Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lucius (Review)

Lucius is a horror/adventure game by new Finnish developer ‘Shiver Games’. The game features a young boy, who also happens to be the son of Lucifer, and is evidently inspired by ‘The Omen’ trilogy (or quadrilogy if you really want to include the fourth part); of course the game creators clearly acknowledge that, as Lucius pays homage to the classic evil/demonic child horror movies. Additionally, they have decided to give the title a rather original twist, giving the player the chance to play as the murdering 6 year old.

The game begins showing baby Lucius being born on the 6th of June 1966 (yes that’s 6.6.66) in St. Benedict Hospital, in room 666 (because every hospital has one of those) while someplace else a rather unsettling ritual is taking place. For the next few years Lucius lives a relatively normal life in the Dante Manor where he lives with his (filthy rich) parents, until he reaches his 6th birthday. During a brief introduction we are shown Lucius blowing his candles like every normal child and then getting a visit from Lucifer himself, who reveals that he is the boy’s real father and instructs him to begin killing people in order to prove that he is worthy, and of course to increase his personal powers. As you may have noticed, even though Lucius is by no means a humorous game, the title seems to be rather aware of its cult nature and throws quite a few between-the-lines jokes here and there during gameplay.

Lucifer’s initial visit and Lucius’ first murder act as a sort of tutorial, in order to introduce the player to the game mechanisms and controls. From then on things follow a similar pattern more or less; in each chapter Lucius has a new person he needs to off in a different way, while at the same time he needs to avoid getting caught. Even though Dante Manor is a huge place and Lucius is pretty much free from the beginning to explore almost everywhere, the game provides the player with a map which shows where Lucius should be in order to advance the story and begin planning his next murder. After we spot our next victim, we get a couple of hints in Lucius’ diary giving us some idea of what we should do next.

 After a successful murder Lucius gets an increase of his powers. When a new power is introduced we get another small tutorial in the form of Lucifer explaining to Lucius how his new powers work. Overall, we can get four powers; Telekinesis, mind control, mind wipe, and fireball. Unfortunately Lucius cannot use his powers as freely as hoped, and most of the time he only uses them during specific scripted events. The title plays mostly as an adventure game in the sense that Lucius must collect a few items, combine them and trigger a series of events leading to yet another brutal murder. On the other hand, since Lucius never actually speaks a word, there are no dialogues or much interaction with any of the other characters; even though this adds to the overall creepiness of Lucius as a murdering 6 year old, it costs him quite a bit in character development.

The game’s story is not very complex but it does have a flavor of 70s horror movies. The events are being narrated by Detective McGuffin, who has been assigned on the case after a series of deaths begun occurring in the Dante Manor and who is getting increasingly suspicious about the whole situation. That big fat 18 on the game’s cover is certainly no joke as the murders are brutal and bloody and there are also a couple of scenes which involve sex and nudity. The fact that a young boy witnesses – and even causes – most of those events might put some people off but this is strictly a matter of personal taste, after all Lucius is undoubtedly a horror game where the player just happens to control the villain.

As mentioned above, Lucius’ house is literally huge and the map does come in handy plenty of times. Even though the game has been advertised as open-world – which is true to some extend – there is no actual reason besides exploration to visit any areas other than the one pinpointed on the map since all events are scripted and every murder has to happen in a particular time before the story advances. Moreover, there is only one way of killing each unfortunate soul, which takes away any replay value that the game may have had. In the end, it comes to finding the correct items and figuring out how to use them. Initially things are pretty easy but as the game progresses the puzzles get harder to figure out and some of the hints get pretty vague not providing much help. Additionally the game features a sort of mini-game having Lucius do a few chores around the house, like cleaning up his room and taking out the garbage, which eventually gives him a few bonus items, some of which provide Lucius with extra hints. Pretty much as in real life, doing the chores is rather boring but some of the items might be worth the while. The game also features a few stealth sequences; Lucius can run around murdering people freely during the day, but he must not be seen when he lurks around the house during the night. This part of the game is rather weakly executed and unnecessary since it soon becomes frustrating, add to that the fact that when Lucius is discovered it’s “game over” and you can see why the stealth part is not the game’s strong aspect.

Even though the game’s graphics are not going to take your breath away the overall atmosphere is quite impressive. The house looks like it came out of a horror flick, the lighting and weather effects add to the mood and make exploring the mansion rather fan. The game environments are full of little details and Lucius can interact with a great number of items in every room. On the downside the game does seem to suffer from a few bugs which can be pretty annoying. From things merging together awkwardly to key items being accidentally misplaced and getting stuck, forcing the player to restart the chapter, these bugs can make your life hard if you happen to stumble upon them.

It is also unfortunate that even though the game lets you choose the level of detail you want, there is no brightness option whatsoever, so if you have any issue with that aspect, your only alternative is to play with your monitor’s options. Additionally the game does not let you save allowing only a few fixed checkpoints. This can make things frustrating as in certain cases where Lucius can get caught the player has to do everything over again. However, it is worth mentioning that the developers have come up with a patch which fixes a great number of the game’s issues. The overall voice acting is average but both Lucius’ parents and Det. McGuffin do a pretty convincing job as people who are overwhelmed and freaked by all the death happening around them.

It is hard to put a label on Lucius; it is not a standard survival horror game, mostly because your main concern is to make sure that no one survives the horror, and it is not entirely an adventure game in its strict classic point-and-click sense. In the end the game ends up being fun besides its flaws. Lucius is one creepy kid and the overall atmosphere gets the player in the mood. Sadly when the game reaches its climax it suddenly ends with no satisfying conclusion; the final events occur and then credits start rolling. Even though there is a potential for a sequel, in order to further develop the story, it would have been rewarding to at least get to see some sort of finale. Even though one cannot deny that Lucius has its imperfections in the end it is a fun game and also a guilty pleasure for fans of the cult/horror genre.

Overall: 68/100

Originally written for New Game Network 

Lucius (Review)
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