I met Co Stygian at Igromir-2018. The demo immediately won over me, the developer’s comments only fueled interest, and I looked forward to the release, hoping for an atmospheric adventure in a world where for once you can meet not only fishmen and Cthulhu, but also other, less well-known heroes of Lovecraft.
As a result, I received less than I expected, but I did not remain disappointed. Although there was every chance!
The call of the rotten
Typically, in Lovecraft projects, whether video games or desktops, people try to prevent the Ancients from awakening. Stygian developers decided not to go along the beaten track – they send players to the notorious city of Arkham after the Ancients came to sleep. The dormant Cthulhu waited in the wings, and most of humanity could not stand it: people went crazy, gave free rein to their animal instincts and killed each other. The few survivors eke out a miserable existence in a city cut off from the rest of the world by distortions in time and space, casting it into the void between dimensions.
The main character (in my case) was no different from her comrades in misfortune – except that in dreams she sees a mysterious stranger, whom she called the Black Guest. In another nightmare, a stranger leads her to the gates of the University of Miskatonic, where in the morning the girl finds a mysterious key. From this begins the series of her adventures and misadventures, the end of which will be the long-awaited confrontation with the Black Guest. The main thing is not to sleep on the road …
Review of Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones. With a shovel against Cthulhu
Game creator Ken Eagle calls Stygian “horror RPG.” I won’t say that the game managed to scare me (except for nightmare bugs, which I will discuss later), but the role-playing component can only be applauded. In Cultic Games went hardcore RPG in the tradition of the first pieces of Fallout – and that nice, it encourages a truly win back the created character.
The hero can choose not only familiar characteristics such as strength and intelligence, but also gender, type, age, past and even worldview. Young characters will receive a bonus to strength or agility, but fewer points for pumping other skills. Sex also matters: if it’s not so important for local prostitutes that the client has between his legs, then in the case of other characters this will affect the attitude to the character and the remarks in the dialogs. Well, the choice of prehistory will give certain advantages, balancing them with minor minuses.
The most interesting point is the worldview. Your avatar can become an esoteric, nihilist, humanist, materialist, rationalist or believer. And if you competently play the chosen role in the dialogs, the replicas will restore the hero points of reason – and this, believe me, is very important. As the Stygian passes, the character strives to go crazy: Arkham is ruled by cruel gangsters, cultists freely walk around the streets, killing all unwanted people, ghouls and other creatures are waiting in abandoned houses. Not surprisingly, the scale of reason is regularly empty!
You can fix things up with booze and drugs, but sooner or later they will be addictive – and all other negative consequences. Sex can also help, but prostitutes want money … or rather, cigarettes, which in this crazy world have become the main currency. Some characters on a halt are ready to arrange psychotherapy sessions for friends, but even this will not restore the whole scale. So role-playing is the most reliable and, most importantly, a free way to get precious points of reason. The humanist should console the oncoming NPCs, the nihilist should assure them of the futility of everything, and the rationalist should seek a reasonable explanation of all the unimaginable cthulkhism that is going on around him.
Another way to find peace of mind is to read books while relaxing. The nihilist, of course, will be reassured by the volume of Nietzsche, the essays by Alistair Crowley are suitable for the esoteric, and the humanist will appreciate The Little Women
The type determines not only a bonus to one or another parameter, but also the strengths of the hero. A scientist can pump out some skills to the limit, the occultist – others. At the start, the aristocrat will receive a personal butler as a companion, and the traveler will receive a faithful dog. Some characters want to be friends with those who understand the occult; others have respect for those who own weapons well. It’s impossible to pump everything at once – you have to choose.
As a result, passing for different heroes is sometimes radically different. Thanks to my knowledge of Kabbalah, my occultist received significant bonuses from a local art dealer and avoided skirmishes with a crowd of embittered citizens. But later she had to fight with a whole camp of Indians, with whom my hunter in another passage peacefully agreed, flashing his melee skills in front of their leader.
If you don’t feel like fighting, you can almost always find another way to solve the problem: bribe, persuade or just sneak past. However, sometimes you still have to join the battle – and here we are waiting for turn-based battles in which the legacy of not only Fallout, but also Heroes of Might and Magic is guessed . Moreover, in Stygian tactical retreat is often prudent and more profitable than bringing the battle to the end
Unfortunately, even if you routinely defeat enemies and not lose companions in bloody fights, the character will slowly accumulate despair points: the post-apocalyptic Arkham, where dormant residents sob right in the streets, is too gloomy and cruel to enjoy life in it. And for the full scale they will force you to choose a negative perk (for example, a fine for gaining experience), and this will complicate the hero’s already difficult life.
The loading screen honestly warns that players will not be presented with everything on a silver platter, and not a bit exaggerated. In a magazine, you rarely see helpful clues as to what to do next – you have to think about it yourself – and the characters sometimes ask tricky questions, the answers to which you will not read in travel notes. In some situations, a reboot from the last save helps, but you won’t go through the “poke method”, remember to remember and compare information yourself. In a word, Stygian does not consider his players fools, and this is nice. In any case, those who do not want to be led by the handle.
Here in this house is waiting for a real test for detective abilities – and this is for the players, and not for the hero
Frankly: initially this review was much more negative, because the passage of the review copy for me turned into a real war with bugs. The heroes refused to climb the stairs, when loading some locations, the game stopped reacting to anything, first-aid kits in the form of syringes with laudanum mysteriously disappeared from the inventory … Twice I completely ran into critical errors that did not allow me to advance in the story. However, honor and praise to the developers, exactly on the eve of the release, a patch was released that fixed all the bugs that I managed to notice.
Perhaps somewhere errors remained. But in the last hours of the game I (finally!) Didn’t get in the way – and I was able to appreciate the world and the plot, not a fire every five minutes on which the gameplay flaws are worth it. Because, in the end, from the game of Lovecraft you want Lovecraft first of all, and all the role-playing gadgets and freedom of wagering is already a bonus. And if at first the Stygian may seem like an atmospheric, but boring walker, where there is not so much from mythos, then as you get closer to the finale, what is happening becomes more and more surreal, and there are more and more references to the writer’s work.