The app-store is home to seemingly countless good games that are designed with simple touch controls. Every now and then developers big and small have the familiar ambition to bring over an established franchise that emulates the console experience, albeit on a touch-screen device. The Deus Ex franchise is something I’ve always been interested in since its revival with Deus Ex: Human Revolution; however, due to reasons I never got into it. I can say, however, that Deus Ex: The Fall does a good job capturing my interest in the series, even if it is a short experience that could have used more augmentation.
Deus Ex: The Fall tells the story of trans-humanism and the over-reliance on cybernetic augmentations. These augmentations can enhance anything from social skills (persuasion), hacking, strength, and combat among others; however, this all comes at the cost beyond aesthetics. Most bodies of augmented citizens and soldiers reject the augmentations, which leads to devastating withdrawals that can only be staved off with the help of the scarce drug Neuropozyne. Ben Saxon, ex member of the SAS and (more recently) Tyrants, has renounced his days with the militant group, and he aims to exact revenge on their manipulative leader; however, he and his partner Angela are as susceptible to these withdrawals as any other augmented soldier/citizen. Ben sets out to the city alone to secure a score of the replacement to Neuropozyne before settling the score with the Tyrants.
Apart from the lengthy tutorial section, Deus Ex takes place in a city that largely reflects the struggles of the augmented citizens. A beautiful golden hue surrounds the world; however, it seems to hide the ugly gray of the streets. All of the architecture seems majestic, but the citizens lurk in the drab underbelly of the city. The only complaints I have regarding graphics is that some of the levels felt like the same gold-tinged skyscraper as the last, and some of the facial animations look awkward and stiff. Still, even with the lower power of iOS devices, Deus Ex: The Fall is a fine looking game, and it even comes equipped with full, good voice acting.
Deus Ex: The Fall offers either combat or stealth focused style. The control scheme simultaneously accommodates both styles; however, it seems more appropriate for sneaking. Players can either navigate the streets via virtual joysticks and by double-tapping the spots for Ben to travel (I recommend using both)—Ben can even use this control scheme to automatically take cover. All of the action can be performed by tapping icons on the HUD, which players can customize to their liking (I personally had to rearrange the left side so that I didn’t accidentally shoot my arrows when I simply meant to move forward). There are customizable quick-slots for your weapons and skills, which helps save space on the HUD. Navigation is smooth in Deus Ex; however, in some issues, such as when picking choices in conversations or hacking, the buttons aren’t large enough, especially for those like me with meaty fingers. This is a small complaint that may not even apply to tablet users (I was playing on an iPhone).
Stealth is a lot of fun when paired with certain augmentations such as hacking and invisibility among others. One of the most satisfying moments was hacking another room because I didn’t feel like dealing with the swarm of green dots representing my enemies only to hack into a computer and trick the turrets/robots into attacking the guards, creating the distraction I needed in order waltz through the compound. There are plenty of vents to crawl through, doors to hack, and information to steal.
I did, however, notice some issues that created a noticeable disconnect between my actions as stealth soldier. Most actions take after contextual cues including takedowns. Takedowns can be either fatal or non-lethal; however, the end result is the same: the enemy soldier disappears–I might as well have just killed the guy—the same holds true when I shoot a soldier with a tranquilizer dart or a bullet. Another gripe I have with stealth takedowns is that it switches to cutscenes per takedown, and Ben seems to only know how to either throw a wicked hay-maker to his opponents’ craniums, or a knee to their torsos. Likewise, there are only two sets of animations for the more brutal takedowns. Afterwards, the screen briefly fades to black, and you return to first -person perspective as you were as if nothing happened.
Most of the time the enemy will never notice—in fact, I’ve recalled several instances where the enemy never noticed me despite being only a semi-competent stealth player. I’ve approached them from the side, meaning they probably have poor peripheral vision, and I’ve escaped the enemy’s attention several times by simply taking cover behind objects in the same room—the enemy being no more than 10 feet away from me. Of course this is only a problem since I often took the (first time) Metal Gear Solid approach to stealth—i.e., tranquilize every guard in sight. The difficulty is supposed to increase once players beat the game for the first time; the same can’t be said for AI, however.
On first play-through, and it does seem likely you can play through the game without engaging in firefights or fisticuffs, combat is likely to be inevitable despite play-styles. This is when I noticed that while navigating the world was a breeze, the same can’t be said for combat. Oftentimes when taking cover I’ll accidentally come into view to fire my weapon, and when the enemy is alerted Ben will stubbornly stick to cover. Holding the fire icon to shoot enemies felt stiff. Most of the times I was too busy wrestling with the touchscreen controls while being swarmed with enemies. I understand that Deus Ex: The Fall offers a choice between run n’ gun and stealth; still, I recommend for run n’ gun players to incorporate some stealth if only to alleviate potential control frustrations.
Even though this is my first in-depth experience with the Deus Ex series, I understood instantly that it’s about player choice. Praxis points are awarded liberally, enough to build a certain class of character. I could use your persuasion skills to manipulate NPCs into giving me what I wanted without having to perform any menial tasks, or I could have completed all of the sidequests due to my poor social skills. I could have killed everyone in the game, or I could have sneaked by as a pacifist–the choice was mine.
By the end of the game, I felt as if none of my choices mattered. I didn’t accomplish much as a pacifist beyond a Game Center notification–I might as well have just killed all of my enemies. What’s worse is that the ending is an annoying cliffhanger that seemingly appears from nowhere. I only just got to know Ben and the citizen’s problems, but the game ends right when it should have introduced major developments for the characters. At least the game offers New Game+, which you can continue to build your character while enjoying the game at a higher difficulty and with potentially different choices.
Deus Ex: The Fall is a little pricier than most apps with its $6.99 price point. It comes with in-app purchases; however, in keeping with the player choice theme I never felt I need them, and I consequently chose not to buy them.
Deus Ex: The Fall offers the choices and presentation that can be found on most console games; however, it’s too of an short experience and has noticeable technical mishaps. While I’m definitely more interested in the franchise now, I only recommend this to those invested in the series’ lore.
This review is based on a digital copy of Deus Ex: The Fall for iOS which was downloaded from the App Store.