Crysostasis: Sleep of Reason saw its initial release just this past December in its home country of Russia, and finally it has made its way here to the states. This is one game that should have stayed overseas. The atmosphere, story, setting, and game play are all severely lacking. The games issues with stability don’t help either. The only two redeeming portions of the game, the mental echo ability and the health system, are really not enough to overshadow all of the games flaws.
Cryostasis is a first-person-survival-horror game much along the lines of the Condemned series. Unlike Condemned this game fails to give off a truly creepy feeling. The first few encounters can give a bit of a fright, but after a while they really become nothing more than mere startles. In fact they start to become predictable. A zombie busting through the ice once or twice is okay, but after a while it becomes routine.
The story itself while new, turns fairly boring rather quickly. It’s slow to start and doesn’t pick up any steam later on. Most of the story is seen through a series of flashbacks that tell the grim tale of the ship and its crew. Intermixed within all of this is another story about Russian folk lore on pieces of paper scattered through the ship, its quaint little tale that develops just as slow as the main story. It is not until later in the game that the side story finally clicks in with the main.
While the setting itself is unique, that of being on a ’Nuclear Ice Breaker,’ the level design quickly becomes boring and straight forward. Levels are so linear in fact that often after the player passes through a door it is immediately sealed shut behind them leaving them nothing to do but press on. The water effects and ice do look good, but gray room after gray room with the occasional torch or red light can make for a very bland experience as one lever transfers to the next it all tends to looks the same.
The core of the game play, the combat, isn’t all too bad. It’s just nothing all too special. The first enemies of the game are dispatched with melee weapons (from chains to axes). Each attack animation is made as realistic as possible, instead of flailing aimlessly the camera sways with the body of the character giving the attacks a feeling of weight. With that being said, the combat feels a bit clunky. When the guns are introduced they too are marred with that same clunky feeling. From their poor accuracy to their slow reload times, often times it is easier to kill a zombie with the ax.
The graphics as well are certainly an issue. With a machine capable of running Crysis, Cryostasis had inconsistent frame rates, often hiccupping through parts of the game that weren’t graphically intensive. These kind of issues should be expected if the game actually looked really good. Though some elements do look really well done, like the water and the ice effects throughout. Most of the game does not. Exterior graphics are often blocky and give the game a very rushed feeling. The character models as well are not up to par with their contemporaries. Often they have a very plastic like look.
There are two elements to this game that are actually good. The first being the mental echo, the second being the health system. The Mental Echo ability allows you to interact with the corpses that are found throughout the game. Whenever you happen to stumble upon one you enter a scene where you play as the poor soul during their last few moments, either watching something happen or actually saving them via some sort of puzzle, usually trying to save them from drowning though sometimes combat is included. The result is usually a change in your surroundings when you return, sometimes that change happens to be an ice zombie. If you fail the puzzle though nothing happens. You are returned to where you were with no penalty, other than having to try the puzzle again. The Health system in Cryostasis revolves around heat. The cold environment constantly saps away your health, and to refill it you need to find heat sources in the forms of torches, lights, pipes and such. Now while most areas of the ship won’t kill you, there are several areas where the cold hurts the characters lungs, adding a sense of urgency. The only driving force behind the game is that you want to push on to try and find more heat sources to heal yourself for the next encounter.
So how does Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason stack up? With mediocre horror themes, poor level design, and a poor story all muddled with poor stability, this is one game you won’t miss playing.
Version Reviewed: PC