PAX East 2020 Hands-on: Disjunction

Developers Ape Tribe Games set out with a mission: evoke the feeling of classic RPGs while allowing players true agency of choice and strategy. This focus became the heart of their upcoming Cyberpunk title, Disjunction, set to release summer 2020 and published by Sold Out.

The year is 2048 and the city of New York is vastly different than our own current landscape. Corruption runs rampant, but the source of this criminality remains cloaked in mystery as three characters struggle to untangle the complex web of the society they live in. Players will be forced to choose how they navigate the treacherous landscape in this challenging and story-rich stealth-action RPG.

The pixel-art visuals evoke the beauty of classic rpgs such as Chrono Trigger with rich layering, lighting, and environmental details. Don’t let the charmingly nostalgic imagery trick you into a sense of simplicity, however. Disjunction is equally as punishing as any old school title.

Choice is key in all of the 30+ handcrafted levels found within the game. The three main protagnoists are playable at different times in the story and offer their own diverse skill set for players to master. Whether you stealth like a shadow or run in guns blazing, you’ll need to learn how to best optimize your abilities and timing to meet the goals of the mission.

While playing as Frank, I was able to fire a gun, launch a smoke grenade, punch enemies unconscious, sneak, and more. Certain strategies also run the risk of being noisy, which can easily alert nearby guards to your presence.

During the demo I played at PAX East 2020, I quickly discovered that while combat is tempting, being successful in your fights requires a huge deal of skill. Even while stealthing, I was put through my paces as I riddled out patrol routes and avoidance strategies to perfectly snag the key, item, or information I needed to proceed. Enemies can be knocked unconscious or killed depending on the players’ choice of weapon. Making things more difficult, enemy AI notices when things are out of place or bodies are littering the floor.

Strategic checkpoints help break up the length of the different levels and allow players to easily reset if they make a mistake. More importantly, both your dialogue options and choice of strategy may affect the outcome of the mission or the attitudes of npc characters.

Upon completing the demo level, I discovered that an enemy death early on while I was experimenting with controls led to my handler chastising me for disobeying her no-kill order. Details like these give player agency real weight and even have the chance of affecting the overall ending of the game.

Although the mechanics offer plenty of depth on their own, Ape Tribe Games backs up their creative gameplay with a strong story. Rather than burdening players with supplementary lore codexes, important details can be scrolled over in the moment to reveal additional information your character would likely already know.

Dialogue options also offer their own unique flair and enable players to choose a variety of responses fitting to their personal journey. Though I only had the chance to sample the story, I was intrigued by the different perspectives each future character will offer and overall eager to discover more.

2020 is shaping up to be the year that Cyberpunk truly takes the main stage. Though many notable titles already exist in the genre, seeing a new wave of stories exploring dystopian themes of technology, transhumanism, and class inequality is exciting for those searching out in-depth narratives and compelling settings. The future is bright, if not a little gritty, for both Indie titles and major releases this year.

Disjunction is set to release on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this summer.