Cryostasis: A Little More Information

By Jim Rossignol on August 1st, 2008 at 9:39 am.


While I was out at the KRI game developers summit in Moscow I had a chance to play a number of games from the East European theatre. One that stood out was Cryostasis by Action Forms. This survival shooter has already caused a bit of hopeful muttering and anticipation round here, so I thought I’d go into it in a little more detail, as well as briefly talk to one of the leads on the project, Dmitriy Kozmin.

The plot of Cryostasis is based around a lost ship that is stranded and icebound in the arctic. You play a meteorologist who takes his dog-sled up there to investigate. The opening scenes of what I saw in Moscow saw you riding your sled up to that looming ship, desperate to get there before you freeze to death.

Once aboard the ship it becomes clear that you cannot survive for long without some heat sources. In fact, there’s no classic “health” at all, but just temperature. If it drops too low from environment sources, or from exhausting yourself in a fight with the weird enemies aboard the ship, then you die.

The first thing I do is switch on a heater in one of the cabins of the ship. Slowly, all around me, the frosty sheen melts away. It’s rather sped up for effect, but it’s an interesting effect. From there it’s a case of exploring the ship and finding out what disaster befell it. You’re constantly searching for sources of warmth, and even a lightbulb is a good way to up your body temperature. Worse, you’ll soon encounter the psychotic frozen denizens of the ship, and fighting begins in earnest.

But then there’s this:

Alex is no ordinary meteorologist as he possesses a unique ‘Mental Echo’ ability that allows him to relive the final memories of the dead and change their actions in the past, changing their future.

This is crucial to Action Forms’ intentions for the game as Dmitriy Kozmin explained: “We have three main features in the Cryostasis: Mental Echo, thermodynamics and off course the game scenario.” It’s the story that Kozmin seems most proud of, as he went on: “The story of the game can be called linear, but there are many variants of playing from one point to another and many time travel moments, the Mental Echoes. The endings of the game are multiple. There is also a sophisticated psychological dilemma in it and we hope, each player will find a solution suitable for him personally.”

For us, however, it’s this Mental Echo idea that is most intriguing. I asked Kozmin to explain a little more about it. “With the help of Mental Echo players can travel into the past of the ship and find out what really happened there and the reasons for the catastrophe. In this way Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason is more like an unusual detective story with an ability (for the reader or in our case – the player) to interfere the course of actions in the past and change the situation in future. The main task of our team was to create a game [in which this ability] is perceived as something integral.”

The Mental Echo is set off when encountering various corpses across the ship. So are we traveling into the memories of these dead folk? “The system of Mental Echo is not exactly a ‘memory travel’,” says Kozmin. “The Hero not only revises the moments of the other character’s life, he actually travels to the past of that person, settles in his mind and operates his body. Mental characters are people, who made some mistakes when they were still alive. With Mental Echo our Hero gets a chance to correct their mistakes and set them free. Off course, if one travelled to the Mental Echo and prevented some mistake or destruction there will be no consequences of this disaster when he returns to reality. In this way we can not only save the whole ship, but also return life to every living being on board.”

This travel into the past, therefore, becomes a kind of problem-solving mechanism for the game. You can leap into the past and fix other people’s mistakes to fix your situation in the present. Ultimately, it seems, how you deal with these Mental Echoes will resolve the fate the you, and of the ship you are stranded on.

Finally I had to ask Kozmin if he believed that Russia was providing a fresh take on the tired shooter scene, and if so, why would that be? “I do believe!” he said. “But I’m afraid that to get an answer to this question and to understand it fully one should spend some time here, learn Russian and try reading some classic Russian literature like Dostoevskiy for at least several hours a day. This might help!”

Cryostasis is set for release in October.

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37 Comments »

  1. BJ Blazkowicz says:

    Strange… but I’m interested.

  2. Sarin says:

    Love the idea of warmth for health, though it seems like the mental echos are only going to have one right way to do them, but I hope not.

    Definately looking forward to this and STALKER.

    Seems like Eastern Europe is really starting to learn what I like :P

  3. Valentin Galea says:

    This has the potential to be the next Bioshock! Please God guide the hand of the ruskies and don’t let thy failure be upon them!

  4. ape says:

    Oh I fully agree, they seem to be the only part of the world currently putting out some fresh first person games.

    I read over on Eurogamer that there is a part where you go into a man’s past and subsequently travel to a cow’s past to save both. Count me in. Very intriguing and even if it’s broken but unique, then I’ll be happy.

