80′s Synth Charm Buried In Neon Death – Defragmented Review (PC)
Trying to understand the concepts and tones a game is aiming for is not always easy. While the visuals, audio and mechanics suggest one thing, the gameplay dictates another. Defragmented is a game which suffers from this exact problem.
Developed by Glass Knuckle Games, Defragmented is an action RPG set in a sci-fi world popping with 80′s synth music. Players find themselves stuck in the middle of a chaotic battle for the city of Entropolis. Uncovering conspiracies and battling rogue government forces form the core plot. With little room for error, combat is a mixture of planning and execution.
At the heart of Defragmented is various RPG elements. Selecting from one of three classes, players earn experience by killing enemies and completing missions. Performances are graded on how effective the player completed a mission, taking into account time taken and deaths suffered. The talent trees are standard RPG fair, with the relevant Sci-fi lick of paint.
One of the earliest problems that pops up is what the talent tree has to offer. Players cannot take many hits, most of the talents claim address this. Damage resistance and dodge chance upgrades sound like a good idea, in practice they don’t perform all that well. The main issue is enemies have a hasty fire rate, rendering dodging to be a questionable investment.
Improving attacks and cool downs provides a much more stable crutch. Defragmented gives each class three skills, all of which work on a combo-like mechanic. Chaining abilities together enhances their effectiveness. It’s a key mechanic that comes into play when trying to heal any damage suffered. Technically it all works, but given the combat often involves trying to stay out of large encounters, chaining skills together is difficult.
Combat is brief and brutal. One missed shot or mistimed movement can result in death. Defragmented requires the player to engage in fight or flight reactions. Over thinking results in death, slow movements results in death, rushing in blindly results in death. Go hard or go home is the only way to progress.
Level design plays a subtle role in how each encounter plays out. Corners are the player’s best friend, allowing them to spring ambushes. Long corridors and open out areas are essential death traps. The game may mark the player’s performance on the time they take to complete a stage, but surveying the area is essential. Each level require multiple play through in order to hit the top marks. Sizing up the area, notching down the kill zones and making plans. Pulling off the perfect run is hugely satisfying, validating the required preparation.
Defragmented oozes character. The sights and sounds of the game have far more impact than any of the game’s mechanics. Simplistic visuals are packed with bright neon-like colours, resulting in each level popping off the screen. Combine the visual style with a fantastic soundtrack and it’s a genuine treat to behold. Boasting the sounds of various popular Synth artists (whose work has been heard in Kung Fury, Blood Dragon and Hotline Miami 2), Defragmented may just have the best soundtrack of its 80′s drenched genre.
When all is said and done, Defragmented is mostly enjoyable. Controls (on both mouse/keyboard and controller) can hinder any true sense of speed, detracting from the desired effect. General action is satisfying, but lacks a true sense of weight. The various weapon drops almost melt into each other, never gaining an sense of identity.
Replay value is offered in trying different classes and beating previous scores. The game’s story isn’t up to much, acting more like a briefing to each level rather than a engaging plot. Various difficulty settings provide a fair challenge, giving Defragmented some hefty appeal to those speed runner and perfectionist types.
Toe tapping music, striking visuals and functional mechanics result in a fairly decent game. There’s a few niggling issues that constantly poke the player, but the positives outweigh the negatives.