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Syndrome: Steam Review

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Syndrome is a survival horror game that has been developed and published by Camel 101, a small independent and self-funded game development studio created by three friends. Camel 101 has released several PC titles that range from simpler casual games to complex space strategy war games. On this occasion, they have had an attempt at filling the player's pants with all that is evil and smelly.

The survival horror genre is a tricky situation to put yourself into as a game developer because a successful game makes can make one that no one has the balls to play. I would say that I equally love and hate these types of games. Well maybe I love them a smidgen more than hate.
In Syndrome, you wake up from some form of cryo-sleep to find that there is nothing but death surrounding you. Through reading journals and notes on computer terminals you learn that you are among only ten survivors, while some other 343 other crew members are deceased. In the beginning of the game you are alone with very little understanding of what you're supposed to do. Objectives are listed, however there are no markers for your desired destinations.

Syndrome is played in first person view, which suits a game that relies heavily on immersion to create fear and chaos while putting you in the driver's seat. The eerie atmosphere is definitely defined within the narrow hallways of the spaceship that you are on. Along with the ambient lighting and sounds, Syndrome manages on several occasions to make the hair on the back of your neck stand to attention. While the suspense in drawn out in the beginning of the game, it all comes to ahead in plenty of jump scare moments throughout.

For an independent developer they have managed to create a world that looks aesthetically pleasing with well rendered textures throughout. The lighting effects add a lot to the overall feeling of the game and creates a beautifully dark and twisted environment to play in. Unfortunately the amazing work that has been put into the ship's interior, hasn't transferred onto the monsters themselves. Forgive me for being vague here, but I don't want to spoil significant parts of the game. There are monsters in the game and some of the designs just look more like a spoof than anything that is really meant to be scary. The first monsters that I encountered reminded me of the 'Volatiles' from Dying Light which is a good thing. They're scary, creepy and dangerous. Then as you progress through the game there's another menace added to the game. However this time, rather than shake in my boots, I let out a belly laugh. It's a strange design that they went for there but it's a little bit comical. Don't get me wrong here, there is still fear to be had because you don't stand a chance against more than one of these things (26 seconds into the video below shows what I am talking about here).
The gameplay itself is satisfying. For the most part early on in the game you will be exploring the ship searching for access cards and other items to get through to the next part of the game. Thankfully though, Syndrome has one of the best map systems in any game of this type. It's simple and effective with having a number on the rooms and a legend which tells you what each room is without having to visit it first.

Don't be surprised if you're more than a couple of hours into the game before you find your first item that can be considered a weapon. It will be even longer before you can find yourself a flash light which is something I was screaming for from the beginning. It will be even longer again before you find an actual gun. Don't be too disheartened by this though, because the weapons in the game are merely there to defend yourself against one monster. If there are any more than one then you should probably hide, run or pray.

Syndrome will have you sneaking around as quiet as you can to only scare you with unexpected events that may or may not actually cause you harm. They say that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and with this kind of game design, you will not be blamed for suggesting that Syndrome is very much an imitation of the popular game of the same genre 'Alien Isolation'. The first person view, the environments, the weapons, the enemies and the overall story just echo the experiences from Alien Isolation. This isn't always a horrible thing, especially if you're looking for more of the same experience, however it must be noted that it can become noticeably obvious that this is from an indie developer.

I did run into some game fracturing bugs throughout my playthrough. Not game breaking, but it was enough to be very frustrating. There were occasions where no matter what I did with my weapon (a wrench like tool), I couldn't swing it. The button press was not being registered at all and that was with using both the keyboard and the Xbox 360 controller. All that was required was to exit the game and load the save game once again and the issue was fixed. Further to this issue, later in the game I was required to unequip my weapon/tool to use another device. After this, I was then unable to equip the tool again and after several exits and reloads, I found a fix by loading a previous save game and losing a little bit of progress.
Syndrome isn't without its faults, but it's also not without its enjoyment as a survival horror game. It ticks the right boxes when it comes to fear factor and a sense of helplessness. You can't take much in the form of damage and health regeneration isn't a thing. You need to find food and med kits to do that for you and although there is a lot of food scattered about, you need a truck load of it to help out.

I enjoyed playing through Syndrome and it succeeded in being a scary game for me. If you really enjoyed playing through Alien Isolation then you will probably like this game as a little extra of the same until Isolation pumps out a sequel (if and when). If anything, the game definitely needs a few bug fix patches to make it a little friendlier when it comes to the game's control system. Especially when the game relies so heavily on fast acting, having a buggy control scheme is a "no no" here.
Syndrome is available on Steam for PC, Windows and Mac (with Linux coming shortly), priced at $21.24USD

http://store.steampowered.com/app/409320/

SCORE: 5 out of 10

Positives:
  • Generates genuine fear
  • Fantastic graphics for environments
  • Fantastic map layout for navigation
  • Imitation of Alien Isolation

Negatives:
  • Monster designs are strange and dated
  • Buggy controller and keyboard support
  • Imitation of Alien Isolation

PUBLISHER: Camel 101, Bigmoon Entertainment
DEVELOPER: Camel 101
PLATFORM: PC
RELEASE DATE: 6th October 2016

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
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