Deadfall Adventures is exhausting. From the moment you start tomb-cracking in Egypt all the way until you begin unearthing Mayan secrets, the action never lets up in this latest offering from The Farm 51. Normally, this is a sign of a good adventure, but in Deadfall‘s case, it’s nothing but. It can be mindlessly enjoyable at times, but incessant vanilla segments of shooting interjected by a predictable narrative with monotonous voice acting will have you worn out by game’s end.
Deadfall begins shortly before World War II in 1938. A US agent named Jennifer Goodwin is seeking the help of James Lee Quatermain, who comes from a background of adventurers like his great-grandfather Allan Quatermain (like the big-game hunting character from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines). The two set off into the tombs of Egypt in search of an artifact known as the “Heart of Atlantis.” But, given the time, and seeing as how the game was inspired by Indiana Jones, it isn’t too long before the old Third Reich gets involved (who, for some reason, don’t display Swastikas) and a simple search, leads to a globe-trotting escapade.
This is a story that, no matter how many times it’s repeated, always carries with it, a weight of charm. Backed by typical stock adventure music, these fables have us brimming with envy and contemplating throwing our current lives away for danger and excitement. Unfortunately, Deadfall‘s tale is neither charming or exciting, and keeps you grounded in reality. You’ll see twists coming a mile away, and halfway through, begin losing interest as the story plateaus. Quatermain’s adventure also suffers from weak writing, which is oddly apologized for by him upfront in a confusing moment that will have you questioning its authenticity.
Speaking of Quatermain, he’s one part Dr. Jones, and the other, Nathan Drake–or is supposed to be. In actuality, he’s neither. He has all the makings of a dashing daredevil, but instead comes across as a dumb, gunslinger who spends his time uttering a limited series of flat one-liners. He’s not the only one though as every other character, thanks to boxy animations and unchanging voice acting, suffers from a case of dispassion. The writers try to implement suave segments for Quatermain to have him come across as raffish, but they’re all shoehorned, further creating a sense of disconnect.
This same sense of monotony carries over into the action itself. Quatermain and Goodwin will jump from the desert to the arctic to the jungle. Sadly, they’ll be doing the same thing in every locale as they’re merely traveling from Point A to Point B. Either they’ll be blasting Nazis away, or making Commies bleed their beloved red. Every once in awhile, the game throws a twist in there and has Quatermain (Goodwin doesn’t really lend much of a hand), battling the undead. Much like Remedy’s Alan Wake, you need to shine your flashlight on them in order to weaken these warriors and be able to finish them off.
When you get done mowing down the undead or gray-uniformed baddies, it’s puzzle time since most areas are littered with traps and levers and buttons. The majority of these are rather easy as they are the typical: direct the light, step on the tiles, and rotate the separate icons to match. There were only a few times where things got complicated, but it was nothing a stick of dynamite couldn’t solve. And if you do get stuck, you can act like Nathan Drake, and refer to your handbook that provides clues as to how to solve the puzzles.
Now, this may seem like a formula for success to a lot of people, and it does start out out well and provides just enough push to keep you going, but this cycle is relentless throughout Deadfall and makes it drag quite often. You’ll enter successive wide-open areas for a swath of enemies to take down, with slight variations of the same guns. Just when you think you’re in the clear, you round a corner, and another half-dozen soldiers are waiting for Quatermain, and then another few after that. In fact, even Quatermain addresses it at one point by saying, “Great. Just what we need. More goons with guns.” Fitting.
You can make things a bit easier on yourself by searching around for hidden treasures that give you the option to upgrade: health, stamina, reload speed. This would be a bit more enjoyable if there was a little backstory for each treasure like in Uncharted, but all the history and lore is kept to the main story. And to make matters worse, usually these treasures are tricky to obtain and could result in your untimely demise. The statues are also restricted and apply only to certain areas like the flashlight. It creates a sense of agitation that will have you skipping out on them.
Once you finish your search for the “Heart of Atlantis,” you can take your skills online. Deadfall features the standard stuff: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and “Capture the Artifact.” It also has “Treasure Hunt” mode where the player with the most treasure at the end wins. If competing against others isn’t your thing, Deadfall also has “Survival” which allows you to team up with three other players and take down waves of enemies in three different levels of difficulty. None of this is revolutionary, but if you’re looking for some time to kill or a little extra out of the game, it should do the job.
Deadfall Adventures may be a sight for sore eyes. The game has the aesthetics of a AAA title as the Egyptian tombs look like they’ve seen thousands of years of desert wear and tear, and the Mayan ruins, wrecked and blanketed by the Earth over time, create dread and eerie abandonment. But looks can only carry you so far. Wearisome gameplay and an unrelieved story hold Deadfall back from being a truly great adventure. There are sequences where you’ll have some fun (the on-rails mine cart segments, in particular), but overall, you’ll be fed up with the same caves, tombs, and bridges lined with countless enemies. And when you do manage to clear those areas, you still have to put up with Quatermain’s awkward nature. It’s exhausting indeed.
*Deadfall Adventures was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Nordic Games.*
*Photos provided by Nordic Games.