Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason Preview
Developer: Action Forms
Official Site: 1cpublishing.eu/game/cryostasis-sleep-of-reason/
In the year 1968, Alexander Nesterov was to be stationed at "Pole 21," a Russian facility in the deep, northern Arctic. Trained as a meteorologist, Nesterov hardly expected to fall off a transport and awaken near a ship trapped in the ice. The North Wind, a nuclear-powered Russian ice-breaker might be frozen in deep polar ice, but it's still Nesterov's only hope to live longer than the few brief minutes exposure to the harsh Arctic winds and open ice will allow. Unfortunately, the crew of the North Wind is dead. Even worse, they're trying to get Nesterov to join them.
I had a chance to see Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason at the E3 Summit last year, and it was looking great – a grim and gritty exploration through a stranded ship that had been the setting for horrific events. The game was originally slated to ship in the first quarter of this year, but a release in time for Halloween here in North America is only appropriate, and should be well worth the wait. In fact, Cryostasis is looking so good that 1C is proud to proclaim the game to be its "flagship title" for 2008.
As Nesterov in Cryostasis, players explore the North Wind, designed to be a near-replica of an actual nuclear ice-breaker, and discover how the crew died, leaving only frozen beings that actually kill the player by draining his remaining warmth. The game is presented as a first-person shooter, but follows a deliberate pace that builds tension, rather than being a run-and-gun style of shooting down thousands of enemies.
I got to play a large chunk of the game, face off against several enemies and clench the mouse ever tighter as the atmosphere of fear made me tense in readiness. Combat was occasional, but challenging and brutal. In Cryostasis, heat is life, so frozen enemies strove to drain that life or even to encase me in ice, while fire or heat sources restore precious life. The segment I was playing armed me only with a rifle (and a few rounds), a heavy chain and (later) an axe. And it felt like just enough to battle members of the North Wind's crew.
Weapons had heft. The bolt-action rifle was slow, unwieldy and deadly. Every shot had to count, and the time to reload was appropriately agonizing. Swinging the axe, even with the first-person perspective, made me feel like I was swinging a slug of weighty steel as hard as I could at a frozen, yet mobile, corpse. And getting hit was no picnic. Enemies in Cryostasis are deadly. I found encounters were better approached with thought and caution than a reliance on reflex.
The crux of Cryostasis involves puzzles linked to the deceased crew. By touching the dead, Nesterov can use his "Mental Echo" power to actually see the last moments of that person's life. The scenes I saw were film noir-ish, and gave clues as to the horrible fate of that corpse. By solving puzzles and changing the circumstances of that poor soul's death, Nesterov uncovers the horrible fate of the icebreaker's crew and frees the dead from torment.
The echo ability has the potential for some remarkable puzzle play, and some off-the-wall humor. A 1C rep claimed that at one point in the game, you can touch a side of frozen beef and relive the final moments of a cow's life in the slaughterhouse. Plus, the weather effects are amazing. Ice is absolutely central to Cryostasis's theme, so the game is using DirectX 10 effects and PhysX physics support to model ice. As you warm chambers in the icebreaker, ice will melt and water will run. And it's frightening to watch the ice crystals spread as some of Cryostasis's enemies attack.