“This is a science fiction horror game of a rarer breed, it doesn’t seek to scare you at every moment, but rather it tries to build up an eerie, macabre mood and get into your head.”
- Developer: The Brotherhood
- Publisher: The Brotherhood / Daedalic Entertainment
- Genre: Adventure
- Release date: 31 August 2015
- Played on: PC
- Play time: 10 hours
- Price listed: 24,99€ / $24.99 / *Review copy provided by developer*
As I make my way through the ship, it is evident that something has gone terribly wrong here. Mutilated bodies are scattered everywhere, walls are drenched in blood, and horrifying screams can be heard coming from other decks. I also have a distinct feeling that someone, or some thing, is lurking in the shadows, watching me. I only have one mission and that is to find my wife and daughter and get off this godforsaken ship. But considering what I have seen, is such a goal even reasonable?
Stasis is a 2D isometric adventure game with a science fiction horror theme. It follows the story of one John Maracheck, who has been put in stasis, along with his family, during a tourist space trip. As he wakes up and emerges from his pod, it becomes clear that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. John finds himself on a monolithic spacecraft called Groomlake, which is currently orbiting Neptune. In his desperate search for his wife and daughter, John will uncover the horrifying truth hidden deep in the bowels of the ship.
The best way to play Stasis is to have as little information about the story as possible, so I will not go into any more detail. However, I can say that Stasis weaves an incredibly bleak dystopian narrative that will not leave any player unnerved. I can also say that the story is superbly written and features believable, compelling characters. The voice actors put up a great performance, which definitely contributes to the overall experience. Still, my favorite moments regarding the writing were reading the scattered PDA journal entries. This is a storytelling mechanic that is used quite often in video games and yet so few games actually manage to use it well. I usually find myself skipping such entries because they are simply boring and lifeless. Stasis, on the other hand, pulls off this storytelling mechanic magnificently. Almost every single entry paints a vivid, compelling, and absolutely convincing relationship between unseen characters. Most of these entries are actually not at all relevant to the crux of the story, but they provide such an invaluable, personal look into what was life like aboard the Groomlake before and after the incident.
Regarding the presentation, Stasis features a very dark and grim art style. It was obviously very much influenced by the Alien film series, a fact immediately made clear in the opening scene of the game. But as much as this influence is readily apparent, Stasis nevertheless defiantly remains its own beast, in both narrative and presentation. The music in the game is relatively sparse, but it sounds good whenever it makes an appearance. On the other hand, the sound effects are a high point of the game throughout. Strange creaking noises, chilling distant screams, and the rumbling of machines all contribute to the creation of a thick atmosphere.
The gameplay in Stasis is classic point-and-click adventure. The adventure genre proved to be a tough space for designers because the line between a logical yet challenging puzzle and a puzzle that will keep you bewildered and frustrated before you finally just give up is a very thin one indeed. This sort of impenetrable design led to adventure games falling out of favor some years back and still remains one of the greatest pitfalls of the genre. When you play Stasis, you will realize that this is adventure game design done right. The puzzles are logical and make sense within the setting. They also provide just the right amount of challenge that makes solving every puzzle feel like a true accomplishment and keeps the pace going. What is interesting about Stasis is that you can actually die. These deaths are scripted, of course, and require solving a puzzle to move on, but it still keeps you on your toes a bit. What is completely unique about Stasis is that in certain situations you can commit suicide and just end it all.
There were a few issues. In some scenes, the game is simply overly dark to the point that I could not figure out the layout of the level and I could not even see where John was standing. Also, John’s pathfinding is somewhat curious. He will walk on a straight line no matter the surroundings, which just looks odd when he’s walking around a desk or something, as if he is a robot. He also tends to take the longer route, for some reason. The animations are quite outdated. These are obviously not big problems, but in a game that is so reliant on immersion and atmosphere, everything that pulls you out of it is a problem.
Stasis makes several strong statements. It showcases that there is a lot of life left in classic adventure game design and that you do not need a big budget to create a game with a rich atmosphere. This is a science fiction horror game of a rarer breed, it doesn’t seek to scare you at every moment, but rather it tries to build up an eerie, macabre mood and get into your head. A resounding success in that regard, Stasis is a grim game that grabs your attention and holds it until the very end.
Overall Score: - 8/10
This is a science fiction horror game of a rarer breed, it doesn't seek to scare you at every moment, but rather it tries to build up an eerie, macabre mood and get into your head.
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