As I sit here on the eve of the launch of V1 Interactive’s first game Disintegration, I’m nervously excited. I’m excited that tomorrow I’ll be able to hop into proper Multiplayer action with four friends and dominate the skies. But I’m nervous that many other people will fail to give this gem the time and attention it deserves.
After playing through the campaign I can tell you that Disintegration is a fantastic lead-off for the team over at V1. As a kid, I grew up playing RTS games like Age of Empires on my dinky little PC until my parents gave me permission to buy an Xbox. And like every other Xbox player, I was hooked on Halo. What I love so much about Disintegration is how it marries those two experiences so well.
Unlike most games these days (and I could use that phrase for almost any part of the game) Disintegration doesn’t offer you a lot of choices. You can upgrade yourself and your crew’s abilities, but each level gives you a loadout you have to stick to. This actually works well because each of the 12 levels are designed tightly around this loadout and each encounter feels like a really polished experience. I also want to shout out the environments, besides being well-designed spaces, the environments are really beautiful.
While not all of the Gravcycle + crew loadouts from Multiplayer make it into the campaign (I would have loved to use Warhead’s nuke on a Thunderhead), the variety is pretty good. And like I said above, it's all balanced into the design of the level, and using your crew while flying in combat became really natural for me after only a couple levels. The only times I really felt like the game did itself a disservice was when it intentionally took your crew away from you or didn’t provide a secondary ability/weapon as it actively limits how you can engage in combat.
Your ability to upgrade is dependent on two things: Leveling up by finding salvage and finding upgrade points (by scanning and looking in salvage piles). Disintegration has a scan mode that is really important because pretty much anything your crew needs to interact with needs to be scanned before you can tell them to interact with it. But it's also the only way to find salvage (outside of just killing enemies) so you spend a lot of time floating around in this desaturated/muted mode. It’d be nice if leveling was more just built into the game progression rather than salvage piles. And if the scan mode comes back in a sequel, I’d like to do less salvage hunting and more lore building (like Destiny’s dead ghosts).
The cast of characters you get to command as Romer Shoal is surprisingly good. From solid writing to passionate performances, they make a fairly simple story have some emotional gravity. There was one moment in particular when I was genuinely caught off guard with how emotional I got. I do think V1 falls back on the “silent protagonist” trope a little too hard with Romer, but the crew more than makes up for it with diversity in not only gender and race, but personality and emotion.
The audio in Disintegration is also above par. Weapons sound great, they have a “punch” to them that just makes you feel powerful. Enemies and the environment have great ambiance and give you clues to what’s going on around you in the middle of a firefight. The only real downside in the audio department is the soundtrack. The theme is great, but I didn’t feel like the moment to moment game had much music to really push me through. Parts of the theme get used all the time, which is fine because it’s pretty versatile, but it feels like rather than writing a whole score, we just got a couple of pieces that got spread out over the game. I hope for the sequel they have the opportunity to flesh out the music.
After each mission, you get to hang out in a little hub space. There’s not much to do, but make sure you get the challenges and chat with each of the characters. Completing challenges gives you upgrade chips, and getting a little more backstory on the characters is always a good thing!
Your crew rarely prioritizes their own safety. The third level in the game features a mechanic that hurts anything that's not in “safe zones” every minute or so and your crew has a fairly large area to wander around if you’ve not told them where to go. It’d be nice if your crew would stay inside safe zones (and healing zones if they’re damaged) better. My only advice is to spam your pulse directly in the middle of the safe zone when you hear the audio cue.
I didn't get much multiplayer time in pre-release, but the three different game modes, a nice variety of maps, and nine crews to experiment with provide a good variety of gameplay strategies and play styles. Firefights in the Multiplayer are faster and even more chaotic (in the best way) than in the campaign. And if you have the ability to communicate with your teammates, you'll be flying circles around disjointed teams in no time!
Disintegration will probably (unfairly) be compared to Triple-A games like Destiny or Anthem who have much larger teams and budgets. And it will get compared to them because it has this high level of polish that you don’t always see in AA or indie games. But for what it is trying to be I think Disintegration knocks it out of the park. There are a few things you can point at and say “this is probably a result of the small team or smaller budget” but nothing in that camp actively takes away from how much fun it is to decimate a squad of enemies or pulling off a well-timed boss takedown with your crew.
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