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Deception IV: Blood Ties PS3 Review

We maybe in the new era of gaming, with the PS4 and Xbox One battling each other for your money, but while that is happening, the PS3 is still receiving games that are way more unique and fascinating than anything currently available on Microsoft’s or Sony’s  infant aged consoles. One such quirky title is Deception IV: Blood Ties from Tecmo Koei, a game so far-fetched from what you normally see created by well-known publishers that I am sure that no other publisher will release something so bizarre for the rest of 2014, at least from a non-indie standpoint.

Deception IV is a sort of a rebirth for the series, since it’s been nine years since the last title, Trapt, was release for PS2. Most of the games in the series put you in charge of a young woman who can’t defend herself with simple brute force, so most use cunning placement of traps and lure enemies towards them to save herself from death. Deception IV puts you in the shoes of evil, the daughter of the devil, created from his own soul, named Laegrinna. It’s been 3,000 years since the devil was defeated by 12 warriors, who sealed the devil in an object known as the Holy Verses. Laegrinna, along with the help of three daemons, Caelea, Veruza and Lilia, are tasked to retrieve the 12 pieces of the Holy Verse to release the devil from imprisonment. It’s an odd story, one that doesn’t go out of its way to surprise, with standard storytelling about god, religious fanatics and other cult driven philosophies that are only included to make the concept of killing enemies feel right in the game’s setting and plot.

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The focus of the game is purely on the traps, but Deception IV doesn’t play like any other trap/tower defence title, such as Orcs Must Die or Dungeon Defenders. In fact, this game is less about waves of enemies, as you’re never fighting more than four to five people at a time. It’s more like playing a game of tag, where the enemies are out to hunt you, and the player must keep Laegrinna away from these enemies, while artfully enticing them by using herself as bait to get them in position.

Traps are placed into one of three categories, wall, floor and ceiling. Along with those classifications, traps are also coloured in red, blue or yellow, relating to one of the three daemons that hang with Laegrinna. Red represents Sadistic, with these traps dealing high damage. Traps that fall into this category are ones like the Lethal Lance, the Swinging Axe, and the lovely human squeezing Maiden’s Embrace.  Blue is Elaborate, which are traps that set up combinations into other traps. You’ll use traps like the Springboard to launch an enemy across the room, Bear Traps to stop them in their tracks, Electric Spark to slow them down or the Claw to hang them in the air. Humiliation is the last group, these are traps that don’t deal much damage, but are used to simply humiliate the opposition and gain more experience points by using them to extend combos. Expect to be using a Banana Peel, Pumpkin Mask and that Tecmo Koei favourite, the Delta Horse, a wooden rocking horse that has a blade for a saddle, hurting any unlucky soul that lands for a ride on the painful contraption.

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Story is where you will want to go first to play, as this is the best place to learn the game, plus it also unlocks additional modes and traps as you progress through the chapters. Every mission follows the same principle – place down traps in a manner that will ricochet enemies between each of them to give the biggest combo. Initially, you are only placing down between three to four traps, but you’ll eventually get to placing down eight. Each room is made up of areas. The first zone is a castle, which includes the hallway, a corridor and a garden with a mechanical environment trap to deal extra damage. You are free to explore any of the rooms linked, and each one can fit in the maximum trap cap, since there is no way to link the rooms together to build combos between them. You’ll also visit a mechanical factory, which has a steam train to ram people, and a theme park, which comes with its own themed environment traps, the roller coaster and horse carousel.

The early parts of Deception IV are kind of repetitive, due to the limited number of traps that can be placed and the small selection available. Enemies come in twos or threes, and during the early stages, you spend a lot of time making them follow you to your traps. As you earn experience points, along with cash, you begin to unlock more traps to purchase from the menu, which then can be equipped to take into the next battle. The later stages of the game allow for eight traps, and with more unlocked death devices by that point translates into meaning much more devilish combos to set up. This is were a lot of the fun lies in Deception IV.

