Bigmoon Entertainment and Camel 101 have gotten together to develop this survival-horror game that debuted on Steam in early October. After reading about its FPS, psychological horror, RPG-style gameplay, as well as having a peak at some impressive screenshots, it was safe to say Syndrome looked right up my alley.
Pretty lights look nice, but you wouldn’t want to stop and observe
The game takes place on a derelict starship that seems to be drifting atop an abyss. The player takes on the role of Galen, a technician who has completely lost his memory. This amnesia makes the fact that the ship seems to have fallen in disarray and all the crew members brutally slaughtered even more puzzling. Initially you get your bearings as you stumble around the ship to try and make sense of what exactly has gone so wrong here. Eventually you hear a transmission from a woman claiming to be the Commander of a Marine Detachment on-board the ship named Neomi. She assures you that she’s going to help you survive whatever’s happened here and that you should follow her orders in exact detail. Being a good gamer you will do just that, until you hear another transmission from your in-suit telecommunications system, this time from a man by the name of James “Jimmy” Marko, who claims to be another Technician. Jimmy proceeds to tell you that Neomi shouldn’t be trusted as she’s shooting survivors on sight to contain the ‘situation’, but who do you believe?
Initially when I opened the game I was assuming it would have a similar feel to Alien: Isolation, and indeed the structure of the game is made up mostly of walking around, doing missions, finding some weaponry and attempting to uncover whatever horrible things happened on board the ship; classic first-person horror fare. As I said previously it sounded like a game I could get into. Saying that, these types of genres really need to hoist out of the shadows in such a manner that they separate themselves from the bazillions of other games in this sort of genre, and this one for me, did not.
The visuals are fantastic, they’re smooth and colourful when they need to be and the attention to detail in most places is really nice. For example, when you save the game at a save point, instead of a simple inventory-type save or a button you have to push, you’re required to place your arm in a lone-standing machine while it proceeds to clamp you in while the save is in progress. It can be a little glitchy at times but it isn’t enough to break your heart for the most part. Your objectives are also pretty clear when you’re given them, but unfortunately this isn’t as often as you’d probably like…
More often than not you’re walking around in the dark
After you’ve soaked up the ship’s impressive atmosphere, the actual gameplay that lurks beyond it reveal itself as extremely tedious. Basically, most of the missions require you to press a button or to unlock a room so you can press a button to unlock a room so a button can be pressed. As the game is extremely vague as to where the button is or where you need to be going exactly I had to resort to a few walkthroughs so I could simply work out what I was supposed to be doing. It was nice at first to not be babied but eventually you require more information, something the game doesn’t give you. You can certainly rack up a lot of gaming hours with Syndrome, but be warned that most of that time will be spent walking from one end of the ship to the other, occasionally encountering spurts of action along the way. Occasionally…
Weapon choices are pretty typical. For melee you have knives and other common hitting utensils, and for longer range you have pistols and SMGs to spray and pray with. The enemies you square off against are notably terrifying looking robot-alien types of creatures that do a good job of providing a few commendable jump-scares. You’re also given the option for a grenade launcher towards the end of the game, but I would have liked to have seen it incorporated much earlier as it really elevated the excitement. Combat ends up being fairly one-dimensional and not altogether engaging. This is in large part down to the way our alien-monster friends don’t react accurately to being shot. The feeling of hit registration and weight to one’s shots is an important aspect of any game with guns, and here I didn’t feel it.
I would also like to have seen a storyline that was much more diverse. The premise of the amnesiac technician on a quest for truth is a great one, and does have the potential to be an amazingly in-depth story that stays captivating throughout the entire game. However, the plot squanders its initial atmosphere and plot intrigue with its humdrum gameplay that pulls you away from the tension.
Introducing; The galaxy’s most useless pistol
Would I buy this game for its current price of $24.99US? No. On the positive side it’s a decently made game, it’s extremely stylish, the few jump scares are very good and it does have a few in-game factors that are exciting. However, it flounders in the gameplay department, and substituting gameplay attention to detail for gorgeous graphics won’t cut it by today’s standards. Gameplay is king, and personally I’d be much happier playing a game that did away with the beautiful graphics and focused on intense and captivating objectives that drove the narrative.
So, are these free for anyone to take orrrrr?
I feel like I’ve done nothing but run this game into the ground, so let me be clear and tell you this game is still quite good and you’ll no doubt be able to glean some entertainment from it (especially those first-person horror sci-fi junkies out there). I’d add that the development studio is only a small one, and if they had a much bigger budget they could do wonders because the foundation of this game is brilliant. It’s certainly not a bad title by any means, but I’m just not sure if the price-point is suitable for what’s in the box.
Reviewed on PC