Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason Preview (PC)

Action Forms have done something truly amazing. They've actually created a Russian game worth buying outside of its home territory. Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason is a PC exclusive First Person Shooter due out on the 13th of February. It has already received a decent amount of success in Russia (since its 5th December release date) and now it’s our turn to enter the arctic winter. We’ve been working our way through a preview build of the game only to find that it wasn’t enough. Here’s why the self proclaimed ‘Russian Bioshock’ requires your attention.

So why has it been compared to 2007’s Bioshock? First of all it is a single player game. There’s no multiplayer component to Cryostasis and we are thankful of that. The game’s location and ideas suit a narrative structure only possible through alone-play. On top of that are the genre comparisons. Both take place in the first person perspective and feature horror elements emphasised by being enclosed in a space that’s surrounded by water. Finally there’s Metal Echo, but we’ll get to that in due course.

As with any FPS, the protagonist is either Mr. Macho or an ‘unsuspectingly strong scientist.’ Cryostasis goes with the latter, a stereotypically meteorologist named Alexander Nesterov. You start the game being battered by a blizzard and taking refuge in a vast icebreaker ship. Unsurprisingly the crew is dead and everything isn’t as it seems.

The game delivers the story through a selection of means. You’ll come across documents and interactive cut scenes. These flash up (like Bioshock / FEAR) without warning, taking you into the past. You’ll see the ship’s crew alive and battling nature as it slowly takes hold on the ship. It’s a slick way of conveying the plot and it’s drip fed to perfection. The game doesn’t give too much away at any given time. There are always questions to be answered and it keeps the player involved in the story

Even more interesting is ‘Mental Echo.’ On occasion you’ll come across corpses that have a story to tell. Instead of sitting and watching the particulars unravel, you have a chance to play as them, possibly changing their future. (In fact, you don’t have a choice. You cannot progress through the game until you’ve completed a Mental Echo task). This can mean escaping a flooding chamber or diving in the ice-cold water to repair a pump. Completing the task usually results in a new weapon / a door being unlocked. It’s a very impressive way of moving along the game without breaking your attention.

You will come across a variety of characters (although most come under the Russian-seaman variety) complete with clichéd accents and melodramatic expression. Being a story-based game, the particulars are best kept under-wraps to prevent any unnecessary spoiling.

All this is helped along by the game’s atmosphere. The dank corridors, frozen walls, empty rooms and poorly lit pipes combine to produce an authentic soviet feel. Everything is rusty and deliciously retro. The light fixtures; the fire axe; the machinery and the character’s outfits add to the atmospheric nature of the game. There’s some superb dynamic lighting on show (which is often used to heighten the game’s tension). You’ll feel alone and when you finally come across the enemies, you will feel unprepared.

They’ll pop out from water, jump out of pipes, run at you, throw stuff in your direction or shoot from afar. The AI is competent at attacking you once its scripted entrance has finished, although you shouldn't expect groundbreaking conflict. There are some nice movement animations, but everything is heavily scripted. If you die, you’ll notice the similarities. Hand to Hand combat has a neat combo system and gunplay is limited to iron sights.

The game’s tough and the first person perspective is used to its full advantage as your view changes according to what you’re doing. There isn’t a constant stream of enemies , but the game paces itself very well moving between combat and exploration of the ship.

Your health comes in the form of your body temperature. There are two meters, the first indicates your surrounding temperature, while the second is your actual temperature (your current health). You can recharge your wellbeing at heat sources (industrial machines, lights, flares, fires) as much as the room temperature allows. The game places heat sources at set intervals meaning you will always have enough health to deal with upcoming enemies. It’s another example of the games' successful pacing.

Finally we come to the aesthetics. For a relatively unknown studio, Cryostasis looks pretty sharp. It has a variety of fancy water effects that are rendered in real time (from ice to water). It’s lovely to watch and rounds off the package. The environments are textured to a high standard and the weather effects stand out. The engine is stable even with everything maxed out.

We’re less than a month away and the game seems ready for release. We can’t wait to play it in full and neither should you.

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By Richie82 (SI Member) on Jan 24, 2009
Played this months ago at a 505 Games showcase. It was shaping up well back then. I think this could be special, although Russian BioShock is pretty close to the truth. But then, that's definitely not a bad thing. I'm sure the developer don't mind their game being compared to BioShock.
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Jan 25, 2009
If looking forward to it more than FEAR2, the setting is awesome. Well, the sys req will surely be a bit steep for my machine, but well worth a try.
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2009
I think I will try it=D
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 12, 2009
OK, so this is one of those creepy new horror FPS games, now I know this can't possibly compete with the new FEAR. But tell me guys, is it worth playing (aka downloading the demo, cause it really ain't wort buying)?