Cryostasis – First Impressions

 

I saw that my occasional reviews gathered a bunch of interest so I figured I might make my blog about more than just my own game and art development… I want to show you, dear reader, some less known gems in the videogame world.

I recently picked up “Cryostasis” (tagline: sleep of reason) on steam and I would like to give you my first impressions and introduce this title to you:

Plot

Cryostasis takes place in 1981 on an Arktika class nuclear icebreaker called the North Wind near the North Pole. The main character, Alexander Nesterov, is a Russian meteorologist who was supposed to board the ship however he finds it’s been shipwrecked since 1968 and its dead crewmen have undergone bizarre metamorphosis. Through the game the player finds fragments of Maxim Gorky’s fairy tale The Flaming Heart of Danko, which parallels what happened to the ship and its crew.

The game follows a beautifully presented but confusing narration (at first)

The game can be considered a horror-shooter / adventure crossover even though it does not incorporate all the elements of these 2 genres. I did not come to any gunplay so far only late introduced melee combat which I found was surprisingly good. While playing, you really feel like you are alone in the arctic, nearly freezing to death and wrapped in heavy, uncomfortable gear and clothing. Movement is slow and it impacts the combat a lot. (you can adjust your punches and do combos with the WASD keys which is a nice touch too). In most videogames you are an overly agile “commando/ spec-ops” type character and in some horrorgames you are way too slow or not even able to defend yourself at all. This game finds the perfect middleground therefore you feel a lot more like you are a real person in an extreme situation.

I immediately fell in love with the grim athmosphere and the realistic feeling of this game. The visuals are somewhere in between really good and mediocre. This is an odd combination but not rare in indie/lower budget productions. While the shadereffects and lighting is excellent, a lot of rooms don’t feel real and you often wonder what would be the actualy purpose of some locations. A few models have a really low polycount which baffels me because the developers added  so many visual effects that optimisation seemed to be their last thought…more about this in the full review though.

I need to mention right away: The ice effects look fantastic and since finding heatsources and keeping your body warm is a major gameplay element (sometimes a bit hard to take serious but innovative and well thought out) you activate a lot of generators to get lightsources and heatsources running so the frozen walls and objects around you start to defreeze resulting in a wonderful effect of water flowing from objects and dripping down. This shader effect looks stellar (which brings up the question…would being wet not dramatically decrease your possibility to stay alive in the colder areas?)

Lightbulbs don’t work that way

In the above screenshot you raise your body temperature to a tremendously high level with nothing but a lightbulb… most of the time, you will find believable heatsources though.

Interactive cutscenes drive the story foreward…here we approach the “Northwind” on a dogslay

Now I’m going to talk about 2 elements I really like in this game.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR

..is the genre which this game is a member of. (according to wikipedia). This game is from the ukraine and has the trademark elements of a game from eastern europe and russia : rust, paranormal themes in a realistic light and gritty athmosphere. You come across many corpses in this game blocking your past in some way (they where really creative here) and you travel in the past to control them and change their fate in order to clear a way for the protagonist in the present. You got that? Think you can handle that? It looks cool too:

Not only do you jump back and forth in time and control different people you do also shift position and your surroundings fall apart and reassemble into something different aswell. You are in a warm room, suddenly a fucking guy comes in to kick your ass, then everything is frozen and then you are back in the warm room again. You do also have a ton of flashbacks to uncover the ships past. You dont get many explanations for this at first and trust me…its very interesting and seems really complex.

If you are a western douchebag that has been brainwashed by mainstream science and clings to his 5 sense based, limited reality, you will not like or make much sense of this game… or anything else in life. But thats just jolly old me and my opinion. =:0]

Flashbacks are athmospheric and the voiceacting is good too

So, the game is not clichéed, feels like a videogame in this genre should feel and has an interesting story (so far).

PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR²

Something else I would like to adress are  the horror elements in this game. I already mentioned the combat and the reality-shifting…but the actual way enemies are introduced is great too. The first few creatures are your standart zombie-ish people but they do usually have a reason to be there or a cool build up moment.

This guy is going to shut the fucking door on you

The developers must have spent a lot of time in scripting all these flashbacks, moments and appearances…nothing feels as recycled as it often does in mainstream titels (yet) and enemies dont just spawn and attack you, they appear out of places where they could have dwelled before the player came along, climb up on something, rip apart a door etc. etc.
These do not feel forced and you dont get the fixed camera angles like in a lot of other titles that are having the motto “we scripted this scene so you are going to watch it, fucker!”

I’m on a boat in a boat… and this guy wants to join me!

The close combat system might feel a bit raw though…this game is in no way a perfect title.

Bring it on!

You also do your typical first person adventure routine… find keys, clues and solve valve puzzles…I hate valve puzzles.

I hate valvepuzzles…the pipe is also a good example for the strange lowpoly look….also: what is this room?
now this is a valvepuzzle I can get behind…its also how “valve” got its logo

In conclusion, Cryostasis is the kind of game I would make if I would have more skills, a team and even bigger balls. It does have its problems though…its not optimised at all. You might be wondering why its not as well known as “Amnesia” or the likes… well, you need some fucking alienware to run this thing. I have a high end, custom built machine and I cant run it on full settings without some lagspikes. I can only imagine how bad this game must suck on weaker systems (which the majority of the … planet has)

Maybe the game will have more success in the future…when the high end of today becomes the garbage of tomorrow…until then, I enjoy this game.

’till next time!  (english is not my native language and feel free to keep every typo you find. no charge)

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About serygala

Who really has time to think about a summary of himself on the internet? I like art, women, gamedesign and I love coffee. Everything else is too much information.
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