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  • Jesper Ingemansson

Review: Syndrome


I'm a huge fan of survival horror games and horror games in general, so when the kind people at Bigmoon Entertainment were nice enough to send me a review copy of their sci-fi survival horror game, I was very thrilled. I've now completed the game and I definitely have some things to talk about.

Platform: Xbox One S. Introduction In Syndrome, you play as officer Galen, onboard the Valkenburg. He wakes up from cryosleep only to find out that nearly everyone onboard the ship are dead. It's now up to Galen to find out why this incident occured, and to find a way to escape from the Valkenburg. He soon finds out that he's not alone, in a bad way. Before the game starts, I get to watch a cut-scene that briefly explains the game's story concept (not the whole story, just how it began). Right after, officer Galen begins his wake from cryosleep. This is when the game starts off for real and I was now free to start putting the pieces together. Visuals/performance Before Syndrome released for Xbox One, it had already existed for PC for some time, which shows. The Xbox port of Syndrome isn't optimized well at all, sadly, resulting in the game having severe dips in the framerate. Visually, it's pretty good looking but it could've looked better. Let's talk about the big downside of the game: the lightning and the bugs. Syndrome on Xbox One is incredibly dark, and does not even feature a brightness option at all, which made it sometimes close to unplayable. Throughout the game's dark levels, there were times where I literally had to cling to the nearest wall to find my way out of a room, for example. 

It really made me wonder why Bigmoon Entertainment even released the game in its current state, did they test the game themselves before? I'm actually quiet impressed regarding the fact that I actually managed to complete the game. Now, when it comes to bugs, it's not a different story. There was one time when I had to go to the fourth deck of the Valkenburg. A locked door was blocking my path, so I unlocked it with a terminal, I enter the hallway and see a save station (which is the only way for me to save the game). I save the game and I move on, but I shortly after die. Upon getting back into the game, I complete my objective and move back to where I came from, only to be blocked yet again by the same door that I UNLOCKED, without any way of unlocking it again. This forced me to restart the game from the start. This is not all, though, there were times where enemies would walk through furnitures, objects and even walls, with myself being able to walk through a wall at one point, too. 

It breaks my heart seeing a game being treated this way on Xbox One while the PC version gets a free pass. In comparison, the PC version is an entirely different story due to it being way brighter, stable in terms of the framerate, and better looking. I don't even know if the Xbox version runs in native 1080p, or at 60fps (it sure doesn't feel like it). Sometimes, the framerate dropped all the way down to only 1 frame, THAT'S how bad it is. The developers released a patch in 2017 after the release but it sadly only fixed bugs, I think. Character design is a bit off, to the point of dead bodies looking like dolls, even. Textures seem to be HD textures but overall, they could've looked better. Sometimes when moving around the ship, I noticed drops to around 25fps or lower, for no reason at all. 

Moving over to sound design, I have to say it's decent. Throughout roaming the Valkenburg, I heard all sorts of sounds, from the creepy cue that plays each time a monster notices me, to the breathing sound of Galen (that happens very often, actually). Some of it sounded close to authentic but some of it sounded a bit off (like hitting a wall with my wrench). Story The story reminds me of the Dead Space story, quiet a bit. The Valkenburg picks up a distress signal coming from a nearby planet called Kothar. The ship is forced to make a detour in order to pick up soldiers that have found an artifact on the planet. Upon picking them and the artifact up, this is where everything goes to hell. When Galen wakes up from cryosleep, he notices that something is different. He begins to explore the ship in order to gain knowledge about what has happened. The ship's crew has turned in to deformed monsters that are sensitive to sound. 

