Deadfall Adventures Review

  • First Released Sep 20, 2013
  • PC

The Temple of Dull.

In many games, you unlock ancient discoveries and acquire grand treasures as a reward. But not all tombs offer something grandiose, and a long trek down a musty corridor may sometimes yield disappointment.

Deadfall Adventures is one such trek. The game draws its history from H.R. Haggard's Allan Quatermain series of adventure novels written in the late 1800s, but the plot of Deadfall Adventures bears a closer resemblance to the Indiana Jones movie--which were in part inspired by Haggard's books--than to Haggard's books themselves. Set in 1938, Deadfall Adventures stars Allan's great-grandson, James Quatermain, a hard-drinking, hard-fighting adventurer who must keep an all-powerful ancient artifact from Nazis who will use its power to gain an edge in the upcoming world war. Similarities to the Indiana Jones movies don't end there, as familiar traps and even a minecart ride that barrels through caverns and over bubbling pools of lava make an appearance. But Deadfall Adventures' biggest problem isn't familiarity: it's tedium.

Quatermain's notebook helps you solve puzzles.
Quatermain's notebook helps you solve puzzles.

Deadfall Adventures feels like a game out of its time. It relies on tired, two-dimensional characters to tell its all-too-familiar story. The rugged Quatermain is paired with Jennifer Goodwin, a tough and flirtatious love interest, and the two are pitted against melodramatic comic book villains. Wooden voice acting and emotionless facial animations put a damper on the presentation, and Quatermain himself is lost as to what period of time he's in. He occasionally spouts references to Indiana Jones, which merit little more than an eye roll, but sometimes he says or quotes phrases that are completely out of place. Despite living many decades before, Quatermain seems to have no qualms shouting lines from The Terminator and, believe it or not, Darkwing Duck.

Deadfall Adventures becomes hopelessly predictable, breaking down into a tiresome formula of kill rooms and effortless puzzles.

Unlike The Farm 51's previous game, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation, Deadfall is slow paced, and your inventory is limited to three weapons at once, split into three categories: pistol, rifle, and special weapon. Combat revolves around shooting from cover with a variety of weapons, many of which are World War II-era firearms. Guns and ammunition are always plentiful, so Quatermain is rarely at a disadvantage. He absorbs massive amounts of damage before needing to drop behind cover to recharge his health. Enemies repeat the same animation to get out of cover, so it's entirely possible to sprint into the field of battle and take each one out like a game of Nazi Whac-a-Mole while taking little damage in the process.

James Quatermain: like Indiana, except without all the fun.
James Quatermain: like Indiana, except without all the fun.

Enemies exercise little caution in fights, only occasionally taking cover, and leaving their vulnerable bodies exposed in the process. They never seem to have any clue what they're shooting at and have a habit of shooting in your direction, even if you're in another room. It's one thing to watch a Nazi soldier fire his gun into the crate he's hiding behind, but it's a rare treat to hear the sound of rifles popping in the next room as enemies desperately try to kill you through layers of dirt and rock.

Deadfall Adventures delves into the supernatural by introducing mummies who spur to life to protect the homes of their ancient masters. The mummies are invulnerable at first, but you damage them by focusing your flashlight beam, which sets them on fire after a short period. I found myself enjoying fighting these undead guardians, because they at least provide some sense of danger, and they back away or shield themselves against the harmful rays of the flashlight. In the final act, mummies charge in large numbers at a breathless rate. With every encounter, you are forced into a game of finding a corner and blasting away with a shotgun, ruining one of the few things going for Deadfall Adventures.

Glitches plague Deadfall. You can pass through some fences or rocks, while other times, enemies are stuck running along an invisible floor. Cover in combat is often untrustworthy; one boss in the game proved that if you have a big enough gun, any form of cover is penetrable, from wooden boxes to stone pillars. You might sprint off a ledge and keep charging forward in midair, and during combat, enemies may shrug off explosions from grenades or red barrels, even if they detonate mere inches away.

Not only do the invisible walls impede exploration, but their often bizarre placement creates some frustrating moments during combat.

