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Deus Ex: The Fall Review (iOS)

Deus Ex The Fall Wall Cover
Deus Ex: The Fall really is a proper Deus Ex RPG. Honestly. I know it’s on iOS but you’ll find all the trappings you’ve come to to expect from the series. Stealth, shooting, takedowns, non-lethal options and augments are all in there. It’s whether they add up to a decent game that’s the big question. The Fall isn’t a standalone story – it’s very much an introduction to a series.

You play as Ben Saxon, one of the characters from James Swallow’s stellar Deus Ex novel Icarus Effect. Those who have read it will also recognise Anna Kelso, as well Barrett, Federova and other characters from Human Revolution. The game follows on from the novel, exploring what happens to a society where augmented people are dependent on drugs to survive.

Thanks to some clumsy exposition on the level of “Tell me what it was it like working with the Tyrants, Ben,” you don’t need to have read the book or played the previous game to understand this one. It’s the same world, though with none of the depth of its console predecessor.

You’ll find eBooks littered about the place but instead of offering insight, they’ll be the same few manuals welcoming you to the Praxis system, neuropozyne, thermal scanning and other such dull topics. Of course, you’ll pick them up anyway because it’s an easy way to get XP and work towards an achievement. Hacking into emails is slightly more fun, more for the keycode discovery than the writing.

You’ll always have the option to sneak or shoot your way past enemies, though with not quite as much freedom as you might expect. In latter stages, I was confronted several times with lobbies of hostile enemies and no handy alternate routes to use since I’d opted to boost my hack instead of buying the cloak ability. Equally annoying, I was forced into getting the strength upgrade because most vents terminated behind a heavy object.

Deus Ex The Fall AugmentsThe skills tree has also less depth than Human Revolution. You can still punch through walls, but it’s no longer possible to kill people with vending machines. I strongly recommend you decide on your play style very early on and either specialise solely for that or be prepared to spend some real money on in-game currency. While it feels very much like a “proper” Deus Ex, I found the game itself weighted a little too heavily towards in-app purchases, especially since it costs £5 in the first place.

You’ll find in-game credits in trash cans and on bodies, but it’ll take a lot of time to scrape together the thousands needed for a proper crossbow or an extra augment. Admittedly, I managed to buy several items I didn’t want because the purchase confirmations had been switched off for the review build. Still, there are very few ways to earn currency. I couldn’t find an option to sell unwanted items.

There are plenty of reasons to spend money. Even after completing the game, my aug tree was far from filled. Ammo, weapons and Praxis points are instantly applied to your character and can be purchased at any point in the game. See a giant robot up ahead? No problem. Pop up the in-game menu, conjure up a few EMP grenades at 250 credits each and boom, no more boxguard. A little searching will also turn up environmental hazards that can be used – it’s entirely up to you how you want to play the game.

For context, Praxis points and weapons will cost around 2,500 – 3,000 each. Grenades are about 250, as are ammo packs. You can buy 3,000 credits for 69p, 10,000 for 1.99 and more denominations are available.

Deus Ex The Fall ShoppingFor my part, the money and ammo limitations became tedious about three quarters of the way through the game. Due to the review conditions, I didn’t have time to complete the few sidequests available so perhaps these offered large credit and equipment bonuses, but the main quest certainly does not. I rarely picked up ammo for my stun gun, while the touchscreen rifle controls were workable but at the expense of many bullets.

Small movements on the virtual touchpad give you fine control of your movement speed, perfect for sneaking into that lethal takedown. Larger movements let you run and double-tapping on the ground will send Saxon off to a specific location. Shooting is a little too fiddly for full-scale combat but get yourself into cover and you can easily use the fine control to pull off headshots from across the room, or tap-to-target for automatic aiming.

Deus Ex: The Fall is perfectly-designed for its platform, even though I feel that the in-game pick-ups are a little too stingy for people who don’t want to spend extra money. There is a New Game+ mode that lets you keep your augments and play against harder enemies, though I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to play the game again thanks to some bland writing and a story clearly designed for a second episode. Still, it’s good enough to satisfy the curious. Personally, I’d wait until part two is announced.

[Note that this is based on a pre-release review build provided by Square Enix and my playthrough started with zero credits. The build had several bugs that caused it to stop responding at times. However, a good save system meant that little progress was lost after closing the game and restarting.]

Deus Ex: The Fall is out now on iPad 2+, iPhone 4S+, and iPod Touch 5+.

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