They'll do everything they can do stop Galen from escaping. The plot is very similar BUT the ending of the game does feature a bit of a plot twist. It's not the most creative plot twist but it sure do change things. A bit into the game, a fellow crew mate called Neomi contacts Galen to try and get some help with the situation they're in, which sends Galen on a quest to find Neomi but not long after, another person contacts him, called Jimmy. Jimmy tells Galen that Neomi is not to be trusted. He now has to help Jimmy in order for them both to escape the ship. There's a very tedious downside to the story, though. There is a LOT of backtracking. I was actually backtracking to another deck (there's 8 of them) after completing every objective (which is something that I completed very often), pretty much. This got very annoying once I got far into the game, especially with there being a loading screen that lasts around 10-20 seconds, everytime I went to another deck. One thing that surprised me, though, was the voice acting. I thought it was rather good, actually! 

Galen is definitely the highlight, the actor did a great job. The majority of the time, I got a sense of the game not having a big budget but the voice acting did change my thoughts, a bit. When looking past all the issues that the game features, the story is actually not THAT bad, especially towards the end with the plot twist. Honestly, I enjoyed it. It's also pretty lengthy but I think that's because of the high amount of backtracking that was done. Gameplay In Syndrome, I had two options when it comes to overcoming the monsters. I could either hide from them, or kill them. The latter is probably the best option but sometimes, I wanted to conserve my ammo so I decided to just run past them and hide. There's three weapons to choose from, all being missable but easy to obtain (at different times throughout the game, too): the wrench, the pistol, the SMG and the canon. I used the SMG a lot due to it being the best one but I liked using the wrench sometimes, too, in order to conserve ammo. 

The weird part is that I never really had to use the canon that much, despite it being the most powerful one. I never saw a monster until the a bit into the beginning of the game but by the time I first one, it was honestly a very frightening experience. I died a couple of times because I didn't get the hang of killing them. Some monsters are fast and some are slow, with some of them being able to kill me very quickly. One thing that bothered me, though, is that the monsters were able to notice me despite me not making any sound at all, even though most of the enviroment around me was pitch black. It was like it was all about the distance from me to them, nothing else. Whilst exploring around the Valkenburg, I saw a lot of text logs lying around, mostly besides dead bodies. They contained logs from the ship's crew, showing what life was like onboard the ship, with some of them being pretty weird. One of them contained evidence of a fellow crew member beating another member to death with a wrench, for example. I love picking up collectibles like this in games since they show a little insight into things that I otherwise wouldn't really know about. There's a con with the text logs, too (of course), one of them are bugged, making the achievement where you need to collect them all, unobtainable, unfortunately. At one time, I had to find a powercell in deck 6, without any knowledge of there being any monsters (cause every time I entered a deck, there were a chance that the monsters had disappeared), for example, and it's very scary, especially with how dark the game is. 

The monster that I hate the most is the one that is blind, and very sensitive to sound. It also killed me really quickly and I hated each time I had to be near it. The distinctive sound it makes didn't make anything better, either. Throughout the game, I also had to look at a lot of computers/terminals, to proceed with my tasks. I sometimes felt like I had to do it a bit too much but it didn't bother me that much. The game does feature a flashlight, too and you have to find batteries in order to keep it running, which is the bad part cause there's not that many of them and it's very hard to find them due to how dark it is. Syndrome also features an inventory system, going as far as being able to drop something without ever getting it back. In the inventory system, I was able to keep my food, batteries, quest items, weapons and such like. 

The design for the monsters is a bit weird but I wasn't really expecting them to look that good. Some of them look rather ridiculous, actually, especially the beast (it's the biggest of them all). Moving over to gunplay, I have to say it feels kind of good but there's something with how it looks that feels off. It's a big part of the game but you can actually complete the game without having to kill any monster (except for one instance later). All in all Syndrome is a frightening sci-fi survival horror experience that will try to scare you as much as possible but falls short due to its performance and unstable gameplay. I did enjoy the story, especially the ending but it's clear that Bigmoon Entertainment didn't have that much of a budget. With the severe darkness surrounding the game, there were times where I just wanted to uninstall the game but I kept on going cause of the story. In general, it's a good game but it definitely needed more time, which it didn't get. It could've been a lot better. 

Syndrome is available digitally on the Xbox Store and it is priced at $30. A review copy was provided for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson and is based on his honest opinion about the game.


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