Every so often the game prompts you to pull out a notebook owned by great-grandfather Quatermain to solve one of its many puzzle rooms--a method that should sound familiar to fans of Uncharted. Don't expect to stress your brain solving these ancient enigmas. More often than not, the book demonstrates the steps you need to take--which lever to pull, which buttons to press in what order--to solve each mystery, turning what could have been a welcome break in the pace into a brief pause in the action while the game holds your hand through every step. If you are still having issues with a puzzle, no worries; your companions sometimes shout the solution for you, and continuously repeat it until you follow the command. There are several puzzles, however, for which the book offers no clear solution.

Solving these puzzles in particular requires an arbitrary solution. One has you placing a bundle of dynamite in a hook attached to a platform, which you then use to blow up a hanging engine block, which, amazingly, leaves the platform intact. Another has you deciphering a puzzle with your flashlight, which I solved by randomly waving my light around until it granted me access. These puzzles are thankfully rare, but they provide some of the more frustrating moments in the game.

Deadfall Adventures features some impressive-looking locations.
Deadfall Adventures features some impressive-looking locations.

At the very least, the puzzles allow you to take in Deadfall Adventures' attractive environments. Underground areas, from ancient catacombs to twisting mines, and the wild jungles of South America look astonishing. In the arctic tombs, for example, the orange of blazing pit fires complements the blue luminescent frozen walls and stalactites. Vine-choked, Mayan-inspired temples in Guatemala look appropriately aged. The style and design of these environments are an impressive foil to the blemishes and stand as the game's champion feature.

Mummies can be lured into one of the many instant-kill traps, further enhancing the importance of strategizing your moves.

Though Deadfall Adventures includes open terrain and large underground passages, it feels claustrophobic because it's plagued by invisible walls. For a game taking the guise of an adventure, it's sadly ironic that any sense of exploration is stagnated by these nagging restrictions. In Deadfall, you are funneled down linear paths where you can only proceed forward if you follow the developer's exact design. Short walls, stone formations, crates, and even some plants are little more than fancy dressing to hide irritating blockades. Not only do the invisible walls impede exploration, but their often bizarre placement creates some frustrating moments during combat. I remember fondly a time when I walked into a firefight and tried to quickly duck behind a box directly to my left. But no matter how hard I pushed the left key, I stayed in place, catching a few bullets in the process, all due to an invisible wall blocking me from taking cover.

Hunting for treasure? Take out the compass and follow the needle.
Hunting for treasure? Take out the compass and follow the needle.

If you're looking for more game time with Deadfall Adventures, it does include two different multiplayer modes. Standard multiplayer offers five different classes to play as, which allows you to jump in and play with your method of choice. You can build your own classes, and you don't need to hit a certain level to do so. Custom classes are available right from the start, but certain weapons will not come into your employ until you reach a necessary level.

More interesting is Survivor mode, which mimics the ever-popular Horde style of cooperative multiplayer. Here, you are rushed by the game's undead mummies, and since defeating them requires a flashlight, it takes more thought than simply lining up your iron sights and blasting away. This mode requires more tactics, and with a partner, you can find rhythm in the mayhem. In my play time, I used my flashlight to set the mummies alight, while my partner fired as soon as they were vulnerable. The game is set in rounds, and at the end of every rush, you get to replenish ammunition or grab a new weapon. Mummies can be lured into one of the many instant-kill traps, further enhancing the importance of strategizing your moves. Unfortunately, my time in the game's multiplayer was limited. As of this writing, I spent more time in the lobbies than in combat. The game's multiplayer is a ghost town, and the few players I met disappeared shortly after a round was finished.

Glitches, stereotypical characters, and dull combat betray any chance of Deadfall Adventures providing any real incentive for your troubles. Digging into this game yields not a rough-cut gem, but rather a lump of coal that should have stayed buried.

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The Good

  • Some impressive set pieces

The Bad

  • Poor retelling of a story we've heard countless times before
  • Boring, repetitive combat
  • Plagued by glitches and invisible walls
  • Puzzles run the gamut from overly simplistic to wholly nonsensical

About the Author

Cameron Woolsey, a longtime fan of adventuring into the wilds, knows all that glitters is not gold; sometimes, it's pyrite.