    Plus, I’m Canadian, I can take the cold.

  5. Del Boy says:

    This sounds great.

    I think western devs are starting to lose their stranglehold on PC gaming.

  6. AbyssUK says:

    Yes you can tell this isn’t a Western game as its not set in an post nuclear apocalyptic war torn city.. and its mainly white instead of brown.

    Also DOG SLED! Do we get to drive it ?

  7. Louis says:

    This sounds excellent I gotta say, then again, most games “sound” excellent before you play them (read: any game bar “my pretty princess” or similar), I like the idea of a strong narrative regardless, a good story can save a game more than gameplay itself in some cases.

  8. Aftershock says:

    sexy.
    i want to drive a dog sled.

    @ape:
    does this mean we get to take control of a cow for part of the game? that would ROCK.

  9. Cooper says:

    Over the past three years, I’ve had increasingly high hopes for Russian and Eastern European development houses. Sure, so far they’ve been so overly ambitious but under resourced. But at least they have been over ambitious. Been playing Boiling Point again recently. Just the promise of White Gold makes me tingle.

    Such a so very welcome change from the safety shots of ‘AAA’ publishing houses in America and the UK.

  10. Janto says:

    From one clip I saw a while back here, yeah, you can control a cow, and it’s actually quite a grim little scenario – there you are, waiting in line to be prodded forward into a guillotine, and I imagine frantically trying to work out a way to avoid your seemingly inevitable demise.

    It’s a great concept forloads of reasons, the two main ones being: You can actually be a hero, and save people; and the player can emphasis more with the scenario and become more emotionally invested in the whole thing. It’s sort of a big step on from the PDA/tape recordings of System Shock/BioShock, and to see a great example of how well the mechanic of putting the player in different character’s shoes works, play the IF game Photopia. You can’t change events, but you really, really want to.

  11. crozon says:

    come on comrades, let us see you do a game that disgraces these western dogs :)

  12. jackflash says:

    Thank god for eastern european devs. Now that id has dumped the PC, who around here is there to represent us?

  13. hydra9 says:

    @Janto:
    The cow thing sounds amazing!

    I suspect, as with nearly every game, that Cryostasis will not be quite as groundbreaking or different as its developers are making out. But at the same time, I am expecting something really good with a bunch of novel features.

    I just hope Atari do a decent job of marketing it.

  14. Arsewisely says:

    I’m sure they will.

    “Cryostasis: You can play a cow”

  15. Michael says:

    Whenever I get excited about a Russian game, I am then always bitterly disappointed. So, this time I’ll try to stay indifferent, although I admit it sounds fairly interesting, if a bit BioShockish. My problem is, they always sound interesting at first. Oh well, I shall wait and see.

  16. cyrenic says:

    For some reason the part about going around on a dog sled and trying to keep from freezing is the most interesting idea to me. You probably are only on the dog sled at the start though :(.

  17. hydra9 says:

    @cyrenic:
    My guess is the dog-sled sequence will be non-interactive and yep, just at the start. Also, I read a dev comment some time ago that said they were planning on having sequences that took place out on the ice, but in the end they decided to set the whole game onboard the ship.

  18. material defender says:

    quoting Janto:

    a great example of how well the mechanic of putting the player in different character’s shoes works, play the IF game Photopia. You can’t change events, but you really, really want to.

    Photopia is great. I have a very fond memory of a certain moment while trying to navigate a maze…

  19. JonFitt says:

    If the Mental Echo sections resolve seemingly unrelated disasters which continue some complicated plot which ends up saving the ship, then that could be cool.

    However my first impression was, I wonder if it will be like this:
    I see a dead dude, a frozen over door that I need to get through, and a destroyed engine.
    MENTAL ECHO WAYNE’S WORLD ACTIVE.
    Now I’m the dead dude, and I do something to prevent the engine being destroyed.
    MENTAL ECHO WAYNE’S WORLD END.
    Hurrah, I can start the engine and unfreeze the door.

    That would be an interesting puzzle gimmick for a little while, but ultimately lame. Think: Prey’s Ghosty Mode.

  20. Chris says:

    “Now that id has dumped the PC, who around here is there to represent us?”

    But, but – all the games they’ve announced so far are going to be available on PC. When did they “dump” it?

    Of course, if they did, there’s always Valve. Or anyone who makes anything other than shooters.

