Publisher: The Brotherhood, Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: The Brotherhood
Year: 2015
Platform: Windows, Mac

Rating: 4

I regularly talk about my love for abandoned research stations and Stasis attempts to quench that thirst. While the premise and plot were interesting enough to hold my attention, I was ultimately left unsatiated thanks to some poor characterizations and ridiculous puzzles.

You play as John Maracheck, to whom you are introduced as he gets unceremoniously released from a stasis pod, covered in goo and in severe physical pain. John has no idea where he is and is panicked because his last memory was being on another spaceship with his wife and daughter. The ship’s computer advises you to head to medical where you must tend to your own injures as there is no crew to be found. Once healed, you must explore the rest of the ship to discover why you’re there and how to get the hell out.

Stasis is atmospheric as all get out. The isometric view (similar to Sanitarium) is decked out with superb illustrations that constantly evoke a bleak, inhospitable environment. The sound is also used to great effect, the ship’s harsh mechanical noises echoing all around, enhancing the claustrophobia. Music is generally foreboding but not over the top, and only on a couple of occasions did I feel overwhelmed by the volume.

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time getting into the plot. Cayne Corporation, which owns this research vessel, is end stage capitalism personified with some of the most sneeringly evil players you’ll see involved in the most unethical research you can imagine. While some of this is learned by observation and some very limited interaction with other characters, the story is almost entirely dumped via journal entries in PDAs the crew has lying about the ship. While I am a fan of this kind of exposition, it hits mostly the wrong notes here. For one, many of the PDAs contain very private information, yet none of them are locked by any kind of password. Secondly, some of the entries are written as if they are meant to be read by the player. I left feeling like I was force fed text dumps rather than organically uncovering the mystery.

There are other distractions that regularly took me out of the moment. Hovering over a hotspot will offer a description, often containing specific details that would be unknown to John. Worse yet, interacting with objects is a guessing game, as some items that seem obvious reveal no information or interactivity while more obscure things are nearly impossible to see. Pixel-hunting was present on most every screen, and several times when I resorted to a walkthrough I learned I just missed an item that I could barely discern even when told exactly where it was located.

I also found the dialogue (which is mostly John talking to himself) to be off-kilter, as well-delivered, powerful lines would be followed with awkward musings that didn’t fit the mood. The voice acting was also below-average and at no point did I feel anything for John or his predicament. To be fair, I consistently found myself curious and interested; I just found nothing to be terribly compelling. It also didn’t help that John’s character sprite feels not quite present, as his feet never seem to make good contact with the floor. When he walks or runs he just looks like he’s slipping and sliding everywhere.

The puzzles are a mixed bag. As mentioned, some are difficult just due to pixel-hunting. But so many more are straight up reading the author’s mind. I would guess a good 20% of the puzzles I solved by clicking everything on everything, hoping something would happen. The worst example came when needing to prepare some human flesh for processing (in a good way). Not only does the game not provide any hint on why this is necessary or how it could be done, the solution turns out to be hitting the flesh repeatedly with a pistol. It was at this point I gave up on any future puzzles making sense and relied on the walkthrough whenever I was stuck for more than fifteen minutes.

All of that said, the game had a good pace and I had no trouble finding the motivation to complete it. The ending is quite predictable but fun all the same. There are, delightfully, many cool and grisly ways to die. None of them set you back and most of them you have to be practically trying to off yourself. While I normally wouldn’t like this in a dramatic piece, the lack of any emotional investment in the character made it a fun diversion. And that is the best way to sum up the experience of playing Stasis: a fun diversion, but not one I have any desire to spend more time with.

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