Stygian Review

Your former life passed in a bliss of ignorance. But now in Stygian, you’ve awakened to the darkness waiting on the doorstep of our fragile dimension.

Something terrible has left its eons-long slumber, and reality as we knew it collapsed. The city of Arkham was pulled to somewhere not of this world, and its residents dwell in the shadows of true terror.

As a survivor of this catastrophe, you must investigate the strange occurrences in this city, and survive the rising darkness; physically at least, mentally if possible.

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is a turn-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic, Old-God dwelling world, reminiscent of the works of H.P Lovecraft. The story starts you off in a fugue state with a man standing at the end of your bed. The man doesn’t say anything but you feel compelled to follow. You snatch the lantern from the side of your bed and follow him out into the darkness.

A Nightmare Choice

Outside it becomes a bit brighter. The Streets are aglow with dim lights that move and sway, almost dance. Looking like people, ghostly white with cheerful grins. You sense something bad is about to happen as the music picks up and the ghosts start dancing faster then there is a flash and you’re covered in the same light as the ghosts. You look across the crowd to see the mysterious man covered in the same light. The ghosts turn from dancing to fighting without any warning. Then the mysterious man taps his cane on the ground and everything stops.

You wake up.

It was just a dream.

From this point on in the story you decide what is going to happen. Shall you progress with the mystery that the man has provided you? or live out your life scavenging for cigarettes in the streets of Arkham with the rest of the filthy peasants.  You decide.

A Changing Mind

Honestly, I have never been a big fan of turn based strategy games. They feel too slow and rigid, like the fight is destined to end the same way no matter what you do. However, when I heard that Cultic Games (who have been all over Kickstarter) were creating a Lovecraftian turn based RPG, I just knew I had to check it out. And I’ve got to say, Stygian may have changed the way I perceive these games from now on.

The art style is beautiful, and yet still grey enough to feel depressing and foreboding. The combat is smooth but serious, tense but forgiving enough to let you restart if you’ve taken too much damage. The characters are equal parts angry and cooperative, talking to you until you get on their nerves, then shooing you away with empty threats. At one point in the game I had to restart because I had said the wrong thing to someone who I needed help from afterwards. The game punishes players who don’t think about their actions in advance, but rewards a crafty player who know where their limits lie.

Combat has always been a sticking point for me, because I think it slows down the pace of the game; it always makes me want to Alt-Tab out and watch YouTube. Luckily with Stygian, the combat feels secondary to the story. It isn’t some chore you have to sit through for 80% of the game. Here is a choice that you make by interacting and moving around the city of Arkham and, while I did not find them, I’m sure there are many ways to finish the game without fighting a single enemy.  I know this has to be true because I have actually lost opportunities by being too forward (and possibly by beating up a bouncer).

… He started it.

A Loved Craft

All through Stygian you get approached by NPCs who have their own problems and tasks and ideas, and it makes the entire game feel alive.  Stygian also doesn’t force you to be the main character, or even a big part of the city. There was a section where I saw one scraggly dressed, spooky looking NPC being attacked by a mob of civilians, and the game gave me the option to just, ya know, ignore it. I didn’t feel forced to become some great hero, I could just sit on the sidelines and watch people live (or lose) their lives.

Nothing about Stygian made me feel pressured to be something I didn’t want to be. I just got to live the game how I would live if it was actually me in that circumstance.

With the game only releasing a few days ago, I would say it is already at a point of crispness that even some AAA games can’t keep up with. I couldn’t find any bugs or exploits or glitches while playing. Moreover, there was a diverse range of perks and skills that each character could have from lockpicking to medicine, all of which could help your player and his allies reach their end goal of escape.

There is a great emphasis on cigarettes as a form of currency, and as a way to bring you back to Earth when you feel like you’re going crazy (just don’t have too many as it does actually get you addicted). It’s this kind of attention to detail that really grips me about Stygian. 

A Masterful Game

The beauty about Stygian is that it doesn’t need fancy controls or ridiculous graphics to stand out. The game plays beautifully, there are very little FPS drops and you never feel like you’re wasting your time playing. I live for games that encapsulate the player, and Stygian accomplished that in its opening minutes. If you love a puzzle and aren’t afraid of big tentacle monsters living under your city then you’re going to really enjoy Stygian: Reign of the old ones.

Overall, I loved Stygian. The game was clearly developed with a lot of love and devotion. The world felt full of things you could do and places you could go. It felt like there was always more to do.

Personally, I believe that I am going to continue coming back to Stygian for a long, long time because I don’t think I will feel like I’ve truly finished the game. No matter how long I play.

Perfect game for anybody as enthralled as I am in the Lovecraftian world.
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