As a newcomer to the Deception franchise, the premise intrigued me, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
There's certainly one thing you can say about Deception IV, and that is that you really won't find another game quite like it (outside of its last-gen prequels). The idea is that you place traps, and use environmental traps, to kill enemies who are determined to kill you. You're on the 'bad guys' side in this game, which is also pretty unique, and a bit refreshing. Specifically, you control Laegrinna, the daughter of the devil. As the opening cutscene explains, the devil was sealed away by twelve saints several thousand years ago. Laegrinna is in charge of locating the twelve holy verses needed in order to allow him to escape confinement. Laegrinna is not able to combat enemies directly, but she, with help from three other demons named Caelea, Veruza and Lilia, can use a variety of traps to kill their foes.
Deception IV has a ten-part tutorial mode available from the main menu that I chose to explore first. It didn't take very long, maybe a half hour, and it not only explains the gameplay mechanics, but also requires that you apply them to clear each tutorial mission -- it was helpful. Playing through this taught me about the different types of traps (Humiliation, Sadistic, Elaborate) as well as how they're "presented" (wall, ceiling, floor, mobile, environmental), ARK points, armor breaks, combos, and so forth. There aren't a lot of mechanics to learn, which makes the game pretty easy to pick up and play. As you progress through the story, very little is added in terms of new mechanics, too -- you'll certainly unlock more abilities and traps, but the gameplay remains very much the same. That in and of itself isn't necessarily an issue, although, I found that this combined with the trial-and-error gameplay, the poor AI, and the inherent repetition required worked against the game's favor.
Regarding game flow, Deception is split into distinct missions, which are comprised of several stages. Each stage is a checkpoint and presents its own challenges. After an opening cutscene that has some largely forgettable dialogue, a summary text screen appears letting you know what's going on in the story as you enter the mission. The story, by the way, isn't half bad, although the characters within aren't really interesting, Laegrinna certainly not being an exception. Anyway, when the gameplay starts, Laegrinna is at your command. Nearby, and closing in, there will be the enemies, or first wave thereof. You can use the Devil's Eye when the enemies are first introduced to learn more about them (and can alternatively look in the pause menu for this information at your convenience), including any resistances or even invulnerabilities they have (such as they cannot be damaged by floor traps), or even the ability to see some traps to avoid them. It's important to note some of these criteria, along with whether or not they have armor that will need to be accounted for, or ranged weapons. You can keep an eye on the location of the enemies as they work their way towards you, even if they are on the other side of a wall. Plus, from the trap-setting screen, you get a nice overhead view of the playable area, with colored icons marking your location and that of the enemies.
Setting traps is simple and menu driven. From the trap-setting screen, you can view details about any environmental traps at your disposal too. Some of these require that you launch (via a Springboard trap typically) an enemy into them, others can be activated with a button, which you can activate by hand or by having a trap hit the button so that you can activate it from distance. Traps are categorized by how they are placed, be that dropped from the ceiling or attached to a wall, etc. A variety of stats about each trap, including its name, damage, type of damage, and so forth, is shown as well. Any trap that moves an enemy, such as the Springboard, will have an indicator showing you how far they will be thrown, which is critical for planning combos. You can easily rotate the orientation of traps before placing them, too. It's worth pointing out that you cannot use a particular trap in more than one trap slot, although you can redo your traps at anytime. You get between three and six trap slots depending on the mission.
Once you have your diabolical plan laid out, which you can of course redo or tweak anytime, activation/cooldown timers on each trap icon in the lower right of the HUD starts. These are typically just a few seconds, so if you activate a trap and "miss," it's usually not a big deal to wait a few seconds and have another shot at it if the enemy happens to still be in the immedate area (not likely). Then, it's up to you to lure the AI into the area of the trap, which in some cases means getting them to walk across a very specific point in the case of shooting arrows or the classic "bear trap" for example, or if it's more of a splash-damage kind of trap, you obviously have more leverage to work with. Getting the AI to step into your traps is one of the most awkward parts of the game, because they move slowly and typically come at you in the most direct path possible. So expect a lot of running near them, getting their attention, and then running across your trap area, waiting for them to walk in that same path, and then bam, activating the trap. This is par for the course in the first hour as much as it is the tenth, which gives the fun factor a gut punch. Moreover, this routine can be reused over and over again for the same or other AI in the area, so in that respect, the AI are truly bots with no acknowledgement of their now trap-filled environment. For me, this game rode the fine line of being worth the trouble and not rather closely, which resulted in me exploiting the AI more often than not the more I played, which in turn discouraged further creativity and enjoyment.
For fans of the series, and those that enjoy the very niche genre that Deception is practically unique in, Deception IV will encourage you to keep playing not because of the story or the presentation quality, but because of the gameplay. But as discussed, even it has its significant shortcomings. Still, like a so many other games that walk the line of being worthwhile and not, Deception IV, for me, was best enjoyed in short bursts after the initial few hours. With this type of approach, the Free Battle and Mission Modes may keep me coming back.
With that, let's get to the summary...