This was going to be a review; however, I got very stuck finding myself unable to progress. So instead this will be my first impressions on Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones.
Stygain is a Lovecraftian point and click RPG and it sure has some style. You start in the town of Arkham after the “black day” when the town was swallowed by the old ones along with peoples hopes, dreams and loved ones. The premise is really cool, and the art clearly draws inspiration from Lovecraftian themes; it’s all hand-drawn which helps give it an odd dystopian aesthetic with tentacles taking over decrepit buildings. Even when the art resembles the finale of Neon Genesis Evangelion the oddness. Just. Fits.
Anyone familiar with the original two Fallout games will start to feel at home with Stygian’s look, interface, world travel screen and character customisation. While you can’t really change your looks, the RPG aspects allow for a lot of different builds. Each character is created by choosing an age, base class, belief system and then points to place into various stats. Their values are affected by your previous choices. If you can’t be bothered to create your own character, it offers eight pre-built characters to pick from.
Like virtually every other RPG, when you level up, you can pick from a number of perks and add points into your various skills. Negative experiences affect your character too: fleeing from battles, seeing horrific events and other negative experiences give you angst—the experience bar you don’t want to level! When this happens your character becomes worse off, you find yourself pondering over de-perks trying to work out what will affect you the least. It’s a unique touch and makes you air on the side of caution, although this isn’t always possible.
Most situations can apparently be solved without fighting, or spending money (cigarettes). I didn’t really experience this. While there are a number of events that do have different approaches—I couldn’t seem to escape being dragged into combat—kicking and screaming.
This is where my frustrations with Stygain began. When you enter the combat phase the field changes from free-roaming to a hex-based movement system (like Fallout 1 & 2). Each Character gets a set a number of action points to use per turn, but can randomly get more or less, depending on their state. AP is spent on using items, accessing your inventory, moving and attacking.
Most of the time enemies outnumber you. If you turn out to be a proficient killer the battlefield becomes a mass of dead enemies. Annoyingly when this happens selecting an action becomes a real pain in the butt. For instance if you’re unfortunate enough to have a character standing near a corpse with an enemy next to this you need to be very accurate with the mouse. If you’re not careful instead of attacking, you end up looting the corpse—losing precious action points—it’s the same for movement. In a game that puts you on the back foot most in combat mistakes like this are devastating.
Your character’s health/sanity bars aren’t always visible either. A nice interface appears in the corner when it’s one of your characters turns, and a smaller meter when you hover over your characters too…if you’re lucky. This seemed to bug out a lot; becoming detached meaning the meter doesn’t show.
While this in itself is a small thing, there are other quality of life aspects missing which mount up. You can’t change the combat speed, so it becomes tedious when more enemies appear on screen—and you have to wait a year for your turn. There also isn’t an option to save the game without exiting; this wouldn’t normally be a problem as it auto-saves; however, I came across a lot of bugs. While they weren’t happening every minute re-doing some parts became draining.
At least the game allows you to read notes and messages around the world as plain text, instead of trying to scrutinise scrolled handwritten notes. An aspect I always appreciate.
Combat aside the story was compelling. There are some really cool side quests, some which take unexpected turns. I would have liked to see some more side quests though, as a lot of them initially seem like they’re aside to the story, but end up being mandatory to progress the story. As the game is inspired by Lovecraftian themes, expect dark despairing themes, supernatural powers, Cathulhu and aliens.
If it weren’t for the combat style they’ve gone with, I’d have enjoyed my time with Stygian a lot more. So if you’re the type of person that enjoys Lovecraft, can look past some bugs and don’t mind hard combat then Stygain: Reign of the Old Ones might be for you. If you’re not the type of person that enjoys these things then maybe give this game a miss.
Should you play it? Maybe
Why… It has a compelling Lovecraftian story / themes and the art style is great
But… combat becomes tedious, the game crashes more than you’d like meaning you lose progress
Reviewed on PC. Review code provided by Cultic Games.