I’ll admit that as a diehard fan of the show since its debut in the early ’90s, I’m automatically in the bag for anything carrying the X-Files name. I had my worries about how The X-Files: Deep State would shake out, though: the hidden-object game genre isn’t one that I’m terribly fond of, and as a longtime gamer, “freemium” is something of a dirty word. Nonetheless, I found excitement creeping in about finally having another X-Files game. Incredibly, this makes only the third video game based on the property, not counting a CD-ROM database program called Unrestricted Access. The two actual games unfortunately also have their share of issues: the first, titled simply The X-Files Game, was a point-and-click interactive movie adventure whose FMV sequences were shot on videotape (albeit with the participation of series stars David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi, among others), and Resist or Serve, a Resident Evil survival-horror clone whose planned Xbox release was cancelled after lackluster PlayStation 2 sales, which boasted Mulder and Scully as playable characters (something the previous game lacked) and vocal performances from the actors themselves. TXFG and Resist or Serve were both presented as “missing episodes.” TXFG told a Chris Carter-and-Frank Spotnitz-plotted story about Mulder and Scully going missing from the perspective of the new FBI agent assigned to find them, while RoS was a three “episode” arc written by series scribe Thomas Shnauz that began as a monster-of-the-week before morphing into a tale revolving around the series’ complex mythology.
Deep State takes more of the former’s approach. You play your own character, a rookie FBI agent who’s assigned a partner and a case, and you go from there. There are six cases (more are promised by the developers to be delivered regularly), including a prologue that, of course, takes a turn toward the paranormal.
I was thrilled to find myself addicted to the game from the start. It is a hidden-object game, which does make sense for a milieu like The X-Files, but it offers a compelling bevy of minigames to buttress the hidden object stuff, from picking locks to triangulating cell phone signals to matching molecules. These frequent digressions help to keep the action flowing and prevent monotony from setting in. And from what I’ve played thus far (for reference, it launch yesterday evening and I’m about halfway through Case #3 with a level 7 Agent), the monetization doesn’t strike me as terribly onerous or distracting; the game seems perfectly playable without dropping real-world cash, albeit with progression that’s a bit slower. I’ve dropped a bit of dough to customize my avatar and support myself with some buffs for the more difficult challenges, but the purchases don’t feel overpriced to me, in the way that some other freemium games’ in-app purchases do.
But the strongest aspect of the game, one that I didn’t expect from a tie-in freemium mobile game, is how intriguing the stories are. I’ve played match after match just to get a hint or find the next clue, because I was so involved with the story. Branching dialogue choices, hair, clothing and accessory styles for your player character afford a higher-than-expected degree of affinity for your burgeoning Agent. Even your partner, who starts out as a bit of a dick, begins to show more dimensionality than first expected. The plotting and moral choices presented are fascinating and completely in keeping with the series and its world. I actually found myself giving a small shriek of glee when my character was assigned to that infamous X-Files division.
The bottom line is that if you’re an X-Files fan, and want to play around in that world, I think you’ll enjoy this. It’s clearly assembled by a team that loves the property, and it showcases a high degree of detail and polish that makes it feel top-notch. I’d say take my word for it, but you know the disclaimer: trust no one.