Preview: Syndrome

Platform: Steam
Release date: TBA 2016

You wake up dazed and confused, probably from the effects of cryosleep.
No one can be seen around, but you soon start to find the bodies of your crewmen.
The ship is adrift, and whoever – or whatever – killed your crewmates is probably still around.

You, Galen, begin with the briefest moment of dizziness as you awake confused and isolated on board a seemingly abandoned space vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong, bodies are strewn and mutilated and the other survivors that communicate with you are paranoid and scared. You are not alone and unsure of who to trust.

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Movement in Syndrome, is simple enough, rarely clunky, though when it is, that may be a purposeful case, as it contributes to the feeling of disorientation. You have a very simple HUD which shows health and stamina and being able to jog significantly improves your time as you meander around trying to restore power and get through various parts of the ship. It’s also quite handy when you have to leg it from whatever else is on board with you. Saves are made at points where you need to place your arm and you can heal yourself in space with donuts and burgers!

Objectives have a tendency to be vague and there’s no HUD marker letting you know what area to go to. An example of obscure tasks are “leave this area” and you may find yourself wandering around, somewhat aimlessly, by the only accessible areas of the ship hoping to stumble upon a button you missed to advance. This lack of guidance may not be a hindrance to some and it may be a sign that we’re becoming use to having our hands held even in horror games. It could be seen as a plus that you really are lost and confused and the HUD intends to help that experience be more realistic, but in this particular game, as it stands currently, it comes off as something left out that shouldn’t have been and will only add frustration to gamers wanting to enjoy the immersion and story.

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Transitions to next levels of the game are not often clear. At one point we walked into a black wall and that took us to the next stage. For as detailed as the game is it would be better to have a more obvious connection to the next area your character sees, that walking into a void. It’s a bit like going into a black hole in the wall in Pokémon and ending up in a cave…in space.

Loading can be a bit slow, but nothing on a Bethesda scale. Given the dept of detail for the areas you find yourself in the loading time is quite favourable. Loading scenes themselves could benefit from something other than a static image, perhaps some info on game play or lore.

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Aesthetically the game looks great and the attention to lighting is wonderfully executed. Sound also lends to the macabre isolated vibes that emanate throughout the ship. There’s influences here from Alien Isolation and Event Horizon, which if you’re going to do a horror set in space, those are great gaming and movie benchmarks to aspire to. You can hear some creature in the walls, though the repetition loop of said creature while you try to find your way around tends to lessen the impact. The setup of tone and atmosphere for Syndrome definitely hits all cues for horror fans.

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Voice acting is to be commended, no one sounds like they’re hamming it in and there’s a genuine feel of paranoia and conspiracy as you are mentally tossed between different sides wondering who can be trusted. When a game needs to strike many chords via it’s story and setting alone, such as a horror game, voice acting is pretty integral to immersion and keeping cheesiness at bay in lieu of genuine moments of terror and Camel101 have selected a fine cast to carry this. The guttural noises Galen makes when injured, leave nothing to the imagination. That said it’s peculiar that Galen makes no reactions initially when hearing or seeing creepy monster like humanoids in the distance.

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We noticed very few glitches, though once or twice did merge our first person bodies with some shelves. The game runs smoothly and option interfaces are simple, but we would have appreciated a controller/keypad map in the settings.

Camel101 have put a great deal of effort into their first major attempt at horror and we look forward to seeing how it comes along upon it’s full release. There’s room for space horror and there’s always a need for more innovative attempts at the genre in general. Camel101 have put a lot of work in so far and while this game has some issues that should be addressed to up the enjoyment, what we’ve seen so far, already has us intrigued by where they might go afterwards.

For more information visit Syndrome’s Steam Page

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