  21. Shawny D says:

    I love this whole eastern european thing going on in PC gaming. Very weird shit, but I’m definitely playing this baby. Very curious as to how to whole temperature thing is going to work out though. It almost feels as if they don’t need it, givin’ the mental echo and other combat/exploration aspects to the game. I didn’t quite like Lost Plant for that, and I hope they set it up so it doesn’t distract from exploring without too much worrying.

  22. JonFitt says:

    Did anyone here play The Thing? That had a few interesting ideas: the outside would kill you unless you could get somewhere warm, and NPCs could either be infected or not, and sometimes would require you to do a blood test before they’d trust you and follow you.
    It wasn’t quite as good in execution as it was in theory though.

  23. RichPowers says:

    Speaking of Eastern European and Russian studios, 1up believes that Russia’s resurgence is good for PC gaming (Cryostasis is mentioned).

    Also, King’s Bounty.

  24. hydra9 says:

    @JonFitt:
    I liked the ‘spirit vision’ sequences in Prey. But they could’ve been better. The problem was that they assumed everyone was incredibly stupid so they effectively put big signposts everywhere telling you what to do. There weren’t many puzzles that actually had me scratching my head. For Cryostasis, I hope there is a bit more brainwork required. Even if the puzzles are simple, though, they should be fun and hopefully not too repetitive.

    @RichPowers:
    Interesting article. Yep, no matter what America is up to, Eastern Europe is not giving up on the PC anytime soon. Which makes me happy :)

  25. Jonelo says:

    Well Jim, you have not answered the big question about this game. Is the Russian BioShock, almost a copy, as said in the 99% of the previews , with many references to BioShock?

    In any case you did not mention even once the word BioShock in the article ;) .

  26. Deuteronomy says:

    Sitting here with my Stolichnaya, I feel a little bit Russian.

  27. Turkish Superman says:

    I imagine the various expenses that go into making a console game (development kits and whatnot) are one reason why so many European developers still make PC games.

    Anyways, I’ve been looking forward to Cryostasis for a while now.

  28. Shawny D says:

    ahhh…good ol’ Stoli’s.that was my drug of choice for a while, Stoli Orange with club soda, and then on to GreyGoose and Bellvedere, gotta love the French and Polish too, anything but Absolute, anything…I really need to start drinking again

  29. Bhlaab says:

    “Yes you can tell this isn’t a Western game as its not set in an post nuclear apocalyptic war torn city..”

    Yeah just like STALK –err…

  30. fart says:

    stalker isn’t in a city for the vast majority of the time

  31. NOT AN ALIEN says:

    Looking great. Hopefully they got a good publishing deal because I want that game.

    On a side note, thanks for talking about the game, RPS. It’s a bit awkward how much we WON’T see many other gaming websites mentioning this game. It gives me the impression that anything that isn’t published by EA or Activision or THQ or Take2 isn’t worth mentioning, no matter how good it looks. I realize their *marketing* budget isn’t so big, but this game deserves more publicity. :(

  32. hydra9 says:

    @NOT AN ALIEN:
    The game has been picked up by Atari, who will be publishing it in the U.S.

  33. slang says:

    “I imagine the various expenses that go into making a console game (development kits and whatnot) are one reason why so many European developers still make PC games.”

    Not really. The main reason is that the two big console markets are still just he US and Japan. In Europe it’s mainly UK. The console market isn’t that big outside of these territories. Besides, a good PC game can sell even 8-10 years later because backwars compatibility is not such a problem as on the console side. Electronic stores in Eastern EU countries sell A LOT of older PC titles.

  34. NOT AN ALIEN says:

    @hydra9: Thanks. Problem is, I’m in South America. And usually second-rate publishers don’t care about us down here. That’s the problem I see with this game. Not sure how Atari will handle this.

    Let’s see if this shows up on Steam.

  35. Brendan says:

    How combat heavy is the game? I’d love to see a survival horror game use enemies sparingly and build up a sense of anticipation and dread rather than just succumb to the urge to throw hoards of enemies at you.

    It sounds like the mental echo and adventure portions of the game are fleshed out enough to try something like this.

  36. Jonelo says:

    Developers says that the game not are enemy hordes, is more like a survival game . And some more things about the game

    http://www.games2c.com/pc/player/default.asp?gpid=3243&gmid=894&med=ftr&sec=pc

    The caracther not is Superman , is vulnerable .

    The publisher in Europe is 505 games, at least in UK

  37. James T says:

    Hey RPS guys, you might want to add the ‘cryostasis’ tag to this article?

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