Cryostasis Review
Cryostasis box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Action Forms 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: 1C Company / Aspyr Media 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Apr. 20, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Shiver Me Timbers
by Cole Smith

Cryostasis is all about atmosphere. I am tempted to use the cliché, "The devil is in the details," simply because this game could be easily dismissed because of what may be perceived as a boring environment. This is not a travelogue. You're stuck on a frozen boat somewhere near the North Pole. As a Canadian, I can appreciate the feeling of loneliness, emptiness, and the helplessness that comes from suffering the unbearably brutal temperatures and winds unleashed by nature. It's ugly, but it has to be respected. Cryostasis does an admirable job of capturing those feelings of isolation and despair, and I would largely attribute that to the fact that the development team is Russian.

Cryostasis screenshot

Presented in first-person perspective, Cryostasis is a survival-horror game, highly influenced by the action/adventure genre. Although the point-and-click method of control is not favored, various elements of the genre such as puzzle-solving and exploration are put to good use. You'll even wield weapons and traverse corridors like a traditional shooter. Unfortunately, the game doesn't get everything right. It would have made a better action/adventure game in my opinion, but there are some truly memorable moments, and by that I mean your heartbeat is going to escalate rapidly in some areas.

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Playing as meteorologist Alex Nesterov, you are investigating the mysterious disappearance of the crew of a nuclear icebreaker called the North Wind. The ship is located close to the North Pole and is encased in ice. It's an eerie and haunting scene, seemingly devoid of life. But you're not alone on this frozen ghost ship, as you can probably imagine. That would be one bloody boring game. It's filled with zombies and other mutated forms of life. Obviously something incredibly horrible happened, and it's up to you to find out what. That's not an easy task as you'll soon find out. The story is interesting, but it's far from original. The gameplay is better than average, but it's not particularly fast-paced, and the environments may seem too redundant to the average player. I would like to say that Cryostasis is a truly sophisticated game, but it's not. It possesses some uniqueness, but it's not perfect and it's not for everyone.

Cryostasis screenshot

As Alex, you will trudge down seemingly endless corridors and enter more seemingly endless series of rooms. The fun lies in what is waiting for you. You'll often hear the nightmarish sounds of some hellish creature long before you see it. This helps build the tension and anticipation, and usually before you can pinpoint its location, it's on you. Adding to the creepy aural atmosphere is the howl of the northerly winds and the creaking of the steel monstrosity that is held hopelessly in the ice. Weapons will be collected throughout the game, starting with a clucky, old, rusty water valve. You'll have plenty of opportunities to think your way out of various predicaments instead of being forced to reach for your weapon. In this way, the game favors brain over brawn. Its strength is not as a first-person shooter but a hybrid. You'll be mixing in a little Einstein with your John Wayne and that's enough to keep me interested.

It's possible to literally catch your death of cold on North Wind. To keep from becoming a casualty of the ice, you will have to find various heat sources to maintain your health. The boat is not entirely non-operational. You'll find working lights that you can warm your hands on, as well as steam pipes, stoves, and warm machinery. You will even be able to combine items to create a fire. The monsters are immune to the cold, but they aren't immune to a good whack from an axe or a round from the Soviet-made Tokarev SVT-40.

Cryostasis screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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