Disintegration Review- Super (Average) Fighting Robots
Let’s get this out of the way. You don’t actually disintegrate anything in Disintegration. The game is about people who are integrated, and so you are de-integrating them. De-integration would be a much more realistic title. Or even better, just add a big plasma beam or something that could actually disintegrate the enemies! Unfortunately, although I appreciate the experimental nature of this title, the lack of Disintegration in Disintegration is just one of many issues I had with this game.
Disintegration takes place in a future where climate change and disease has placed all humans at risk. The process of integration, which puts your brain in a brain-can, allows people to continue living with the risk of death. Kind of like Ghost in the Shell, except the bodies are not disposed of, and the implication is that after the crises are over, integration will be reversed. However, an authoritarian group known as Rayonne seeks to permanently transcend all of humanity by forcing everyone to integrate.
In Disintegration you play as Romer Shoal, a former gravcycle rider and one of the first humans to “integrate.” The game begins with Romer being tortured in a floating prison by Black Shuck, an evil cyberman and the game’s primary nemesis. But right before Shuck is able to kill Shoal, an explosion rocks the prison and he, as well as several other prisoners, are able to escape. They crash land on earth, seek out refuge in a derelict ship, and find that a group of resistance known as the Outlaws are already there. The game begins with you joining this Outlaw group.
One big issue with Disintegration is that this is about as deep as the story gets. There’s almost no lore. Each mission has you flying around shooting people, with the only dialogue and story coming from the radio or the squadmates below. And most of the time, they’re just bantering about the mission rather than giving any kind of exposition. There is some downtime between missions, where you can talk with the members of the Outlaws, but generally they have little to offer other than “damn I miss having a human body.” Another story issue is the pacing. The first two minutes of this trailer is more interesting cinematically than the ~20 minutes it takes in the game.
The aesthetic style of Disintegration is alright, though it’s hard to tell. Visuals don’t look as interesting when you’re 10 meters above ground, and some of the stylistic choices are sub par. While the graphics are good, it’s just mostly unremarkable. Even the visual style of the robots is not all that interesting, as they have no facial expressions. The music and sound is okay too, also unremarkable.
Disintegration has some unfortunate gameplay. Let me start by saying that I appreciate what they are trying to do. The mixture of RTS and FPS is no easy feat, and in that regard I think they did about as good as they were able to under the framework of this game—hovering above the battle coordinating a squad. But this framework has some flaws that can make the game a drag.
For starters, the gravcycle. In Disintegration you are in the gravcycle 100% of the time during gameplay, and it is incredibly sluggish. I’m sure it does move relatively fast, but at 20 meters in the air, you feel like you’re piloting a flying zamboni. The squad on the ground can sprint faster than you. There’s a boost, which is more for evasion, but since it has like an 8 second long cooldown time, the boost is all but useless in most circumstances. While admittedly this is an interesting premise, in practice the slow feel of the gravcycle does not work well.
Some improvements that could be made is if the gravcycle was closer to the ground. There is really not much point to having the pilot above the battlefield, since you can’t take cover and can’t interact with stuff on the surface. And since the gravcycle is always horizontal to the ground, it feels less like piloting and more like playing Garry’s Mod with noclip activated. Personally, I would have scrapped the concept entirely, and just had Romer piloting a tiny mecha. This could still allow for a tactical advantage (being like 7 meters tall) and let you coordinate the squad’s attacks, but in addition let the player use cover in the traditional FPS manner. And if you wanted to add flight, just slap a jetpack on that mecha.
One last problem with the Disintegration campaign, and I think this did the most damage of everything, was the player and squad upgrades. Throughout the campaign you collect two kinds of resources, scrap and chips. Chips allow you to upgrade the gravcycle and squad traits a bit, and scrap is functionally XP, which you collect to level up. Upgrades are limited by your level, so you need to collect both in order to progress.
This sounds fine, but had some severe problems. For one, the progression is so slow that getting 10% extra damage or health at the end of a half hour long mission is not a change you will notice at all. And second, there are no changeable loadouts for weapons or even squads. You don’t choose what guns to take and which characters will join you, it’s all pre-selected for each mission. And since your loadout consists of only one gun and one healing item, the upgrades feel even more useless. Disintegration could benefit from different perks, weapons, skills, something. But playing through an entire mission with the same one weapon is just plain tedious.
So the FPS elements are mostly underwhelming. Let’s talk about the RTS. As far as RTS games go, controlling a squad of like two to four people is not all too impressive. Much less so when they function as one entity. Much much less so when they are mostly independent and require little input. Of course, Disintegration could not have in depth RTS while retaining the FPS elements, but all the same this is almost not strategy at all. The squad members are basically autonomous, except for one special move per character and the ability to tell them to focus on one enemy. You can coordinate the specials, i.e. throw a stun grenade and then a rocket barrage, but since the enemies move so fast they;re usually out of the way by the time whatever special reaches the spot. I almost never used the squad’s abilities.
Since I don’t have the ability to try out multiplayer, I cannot conclusively say that Disintegration is a bad game. For all I know, a competitive mode will make the game a lot more interesting. A 5v5 match where everyone has their own squad would be really dope. But since I can only judge it on the quality of the campaign, I have to say that Disintegration was just kind of disappointing. Maybe a better player then I would enjoy it more, as I was never quite able to achieve that FPS-RTS synthesis. Or maybe a DLC update or something can fix some of these issues I had. But at the time of my playing, I have to conclude that Disintegration is not for me.