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Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones Game Poster Image
Dismal noir horror with equally dismal gameplay.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Nearly every character in the game, including the player, is simply trying to survive in a world consumed in darkness. Players do make their own choices about how they interact with the world, with some consequences shown for any of their actions. But the darker and less moral decisions can wind up being just as rewarding as the more positive choices.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are no real positive role models in the game, with most characters looking out for their own interests and survival. Many have also been driven mad as a result of the city being ripped into the twisted dimension everyone's now trapped in.

Ease of Play

Outside of combat, the game's a straightforward point-and-click adventure. In combat, things get more complex with turn-based strategic elements thrown in. There's also a lot of character management, from equipment to skills to abilities.

Violence

The game has a stiff animated style, with a dark and sinister tone. There's a fair amount of blood and gore shown onscreen, including nightmarish visions and hallucinations.

Sex

While there's no nudity shown onscreen, there's a surprising amount of sexual content. Players occasionally run into prostitutes that offer to service the player in the allies behind buildings, with descriptive statements about what the terms of the arrangements are.

Language

The game doesn't spare any use of profanity, with some characters using "f--k" in nearly every other line of their dialogue. Other profanity, such as "bastard," regularly pepper the rest of the game's dialogue as well.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking is a regular occurrence, with players using alcohol to cope with the events of their world. Cigarettes have actually become the city's primary form of currency, and drugs like morphine are used to heal and to regain some sanity.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones in a noir/horror themed role-playing game available for download on Windows-based PCs. Players create a customized character and set out to uncover the secrets and mysteries of a city that's been transported to another dimension by ancient evil forces. The game requires a lot of character management, from inventory and skills to dialogue options and turn-based combat. The dialogue doesn't shy away from its use of profanity or potentially offensive conversations. There's no explicit sex or nudity in the game, but players can run across and even make use of prostitutes walking the streets. Drinking, drugs, and smoking are all included, not just as passing moments, but as integral parts of the story. Cigarettes, for example, are the city's de facto currency among the people trapped in New Arkham. There's also a lot of blood and nightmarish scenes scattered throughout scenes.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

STYGIAN: REIGN OF THE OLD ONES drops players into a city that's been ripped from the earthly plane by ancient forces and into a dimension of darkness and horror. Trapped in this nightmarish new existence, life in New Arkham has changed. Law and order have been replaced by mob rule, with gangsters running the streets and people caving to their innermost fears and desires. Since before the Black Day, you have been plagued by visions of the Dismal Man, a mysterious entity that seems to know more about the Old Ones and their plans for New Arkham. Now he has returned once more, prodding you into action and tasking you with investigating the evil forces at work. Do you have what it takes to uncover the truth behind the coming of the Old Ones? Can you save the people of New Arkham from a descent into the Abyss? Or will you fall victim to the madness at the cost of your sanity and even your life?

Is it any good?

What would happen to humanity if, in the battle between the dark and the light, the forces of darkness ultimately won? Would humanity collapse to its baser instincts? Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones also wonders, more importantly, if humanity could still find its way back. This indie horror role-playing game based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft is set in a dismal world filled with people either crushed by the weight of their despair or people eager to manipulate that despair to their own ends. In simpler terms, this is a dark, depressing world you're forced to live in. As the story unfolds and you meet more people trapped with you, the less it feels like New Arkham is even a place worth saving. It's difficult to be a "hero" in this world, and the game doesn't give you a lot of reason to even attempt it. In fact, depending on how you build and play your character, you can even be rewarded for being a jerk whose only concern is your own personal gain.

On of the more frustrating elements of Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is its overall presentation. The art style is definitely something different and unique, but it's also very repetitive. Most characters look exactly the same, often with the same models used multiple times on the screen. It's also a surprisingly empty world. You're likely to spend more time walking the sparse streets between locations than you are interacting with anything or anyone. Even the turn-based combat feels sluggish, forced, and ultimately unnecessary. It's almost as if the developers started off with a standard point-and-click adventure but decided to add combat just to pad the experience. And although the game's story has some interesting moments, it lacks direction. Most of the time, it feels like you’re reading a book that's missing every third page. While Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones might be meant tell a disturbing tale of intrigue and horror, there's barely enough excitement to even muster so much as a disinterested sigh.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about choice and consequence. How do the decisions we make in the spur of the moment have the potential to affect what happens in the future? What are some ways that video games present similar choices to affect the plot?

  • What are some of the ways people tend to try and cope with trauma? What are some of the consequences of negative coping, such as drinking, drugs, etc.? What are some positive and effective ways to help when dealing with stress or trauma?

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