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There’s no doubt the traps are the place where the imagination from the game’s designers went. The same goes for the environmental hazards. Zapping a soldier in place, and then crushing his head with a boulder at the right time, leaving him on the ground so that the oncoming train runs over his poor body, is pure evil, but gloriously fun evil that shouldn’t be taken serious. This is a game that lets you smack enemies in the face with a broom, before slamming them into a rod of electricity, poking them with spikes, and finally letting them die slipping on a banana. I had numerous smiles on my face during my time with Deception IV, and it was smiles brought on by coming up with the most amusing death dealing domino affects.

Placing traps is easy thanks to the intuitive grid system that displays in the trap placement menu. This section shows how many traps can be placed in the area, and all you do is pick the numbered slot, select the trap and then place it down anywhere on a clear space displayed on the map. This grid map also displays the positions enemies will be thrown if a trap moves them from the initial punishment spot, making it simple to decide on how to carry on combos and earn those big pools of experience points.

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Enemies come into rooms with amusing little biographies about themselves, which explains their reasoning in hunting Laegrinna. Bad guys can attack in various forms, some will come rushing at you with swords or axes, while others will stay back and aim with their bows or magic wands. Assassins are some of the more frustrating ones, as they love to jump around, completely avoiding your traps just when you think you have them caught.

Special enemies, and sometimes bosses with extended health, will have buffs that either makes them resist specific trap types or completely nullifies them, which results in having to replant a new trap combination to take them down.  Getting surrounded by enemies can be a frustrating experience, since Laegrinna can’t do much to defend herself. She’ll get sandwiched, then attacked by one person, and then hit by another. It can be infuriating to escape it, especially when knocked to the ground, as she cannot do anything at all until she stumbles back to her feet. Laegrinna can equip skills, such as a dodge roll that lets her roll out of harm’s way or an auto dodge skill that helps with ducking attacks (kind of the game’s way of doing an easy mode), but auto dodge reduces money rewards by half. It mostly didn’t help with situations where I was cornered near the stairs and other areas where the camera isn’t very helpful, as you cannot see your character nor half of the surroundings.

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Artificial intelligence, to be brutally honest, is stupidly dumb in this game. Enemies are programmed with the most basic of tracking, which you can easily manipulate to get them to repeatedly fumble over the same trap until they are dead. If you take advantage of this poor AI, by placing a trap near some stairs and standing above it, so that people with guns cannot hit, those enemies will move to get a clear shot, which ends up with them running into your nasty surprise. It’s a shame that no smarter AI was implemented, because exploiting the basic AI spoils the game’s otherwise amusing and original gameplay.

The game’s save system is also frustrating to deal with as the game increases in difficulty. You can only save after every chapter, but a chapter normally consists of three groups of battles before you are given the option to save again. This is annoying when you meet a boss and their strength protects against most of your traps. If you die, you can retry that section again, but you cannot equip different gear. Changing gear requires you to quit and go back to the menu, which means doing all three battles again to get to that boss that once screwed you over. There is also no insight before a chapter, so it’s not like you can even prepare with what’s coming without finding a guide on the internet.

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Once the story is over in Deception IV, there’s quite a bit of post-game content. There’s a challenge mode that asks you to finish 100 different tasks, such as meeting a score target, defeating so many enemies within a time limit, getting over a certain combo or finishing a stage with a limited selection of traps. These are good fun, and I imagine they work very well on the Vita version of Deception IV, since they feel tailored for short gaming sessions, rather than the forceful nature of finishing a chapter in story mode. Quest Creation is a neat feature that allows you to either download people’s quests or make up your own challenges and share them online.

Deception IV is a strange game that bizarrely makes for a wonderfully unique title, but shortcomings with the gameplay affects the overall quality of the game. Trap designs are very amusing and distinctively original, but issue with the game’s AI causes Deception IV some repetition with its bait, run away, trap, and repeat gameplay. There’s compensation for coming up with genuinely cool ways to create satisfying combo chains, but when most enemies can be defeated by baiting them, it’s a core feature that loses its importance in Deception IV’s one of a kind game design.

6 out of 10