I have a long history with Tecmo's Deception series. Long ago in the PlayStation One era, I worked at a local GameStop-esque retail outlet and was able to take home used titles for free. I remember seeing Deception and thinking it was like King's Field, which launched on the PlayStation the year before. I marginally liked King's Field and the rental was free, so I took Deception home. That was my first foray into the world of the "Trap Simulation Game".
Since then, I've played every game in the series. So when Deception IV: Blood Ties came in, I stepped up to review it.
Deception IV: Blood Ties places you in the trap-controlling stilettos of Laegrinna, daughter of the Devil. Well, soul sliver of the Devil actually, but I think the "of the Devil" part is supposed to be important.
Laegrinna is attempting to bring her father back to life and is joined in her quest by three Daemons: Caelea of Elaborate Death, Veruza of Sadistic Torture, and Lilia of Humiliating Demise. Each of the three correspond to the different trap types. Elaborate traps are straight damage and enemy control, with items like the indispensable Springboard. Sadistic Traps maximize damage and blood spray, including the Swinging Axe and wall-mounted Lethal Lance. Finally, humiliating traps are for the humor value, like the Banana Peel, Pumpkin Mask, and Mega Yo-Yo.
There are traps that add to the feeling of uncomfortable perversity, with public enemy number one being the Delta Horse. When combined with the armor break mechanic, it can lead to scenes that will make you want to avoid that particular trap altogether. On the bright side, the armor break mechanic is equally revealing when it comes to either gender. Equality, ho!
Deception IV allows you to choose the traps you unlock and switch your trap loadout with each mission or story campaign chapter, so you can completely avoid the Delta Horse if that's not your thing. (It's not my thing.) How you play is completely up to you. The only traps you're stuck with are the level-specific scenery traps. You can unlock more traps by spending Warl to "unbind" them, but only once you've reached specific experience levels in each trap type, and the game will increase the length of the trap combos you can create as you progress through the story campaign. Ultimately, I still miss the trap creation systems found in Kagero and Dark Deception; there's a number of traps in this game, but I don't feel like I have the same freedom in simply unlocking them.
The gameplay in Deception IV remains largely the same as previous entries: People want you dead and they endlessly rush you until you kill or scare them away. Deception IV swings between three different emotional tones: it can be occasionally exciting when you're trying out a new trap combo, frequently boring when the AI beelines right into certain doom, or exceedingly frustrating when a chapter boss with a ranged weapon appears.
Most enemies in the game will head directly toward Laegrinna to attack. The game switches things up with random trap immunity and enemies who can see certain traps, but it's largely a matter of positioning the first trap in your combo between Laegrinna and the enemy; they'll do the rest. The ranged enemies can be trying because Laegrinna takes forever to stand back up after taking damage and you can only activate traps while she's standing, leading to situations where she stands up only to take damage and fall down again. You can equip the auto-dodge ability, but that lowers the Ark score you gain for each trap combo. Instead, you'll tend to find the only way out is to exploit the AI. For one gun-wielding chapter boss, I basically laid my impenetrable trap combo around a corner. She couldn't shoot me because I was around the corner, but she couldn't get to me either. The fight pivoted on certain doom or rote cycling through my trap combo until she died.
And that's extended throughout the entire game. Deception IV offers Free Battle and Mission Modes, but it's pretty much the same thing over and over again. Run, Trap, Repeat. Once you've unlocked the traps and tried them all out, the game can lose a bit of its luster.
You'll note that I haven't talked about the game's graphics or plot. That's because the graphics are nothing to write home about. The PlayStation 3 has seen better days. The levels are often drab and boring outside of the level traps, which you'll quickly get used to after the first few times you trigger them. Outside of the bosses, the enemies just different random bits mixed together.
When it comes to the story, it's pretty simple. Laegrinna wants 12 Holy Verses to revive her father, and the people with each Verse keep trying to kill Laegrinna. As a main character, she's 100 percent bland, despite having speaking lines. Luckily, the three Daemons are there to provide a little humor and color to the proceedings, so I enjoyed their inclusion. Tecmo's also continued the series' staple of having humorous and connected bios for each of your victims. It can provide some occasional levity if you pay attention.
One sticking point: the Deception series has had female protagonists since Kagero: Deception II, but it seems that Tecmo's artists took a look at the previous player characters and decided to strip a few clothing items off when designing Laegrinna and her Daemons. Laegrinna sports an open-backed dress, a cleavage window, and maximum zettai ryouiki, in a twisted version of the outfits worn by Millennia in Kagero and Allura in Deception III. (Versions of both outfits are unlockable in the game.) These design choices also extend to Caelea and Veruza, the latter of whom wears almost nothing to cover up her robust figure.
In the end, people aren't playing Deception games for the graphics or the deep story. You're playing Deception IV because you love Deception, and this is the only series where you can enjoy a game like this. If you're missing the feeling of being a villain, or you've been pining for the series after its near-decade away, Deception IV is here for you. For everyone else, it's little more than a rental.
I'm glad the that Deception series is back, but Deception IV: Blood Ties isn't its highpoint. The game has lost some of the wonderful trap creation of the earlier titles and replaced it with a dose of fanservice. The challenge swings between simply walking the dumb AI into your elaborate traps, or outright exploiting it so that the cheap bosses don't kill you easily. But it's still Deception, and you're not going to find another game quite like it. If that's your jam, you'll still find a fun time here.
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