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Game Play: Ice-Cold Hands And Equally Cold Feet

Cryostasis: From Russia, With An Appetite For Fast Hardware
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Weapons and Opponents

One you get into the game, the best initial strategy is to make yourself familiar with the navigation and game controls. Players start out absolutely weaponless, equipped only with a flashlight, and must investigate the dangers and mysteries of this ice-bound icebreaker and the fate of its crew. At first, the only illumination in the scenes comes from the light of the flashlight, which players must use to get oriented in the mind-numbing cold. 

Step by step, and hold by hold, Nesterov makes his way into the bowels of this frozen steel colossus. Along the way, the hero finds various tools that serve alternately as aids or weapons. As you make your way around this environment, you’ll find various forms of cold steel—particularly a piece of chain and a heavy metal valve assembly of much greater use than a shouting match with the game's antagonists (the latter are completely pointless anyway because the zombie-like crew members never speak a word).

Hey hot-stuff!Hey hot-stuff!

Players need to watch their backs constantly in this game. Zombie-like bad guys pop up regularly, and are particularly fond of hiding to attack from behind. It’s not unusual for a player to become embroiled in close combat with the same undead that he or she has just recently dispatched elsewhere in the game. With a little practice, you’ll learn how to make sure the undead stay dead, but it’s still a nasty surprise to find yourself facing something you just put down a few moments ago. It’s also a good idea to keep your balance in the heat of battle; otherwise, wielding your unwieldy weaponry may prove to be your ultimate undoing.

No FPS ever got your blood pumping without heavy weaponry, so as the game progresses, players will come across an increasing array of armament. It’s smart to keep scanning the environment for hidden munitions or arms, although you will sometimes also find them in plain sight. Most of the weapons in this game are limited in firepower–it’s as if the game designers don’t want the hero to become too powerful. Along with a usable gun, you’ll also find a pump shotgun with slow-motion reload that will quickly make an experienced FPS player’s hair turn white. While you’re loading up this Soviet-era bear-killer with shells, you’ll give the zombies in the game plenty of time to get right up in your face. Close combat with this weapon may be good for those in need of contact, but it also leads too often to your untimely demise. Likewise, a sniper rifle may be of little use in this kind of combat, because you seldom get the chance to lie in wait for enemies or even to see what’s coming next. Things work like this: about the same time you see one or more antagonists, you’ll find yourself engaged in close-quarters fighting.

As a matter of principle, you’ll find yourself slogging it out in tight situations constantly. Sadly, this leaves no time or leisure for strategy or tactics. It’s easy to lose your orientation when locked in battle, since you’re either in the dark or in deep shadows. That said, it’s easy to determine which weapon works best against different opponents. Because there are more things than zombies lurking in the shadows, you’ll learn pretty quickly what to use to get them out of your way.

Healing and Recovery

The game's system for regenerating health is fairly simply. Various sources of heat and light also refresh the hero’s life-force, including things like glowing light-bulbs, a repaired floodlight, or ovens, as well as random items that include leaky steam pipes and basic fires. Stick around any of these for even a short time and Alexander is completely restored to good health and full strength.

Anybody who’s uninterested in acquiring unappetizing frostbite had best keep an eye on the temperature reading. Otherwise, you’re in for an ice-cold surprise (this indicator resets if you survive to make it to the next game level).

The Mental Echo

Another interesting game function is the so-called “mental echo.” During game play, the hero comes across several deceased crew members, whose spirits still linger nearby their corpses. The hero can exercise his mental powers to inhabit these spirits, and re-live their final moments before death. The recollection of these memories also puts the heroes onboard the North Wind in its last minutes, and helps to clarify much of the storyline and background for the game.

In this situation, the hero takes on the body and life of the spirit he’s inhabiting and must perform certain tasks, or even try to influence the flow of events at that time, thereby changing the past and present. These involve linear-action sequences that cannot be saved or repeated by saving the game. It’s also possible to get “stuck” in the past, although this never happened to us, owing to major explosions or cataclysms. Nevertheless these trips through time serve as a marvelous alternative to the otherwise ceaseless slogging through the labyrinth of the North Wind’s interior.

Riddles and Thought Exercises

As the game progresses, there is no point at which unpracticed players need to resort to acts of desperation to survive. Things proceed in a more-or-less linear sequence throughout the game (except for occasional mental echoes). But it’s still important to think about what you’re doing. The title serves as a well-balanced mix of action and adventure leavened with the possibility that a misstep will turn you into a frozen corpse. To that end, it’s helpful to keep scanning your surroundings, and to pay close attention to apparently minor details and devices.

You have something on your shirt...You have something on your shirt...

After you see this zombie sailor who’s stuck with glass protrusions, it will soon become obvious that something isn’t right in the immediate surroundings, for example. But if you pay attention to your mistakes, you’ll learn how to avoid them in the future. Different situations and levels often follow a similar sequence of events and actions, and you’ll quickly get used to this pattern of activities: repair, clean-up, move through a space, then knock off zombies. Of course, this gets mixed and matched in endless variations, but that’s where a lot of the game’s enjoyment originates.

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