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Cryostasis: Sleep Of Reason PDF Print E-mail
Written by Starfox   
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 00:33
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Cryostasis: Sleep Of Reason
Get me out of the freezer!
Cracks in the ice bring the conclusion
All Pages
Cryostasis Logo

Suggested secondary title:
Technically Unreasonable Even When Awake
Action Forms Ltd
Publisher: 1C Company
Official Cryostasis Site
Demo link (1.05 GB - hosted by Filefront)
Average price at review time: USD 28

ESRB rating: Teen (violence)
PEGI Rating: 16+ (violence)

Sometimes, the gaming industry actors seem to be completely devoted to ruining the gaming experience for their audience. Cryostasis sadly enters this category of games that could have been great and ended up frustrating a lot of people due to some choices that have more to do with marketing than pure gaming. But before discussing what is wrong, how about the game itself?

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Frozen story

Alexander Nesterov is a Russian scientist working in a polar station in Arctic in the 80's. One day, he receives the order to leave the station and to rejoin a set of coordinates where he would find and board the nuclear icebreaker Northwind which would eventually bring him back home in Russia. Nesterov finds the Northwind, all right, but it appears that the ship is abandoned, rusted and has been probably stuck in the ice for the past 20 years. How comes that he received a message instructing him to board a deserted, broken and rusty ship? That will be his task to determine what happened to the Northwind and why someone wanted him there.

Cryostasis is heavily story-driven and as such appeals to people who want more than just gameplay and graphics in their games. The story itself is told in different ways, first by some booklets scattered around the ship telling a weird story that at first seems to have nothing to do with the Northwind and what happened aboard but that makes sense at the end. Then there are also some parts of the Captain's log that tell a bit more about what really happened to the ship also scattered around the levels.

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However, these pieces of paper are nothing compared to the testimony of the crew itself. Granted, at Nesterov's time, the ship is totally empty (at least empty of humans) but Nesterov seems to be able to caught some emanations of the past, reliving flashbacks as an observer. In some cases, he even has the possibility to change past events, temporarily taking the place of one of the crewmen in an attempt to modify the fate of the said individual as well as modifying parts of the ship at the same time. For example some piece of wreckage may hamper the progression of Nesterov at some point but modifying the past and preventing the death of a crewmen can radically change the aspect of the ship allowing the player to progress further. These events where player can interact with past events are called "Mental Echo".

To spare gamers some confusion, the difference between mere flashback and mental echo is easy to tell. Aside the fact that Mental Echo scenes must be triggered while flashbacks come and go without the player wanting them, flashbacks are in black and white with a movie grain and mental echo scenes are in full color with a movie grain too, the movie grain being purposedly here so one can tell the difference with normal gameplay at Nesterov's time. Additionally to movie grain, the heat gauge is absent in both flashbacks and mental echo scenes.

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Freezing Gameplay

The gameplay of Cryostasis has nothing really innovative in itself but at least the elements are well integrated beginning by the way the health is handled. There's no med kit in the game and essentially Nesterov's health is irrelevant. Instead the system built up by the Ukrainian developers is heat based. The gauge you see at the bottom left of most screens in this review display three things. The outer red ring indicates the external temperature while the internal red disc indicates Nesterov's body temperature. Both are interconnected since when the external temperature goes down, Nesterov's temperature goes down too. If Nesterov stands long enough in a room without doing anything, his temperature will slowly rise or decrease to the level of ambient temperature. It's in the best interest of players to maintain the internal health of their avatar to the maximum available and to speed up the process they can use heat sources. Scattered across the different levels they come in various forms, from a torch to a machinery passing by a light bulb, a lot of them requiring to be turned on first.

The yellow circle between the outer ring and the inner disc on the gauge represents stamina. It allows you to run fast, to perform powerful attacks and combos in melee and at the beginning of the game, it empty out pretty fast. However, each "Mental Echo" event you successfully achieve through the game increase your maximum stamina and also heat (health). On the other hand, stamina falls pretty low when Nesterov experiences a Mental Echo or a flashback so if a violent melee fight follows just after one (stamina does not apply to firearms) it may become messy. Stamina replenishes slowly when you don't run or jump or engage in a melee fight but like the heat one can speed up the process warming up oneself with an heat source which replenishes the stamina as well.

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These elements aside, the gameplay is typical of the survival horror genre with a bunch of "unreal" enemies (most of them are former crewmen transformed after all those years caught in ice and radiations) thrown at you at the most unexpected moments. However, unlike Penumbra, this is not a stealth game so you'll have to fight your way through no matter what. Fortunately, the number of enemies in the whole game is rather low compared to FPS standards.

Mental Echoes for their part represent the game puzzles since all of them (minus one) must be completed to allow the player to progress further. And since they allow the player to better understand what happened on the Northwind, they actually serve a double purpose.

The enemy AI is not spectacular in any way albeit relatively tough (you don't get to choose the difficulty level, in Cryostasis there's only one). It's a pretty basic AI with some weird rolling moves to avoid your fire and some charging to melee range when their weapon runs dry. The AI gets the job done but that's it and I guess it's enough considering the emphasize that the game puts on story telling.

The weaponry is not as huge as the DVD case proclaims and I quote "you'll have the choice between numerous Russian weapons of the 60's"... in fact the weapons are a Mosin-Nagant M91/30 bolt rifle and it's sniper rifle version, a PPSh 41 machine gun and a semi automatic Tokarev SVT 40 rifle with a 10 rounds magazine. You'll also be able to find a flare gun which has some special properties. When a flare sticks to some enemy (and because of the "icy" nature of the enemies), this enemy will tend in most cases to be disoriented and forget about you as long as the flare burns. The weakest enemies may even die in some cases (because fire damage them). Alas, there are not enough flares to be found in the whole game to have real fun with that. Of course one can also find a few melee combat tools, a chain and padlock that acts as a knuckle buckler, a broken valve and an axe.

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