Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is a role-playing game, deeply steeped in the mythos of author H.P. Lovecraft. Developed by Cultic Games and published by 1C Entertainment.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, as the title implies Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones have awoken and now reign over the world. During the transition between the regular world and the Old One’s hellscape, most people lost their lives or went mad. Among those that remained are cultists that worship the old ones, greedy mobsters and scattered folks just trying to survive. Normally in a game like this, you would be tasked with saving the world. As the game itself tells you though, that battle is already lost. The goal of Stygian is not to overthrow the Old Ones or reclaim any semblance of the old world. It is merely to survive, to enact vengeance or any other goal you can find to work toward to in a mad world.
Stygian is a highly dialogue-based game, filled with choices and quests. You will spend a large portion of the game just talking to people, figuring out what has happened. Eventually getting to choices that will shape not only your story but also your character.
Overall Stygian is a very well written game, taking a lot of inspiration from the source material of Lovecraft’s work.
As stated above, Stygian is a largely dialogue-driven game, filled with text choices and options. Outside of this, there are also quests to undertake and companions to find. You have an inventory in which you can keep certain items and equipment you find. Some of the items will be used for quests, others for crafting. You will also find cigarettes which have replaced currency in this form of the world.
As for the equipment, you will find various items to act as armor and both melee and ranged weaponry. Ranged weapons are much more useful than melee ones, however, ammunition is scarce. For the most part, it is just best to weaken your enemy and flee than to try to actually kill them.
Battles are strategic turn-based affairs, with the area split into hexagonal areas which indicate areas you can move and the range of your attacks. Generally on the other side of the field, there will be an area in which you can escape from the battle, however, you’ll need to weaken your enemy before it becomes a viable option.
Stygian allows you a wide array of pre-made characters to select from, everything from a detective to an occultist. The game also allows you the ability to create your own. Selecting from 8 main 1920’s inspired archetypes and various sub-jobs beneath these. You will also be able to select their portrait, which is purely cosmetic. Their age, which can provide more raw stats but fewer skill levels or vice versa by choosing either young or old respectively. Faith and belief system, which will change dialogue options and how your character reclaims sanity. And lastly, you will be able to assign your stat and skill points among the various different stats and skills available to you.
The visuals in Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones are quite wonderful to look at. Filled with all manner of horrific Lovecraftian oddities and a lot of drab and dull colors. Character portraits are suitably detailed, whilst the human characters in-game are more cartoony, but more in a later stage flash animation style than a children’s cartoon. There is a certain life to be found in the characters as they are displayed, but it is the Lovecraftian nightmares that really steal the show. A special little shoutout should also go to the lighting in the game, finding your lamp and illuminating the areas around you feels sufficiently creepy.
Full of spooky and atmospheric sounds, Stygian has creaks and shrieks, the pattering of steps from unseen feet. The music in Stygian is very organic with a lot of strings and brass. Seeing as the game is set in an alternate hellscape of 1920’s America it’s all very fitting. While the music is at times relaxing, it’s also sort of nerve-wracking. With the knowledge, things in this world are not right and there are unseen horrors lurking in the shadows. The sound effects paint these elements with further tension. Overall the sound design in Stygian is quite strong, both effects and music.
While Stygian is a slow game, very heavy on dialogue, and at this stage an incomplete story. It is incredibly well made, with a lot of attention paid to the works of Lovecraft. Fans of darker tabletop games would likely appreciate this game. Whereas gamer’s who are looking for a quick-paced action game or a jump-scare riddled horror title would be best looking elsewhere.
Stygian is quite a complex game, I haven’t even mentioned the spells, afflictions or gone in-depth with the sanity or skills. I’ve also read about numerous bugs and glitches afflicting the game, but personally I did not run into anything truly game-breaking. Stygian is an enjoyable game, in the same way, that reading a depressing Lovecraft novel is.
Rating: 7/10 – For fans of Lovecraft, and slower-paced dialogue-driven horror.
Title: Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones
Genre: C-RPG, Adventure, Horror
Developer: Cultist Games
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Release Date: 27 Sep 2019