that aided them in their fight. Aiming to bring her father back, Velguirie searches for the descendants of the twelve heroes, in order to claim their souls and offer them as sacrifices.
You might think this sounds like you’re playing the villain. You’d be right. In the story of Blood Ties (which is also playable in this release), the main character Laegrinna was also a villain with similar intentions. Even then, she was largely defending herself from local heroes whom had heard a demon was in town, and sought to gain fame and fortune by slaying her. In contrast, Velguirie is much more proactive, seeking out both warriors and civilians in order to take their souls. Some players may not be comfortable with a protagonist who is (in her own words) pure evil. Personally, though, I think it’s an interesting change of pace from playing as a champion of justice or an edgy anti-hero with a troubled past. (And in this game, you get to stomp down plenty of both.)
Despite a fun main character, the story isn’t of much consequence for most of the game. You get a lot of backstory and world-building as you go, giving effective context to the enemies you’re about to launch halfway across the room. It’s cool, but it doesn’t really motivate the progression of the game. That said, I did appreciate how the mission-based game structure was written into the plot — a minor detail often overlooked by arcadey games like this.
The visuals of the game are good, but not spectacular. The environments all look cool, but don’t expect elaborate details or much of a sense of immersion. The character models, enemies included, all look pretty nice. My one complaint is that some of the indoor areas are really dark, which can make things really hard to see on the Vita’s screen if you’re playing somewhere with a lot of ambient light.
The gameplay of the Deception series is sometimes humorously compared to the film Home Alone, and it’s easy to see where that association comes from. One or more human opponents will enter the arena (which could be anywhere from a gothic chapel, to a derelict amusement park, to a school gymnasium) and you have to take them out by setting traps. To do so, you pause the action, pick out traps from your inventory, and set them anywhere you like. Upon resuming the game, you lure your enemies toward the traps you set, then press a button to activate them.
If you set your traps carefully, you can use the impact from one to knock an opponent into the next trap; for example, you can start with a bear trap, holding them in place so they’ll be hit by a pendulum axe, sending them flying right into the path of a rolling spiked boulder. Figuring out how to set up combos like this is the meat of the gameplay, lending a fun puzzle-like quality to the action. It can be tricky, but when you pull it off, it’s satisfying and brutal.
Velguirie brings some new tricks to the Deception table, as she can attack her enemies directly. As you progress, you’ll unlock a variety of kicking techniques that do little damage, but can unbalance your enemies. If your traps don’t quite connect, you can just kick your foe in the face, making him or her step back into the path of the next trap. Not only does this let you plan longer combos, but you can use it to correct your victim’s course if things don’t end up quite right. This addition makes the game so much easier to play, and I found myself growing so attached to the kicks that I didn’t want to use any of the other playable characters.
In general, the new campaign is much more pleasant to play compared to that of Blood Ties. Instead of a couple of handfuls of too-long missions, Velguirie’s campaign is broken up into 100 smaller quests on a progression tree. These quests are confined to one room, and have only a few enemies each. To compensate, each quest has three optional objectives that unlock new traps (many of which are new to this release), hidden quests, and customization parts for the quest and enemy editors. Some of the objectives get a little frustrating, but I found myself persevering because I really wanted the rewards. It’s a very sensible and addicting method of progression.
Speaking of the quest and enemy editors, they’re a lot of fun and easy to use. Using parts you pick up in the campaign, you can customize enemies to fight, or craft challenges for other players by setting the location, the enemies, and the win conditions. I downloaded and played a couple custom quests, and was inspired to put together my own. I came back in a couple hours to find a few others had played and rated it, which was cool to see. It’s pretty simple, but it’s a fun way to extend your time with the game and work out your creative muscles.
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess is a rerelease, but the new content is so expansive that it’s easily worth the price tag, even if you’ve played Blood Ties. It’s sort of like Doom II: same game, but with new scenarios and new toys to play with. It would be cool if the visuals were a touch brighter and there were a few more new maps, but Velguirie’s quest is so much more well-executed than her predecessor’s that it’s hard to complain. It’s more of the same, but in many ways it feels more like a proper sequel than some actual sequels. And with all the content of Blood Ties, if you missed the previous edition, this is a great time to jump in.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Aaron Dobbe is an Associate Writer at MONG specializing in Nintendo but playing a bit of everything else too. Follow him on Twitter for a cute picture of an alpaca.