Stasis is an isometric horror adventure game, and a great one at that. The first we ever heard of it was way back when it was simply a post on Kickstarter made by the startup Indie Developer known as Brotherhood Games. From there it became something of an internet sensation and they had no trouble reaching their donation goal. After that, things went quiet, a bit too quiet, but now the wait is over and Stasis is available on Steam, and let me tell you, Brotherhood Games delivered, and they delivered hard.
Stasis is one of those games that brings new life into a classic genre, it's a breath of fresh air for the Indie community.
They put a lot of thought into everything about this game, from the music, to the puzzles, to even the user interface. For example, if you move your mouse to the top right of the screen while in game, you can quickly access the saves menu. This ended up saving me a lot of time while playing and while it seems like a small thing, the combination of features they've added combine to make something truly remarkable.
In Stasis, you take on the role of a man named John, who wakes up in a strange ship, where there is an emergency lockdown, accompanied by bloodstains and a plethora of broken scientific equipment. Not knowing anything about what happened to the ship or it's crew, you explore in the hopes that you will find your wife and daughter, as all three of you were on your way to a tourist destination on Titan, one of Saturn's moons.
The ship you are on has more to it than it may seem and the story is really gripping. I had a great time reading through the data-logs that are scattered about on various corpses. Through this you are able to learn more about the ship you have found yourself on; the Groomlake, as well as about it's crew and their fate. Reading most of these is entirely optional but it adds a lot to the experience and atmosphere presented to you.
The game features a prequel chapter you can play to learn more about the events that transpired before Stasis took place, and also find out more about the elusive Cayne Corporation that owns the Groomlake.
Graphics are where Stasis shines brightest. It has one of the best art directions I've ever seen, and it may actually be the best looking isometric game I've ever played altogether. Every pixel adds to the tension and horror you experience as you trek down the winding halls of the Groomlake in search of your family.No detail is spared, everything is crisp and rendered sharply, it looks better than many of the Triple A titles I've seen recently. The animations are gruesome, deaths are mortifying, and the dull gray halls make it actually feel like you're lost inside of a ship, helpless and alone in the vast void.
But make no mistake, you are not alone on the Groomlake.
The truth of it all doesn't matter, every shadow and every flickering light will make you feel like you're in danger, and that's what truly makes this game so effective. As an isometric game it has to rely mostly on graphics to deliver effective scares (As well as sounds and story) and it has no shortage of terrifying imagery to show you. This game doesn't need next-gen graphics to make you feel sick to your stomach, it does amazing with what it has.
All in all, it's a very beautiful game and you should definitely take some time while playing to observe the scenery. I approve of their choice of aesthetics.
The gameplay in Stasis mostly takes the form of puzzles that are spread throughout the environment. Most of them aren't too easy and aren't too hard. I did find myself getting stuck a couple of times but that's mostly my own fault. I didn't find any gameplay glitches at all, which is surprising coming from any game, much less an Indie game, and for that I'm very impressed. Whoever coded Stasis definitely has a lot of skill.
The various interactable PDAs and computer terminals you can find in the game serve as a nice touch as they allow an intuitive form of exhibition, instead of having everything explained through long droning monologues, they are almost all optional to read, and that's a good example of story that doesn't interfere with enjoyability of the game itself.
Stasis is a double dose of horror - it both provides the immediate sense of danger and helplessness that is craved by us horror fans, as well as the more cosmic horror such as the questionable nature of human morality and our role in the universe. The game exemplifies both of those points and it does so at every moment along the way, you will not be disappointed. I came into it thinking that an isometric game couldn't possibly manage to frighten me and I walked away feeling unnerved to my very core. There will many moments where your only thought is 'Did that really just happen'.
The atmosphere in this game is thick enough to cut with a knife and I was just as scared when nothing was happening as when there was actually something to be afraid of. That's one of the strong points of space-based horror games, space is an infinite void and our minds tend to fill in the blank with whatever is the most frightening, and Stasis is no exception to that trend. If you're looking for something nice to play in the dark with headphones then look no further.
Another thing that adds to the scariness is that many of the items you can pick up in-game can be used to end your own life. To do this you must choose the item you wish to use and click on your character, you will not receive any prompt, not even an 'I can't use this item like this" line of dialogue, at that point, you're going to want to repeat the process and use the item on yourself again. This is a core feature of the game, and you can tell because every one of these suicide scenes is crafted lovingly to send chills up your spine.
Any game where the developer took time to animate your character being fully dissolved by acid, even though it's an easily avoidable death so many people won't even see the animation, gets respect from me. Good work, Brotherhood Games, good work.
In closing I would like to say that the South African developer Brotherhood Games has made a fan out of me, and that if you play Stasis I'm sure they'll make you into a fan as well. Stasis was a wonderful experience and I can't wait to see what the developers will do next. Definitely a game that you pick up when you get the chance. We've been on a good streak of great horror games coming out this year and Stasis is proof that the trend is continuing. I loved every second of it.