I am not a particularly ardent fan (cultist?) of the universe created by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Nevertheless, I've had a few encounters with the games heavily inspired by the Cthulhu mythos – including the unremarkable likes of Call of Cthulhu and The Sinking City – and I was mildly entertained by both. It would be a lie, though, to say I've been holding my breath for Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones. I expected a decent game inspired by the demonic vision of the universe conceived by the aforementioned writer, I was even rooting for the so-far-obscure new studio, Cultic Games. And Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is, in my opinion, a game that squanders huge potential with glitches and overall poor technical delivery.
- suggestively grimy world, yet with saturated colors;
- extensive character creator;
- good characters with interesting background;
- supposedly random events can be surprising and satisfying;
- the dialogue system.
- massive freezes make the game twice or thrice as long;
- some choices simply end with a game over;
- non-intuitive equipment;
- redundant crafting;
- crude movement animations.
What starts with laughter...
The beginning of the adventure in the debut production from Cultic Games is surprisingly good – particularly the character-creation tool makes a good impression. There's a few default templates of characters that we can use, though it's much more interesting to try and create your own figure. We can define not only their name, gender, age and appearance, but also a system of values (there are six of them: from nihilist to materialist, and each of those traits affects the overall "sanity" of a given character). Then, there are eight classes that determine the hero's specialty (a soldier focuses on survival skills, shooting and combat; an aristocrat will have more charisma, better conversation skills, and more knowledge about science and occultism). On top of that, each of the classes has 4 additional subclasses that affect the statistics, which we can further modify... The diversification here is impressive. It's a real paradise for the players keen on these things.
The adventure begins with a wake-up call at a local bar, The Old Eel, where the protagonist is awoken by a shady type, the Dismal Man. He promptly disappears, and it seems it all was just a nightmare. The obsessive desire to find the mysterious intruder quickly becomes one of the main thrusts of the story – at least in the beginning, because after a while, it fades into the background and remains merely the backdrop for subsequent tasks – these are varied, and I never felt like the ideas were repetitive.
The supporting characters and the secrets that they keep are intriguing, as are the events in which we become entangled. Discovering the story bit by bit feels really good, and each subsequent side quest is a delightful experience. These are triggered automatically, creating a pleasant impression of randomness.