The X-Files: Deep State
Creative Mobile/FoxNext Games
Released on February 6, 2018
Available on iOS, Android, Facebook
Available for free
It's not common that I review a mobile game, but when I had heard that an X-Files game was coming, I jumped at the chance. A story-driven puzzle game, The X-Files: Deep State drops the player into the role of an FBI agent who, after solving some peculiar crimes, is placed into the long-defunct X-Files unit. Here they solve more strange cases, scratching the surface of a greater truth hidden within. There's a common trend of mobile game's being cheaply made or uninteresting, and I feared this would be another instance of that. While I was skeptical at first, the game would soon make me a believer.
The player controls a customizable character. I, unsurprisingly, created a likeness of myself. Instead of being the nerdy games writer, I was an FBI agent. The game has me and my partner, FBI agent Garrett Dale, solving a number of extraordinary cases together. The gameplay itself is 50% search-and-find minigame, 40% narrative dialogue, with a 10% splash of the occasional random mini-game. Sometimes this means puzzling together a torn up paper, other times it's triangulating a position. I found this formula to be an almost perfect mix. The story happened often enough that it drove my desire to proceed, while the search-and-find provided challenge and a reason to be called a game instead of an interactive story. The 10% mini-games happened just seldom enough to provide a touch of variety, breaking up the monotony of the other tasks quite well.
The story is the driving force behind the game. The game launches with a prologue and 5 chapters, which cover the game's first arc. The writing does a fantastic job of keeping things fresh and interesting, I would find myself constantly guessing what would happen next. The chapters are structured much like a TV show, with a unique problem and location. This made each chapter enjoyable in its own right. This enjoyment was only amplified by when they chapters tied together, be it from recurring characters, or seeing the result of my own actions. Throughout the game, the player is forced to make a choice, often times a fairly difficult one. The choice you make changes how the rest of the story plays out. Not just with each chapter, but for future chapters as well. Can't run from the past I suppose. The game made me feel like I was a part of the X-Files TV show, while still maintaining the level of quality that has come to be expected from such a prestigious name.
But that is only half of the game, how does the rest hold up? The search-and-find side of the game presents a very different sense of stimulation within the game, occasionally not in a good way. This is not to say that the mini-game is bad, quite the opposite.
Throughout the game, the player performs a search-and-find mini-game in a scene related to your current case. This ranged from hospitals to mobile homes, and everything in between. Like search-and-find games go, you had to pick out a number of objects in the environment. Each location can be beaten a total of 10 times, each time more difficult than before. The game keeps this mini-game fresh by adding a variety of wildcards. Sometimes the area is dark and you have a flashlight, and other times its night vision. Sometimes you have reference pictures, while other times its just their name. These wildcards help keep the mini-game from growing stale.
My shortcomings with this game mode were that of my own. To put simply, I'm bad at finding things. I could never find Waldo, and my Eye Spy book from 15 years ago remains unbeaten. My searching skills were greatly tested with this game, and many times I would fail the mission because of it. I can't blame the game for my own lack of skill, though. My only genuine concern is for anyone using a mobile device with a smaller screen. I was fortunate to be using an LG V10, which has a 5.7-inch screen, a good 12 percent larger than a Samsung Galaxy S5. Both of these mediums are laughably small compared to playing in a web browser via the Facebook app.
There remains the important question for any mobile game: How do they make their money? Games aren't cheap or easy to make, at least not good ones. Knowing and understanding how the developer plans on sustaining themselves help the player understand what to expect from the game. The X-Files: Deep State is a free-to-play game. You can download it at no cost, and play it in its entirety without a paywall. Considering the larger than expected amount of content, this sounds too good to be true. Where's the catch?
The game utilizes a number of common industry practices for monetization. There is a premium currency, as well as an energy bar. It costs energy to play the search-and-find games, which when completed successfully, reward the players with a star item used to progress in the story. Don't worry, if you succeed in the mini-game, you are rewarded with the same amount of energy that you spent to try. This means you only "lose" energy when you fail. Since its 20 energy to try, and you have a max reserve of over 100, this lets you try and fail a good number of times before you run out. At that point, you can either wait for it to recharge, or purchase a recharge item with the premium currency. The premium currency can be purchased with real-life cash and spent on those recharge items, game boosters, or on additional cosmetics for the player character. The game will also reward you with small amounts of this currency as you play.
There are 2 exceptions to this system. Once every blue moon, you will be required to wait for something, be it a blood test or a document scan. This means waiting again or bypassing it with a real-life payment. The other exception is the ability to watch a 30-second advertisement in exchange for an energy refill. This is a solid option for those not wishing to spend money, but still want to play.
The X-Files: Deep State has a powerful and engaging story, which coexists perfectly with diverse enough gameplay to promote constant and repeated play. The mini-games, while personally challenging, aren't bad. The monetization is polite while still present. for this reason, I have decided to rate the game as follows:
The quality of The X-Files: Deep State is apparent early on, while its flaws were close to nonexistent. Evidence of the game's encouragement for microtransactions can be a mild hindrance but are treated more respectfully than most others I've seen in the mobile market. The game gives far more than I would expect from something free.
I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone a fan of the unknown and mysterious. The game offers much more than it asks for. Had the game replaced the various microtransactions with a 2-3 dollar price tag, then it might have reached a 10/10.
You can download the game yourself by visiting this link on your mobile device. It will automatically redirect you to your relevant app market (App Store, Google Play, Facebook). Or by searching for it yourself on said markets.