Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Release Date: 07/14/15
Tecmo’s Deception franchise has been around for quite some time. From its first person debut on the original Playstation console, to several of its various story driven third person sequels, including the spin-off Trapt that came out back in 2005, the franchise has endured for nearly two decades at this point, and while it’s never been Tecmo’s most popular franchise, it’s certainly been one of the most interesting ones. The premise of the Deception games, Trapt included, was always the same: the clever laying about of traps and other such devious devices, and the luring of your hapless victims into them. The Deception game series always sees you as the antagonist, and does its best to make sure you’re well aware of such.
Last year’s Deception IV: Blood Ties was no exception, and this year’s Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess adds to the smoldering pot of evil doing by way of a handful of nice extras that… might not be worth the asking price for those that already invested in Blood Ties. The reason for this, as it happens, is that a good portion of the content in The Nightmare Princess is in fact, the Blood Ties storyline, meaning if you own the original release, you own much of what’s here. On the other hand, as a starting point for first timers interested in the series, or those who have given this one of a kind niche game a break for awhile, this is a good jumping on point, as there’s a good amount to do here, much of it new to this game specifically.
As mentioned, The Nightmare Princess contains the entirety of last year’s PS3 release Deception IV: Blood Ties, which sees you controlling the first daughter of the devil, Laegrinna. The plot sees her and her sisters, which, interestingly enough, have individually appeared in all the other Deception games sans the first, attempt to resurrect her father by collecting fragments of a holy verse used to seal him away. The fragments themselves are held by twelve champions that the sisters lure into their various hideouts throughout the course of the game, and then (if you’re good enough) kill through some… unconventional means.
For Deception newcomers, it’s important to know that you don’t fight these champions and their entourages; indeed, you never touch them, and you’re given no means to fight them off directly. Doing away with them involves placing a myriad of available traps and other paraphernalia around a given room and triggering them when your targets are within range. This involves you acting as a constant piece of bait predominately, as the bumbling do-gooders will usually relentlessly approach, or hold their ground to fire at you with arrows or magic bursts. You build score by comboing traps off of one another into a chain, resulting in big points and damage. Catching a hapless mercenary in a bear trap at the bottom of a set of stairs will lock him in place long enough to send a boulder crashing down from the top of said stairs into him, as a simple example. There are usually stage traps that are unique to certain rooms and levels that can be incorporated as well, and setting up elaborate combinations that literally shatter the armor of your victims is the truly the sweet macabre cherry on top of the cake Deception serves. If you’re clever and quick enough, you can truly do some mean things with the game’s toolset by the end of the game. Hell, probably even before the end.
It’s unfortunate that what’s really fun about Deception as a series is also what makes it somewhat frustrating and tedious at times. Though I believe, with Blood Ties, Tecmo Koei has made a good effort to give the AI as much variety as possible, by way of having certain enemies resistant (or even immune) to certain kinds of traps, the game will always eventually come down to you running in circles while enemy A chases you without a care in the world, and enemy B shoots arrows at you completely oblivious to the bear trap under their feet. The series has never really evolved much past that point, and I’m honestly not sure if it can. Implementing multiple difficulties that allow enemies to learn from mistakes might be a good effort, but either way, the point is that you’ll learn the enemy patterns very early on, and the game does little to change them, which works with the mechanics, but can be frustrating if you’re looking for more of a challenge.
Besides the Blood Ties campaign, The Nightmare Princess features what is known as “Quest Mode”. This mode has you controlling Velgyrie, The Nightmare Princess that haunts human dreams. This mode consists of a slew of specific scenarios that you have to complete under specific conditions. “Drop a bucket on this guy’s head, then have a boulder run him over” as an example.
As you complete these quests, you can earn parts for another added mode in The Nightmare Princess called “Deception Studio.” As the name implies, this mode lets you edit you own enemies, stages, traps, and so on, essentially allowing you to create your very own custom quests that you can then upload online for others to download and play. Even if you don’t complete many of the quests, there is enough content in the studio to have fun with it from the get go. I found this to be a good, creative feature, and that’s not just because I’m a sucker for “edit modes.” Rather, Deception Studio takes an already fun thing, and lets you build it yourself. It’s like building your own playground… just one where there are spikes, razors, and death.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess is a great Deception game. While the added features are exciting, it might be hard to justify the asking price for someone who invested in last year’s Blood Ties, as the heart of The Nightmare Princess is, in fact, the same game. Still, someone who might be interested in rolling dumb people over with boulders or blasting them out of a cannon into a bed of spikes would do well to pick up this game, and while much of it is repeated content, franchise diehards, newcomers and those who’ve put it down for a while will find that there’s something special here, no matter what you’re looking for.