Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2019-09-26
  • Role-Playing
Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Still, picking up negative perk after negative perk is even worse, so you would probably want to pick up at least a few levels of Stealth. And once you try using the skill, you will come face to face with one of Stygian's more annoying flaws – its mystifying lack of transparency.

Take the aforementioned Stealth skill for example. You have no way of knowing what raising the skill does exactly. You can only assume that it makes you harder to spot. How much harder? You don't know. How do you tell if a monster sees you? You can't. You just have to click the stealth button and hope for the best.

The same can be said about the majority of Stygian's systems. I completed roughly a third of the game convinced that it was impossible to miss with an attack. As it turned out, this was not the case and attacks could indeed miss. But seeing how the game lacks a hit chance indicator of any sort, that's a very understandable mistake as far as I'm concerned.

Another puzzling set of systems revolves around the passage of time. You have no way of telling that time still passes in Arkham, but it does. And so your character has to eat and rest, which forces you to keep buying rations and camping supplies. Now camping supplies I can understand, especially since the game's rest system allows you to use a multitude of skills, read books, socialize with your companions, and research various gadgets and occult artifacts. But rations make no sense to me. They serve no purpose. You can buy food in pretty much every store and it's very cheap. Unless you forget to buy it, you will never run out. But there is still an ever-present invisible timer nagging at you to keep moving, and it can get incredibly annoying.

If I'm being honest, a lot of Cultic Games' design decisions resist any reasonable explanation. Some systems are superfluous, others don't make a lot of sense, others still seem to exist solely to annoy the player.

Let's just say I was fairly surprised when I realized you only got one chance to recruit companions. Absentmindedly click through a single conversation and that's it, you'll never see that companion again. Seeing how my character wasn't too good at fighting, this resulted in some fairly unpleasant early encounters.

At the same time, some of the game's systems are fun and engaging. Like the aforementioned camping system. Or the crafting system. Now, I usually dislike crafting in games, but Stygian actually manages to make crafting fun. You can pick up all sorts of junk during your travels, or just buy some from vendors, and then you can use your science skill to research said junk and get rewarded with crafting recipes. And pretty much every item you can craft is unique and useful in some way. In fact, Stygian's crafting system reminded me of Troika Games' Arcanum, and when it comes to crafting that's pretty much as high as praise goes.

So, back to combat. If you don't have a party, things can get pretty tough. If your party is full, the fights are going to be very easy, even if your character is a paranoid alcoholic who keeps clobbering his allies with a wrench.

Stygian's combat system is a pretty simplistic turn-based affair where you don't have that many tactical options and the best strategy every time involves finding a choke point, surrounding your enemies, and backstabbing them until they stop moving. There are some special attacks, you can use consumables, and the game's magic system is pretty engaging (you have to spend sanity and occasionally health to cast spells and you can further enhance them with special essences you can find while exploring), but as long as you keep poking Arkham's resident horrors in the back, you don't really need any of that.

To be fair, Stygian's combat would have been at the very least serviceable if not for the fact that it's extremely, unbelievably slow, with animations that feel like they take forever. If you have any interest in playing Stygian, I would strongly advise you to stay away from combat as much as possible, but always run with a full party, seeing how the game features some unskippable fights. Because of course it does.