If you ask a horror movie fan what one thing almost always make any movie creepier, a lot of them will probably tell you: children. This isn’t a new revelation as it’s been true for years and is obvious from classics like Omen, The Shining and now the popular 2012 horror film Sinister. There is something innately creepy and disturbing about the juxtaposition of a child being associated with terrible acts of violence or simply engaged in that atmosphere. In that similar vein, we have Shiver Games’ Lucius.
As the player, you control the young boy Lucius. He was born on June 6th, 1966 (6/6/66) and the game begins on his sixth birthday. He’s the son of the devil, if you missed the hint. The game follows this tale as Lucifer himself visits you in your bedroom and assigns you with systematically murdering an entire mansion full of people by orchestrating elaborate “accidents” to befall them. In between deaths the cutscenes look at your family, Lucius himself and a detective trying to figure it all out. The story itself isn’t original in general, but it is quite a unique take on the tale for the medium of gaming.
Playing as the child in this classic tale puts quite an interesting twist on the style of gameplay. Instead of fearing what the boy is capable of, you are the one carrying out the action on the innocent people around you. As you progress through the game you gain access to many supernatural abilities that augment your ability to setup the deaths. For example, early on you gain a telekinesis power that allows you to interact with objects from a distance, thus removing yourself from direct association.
The issues with the story and gameplay aren’t in their execution – that much is fine. It’s the layout and progression itself that leaves the player wanting. When presented with killing a certain person, for example, you might want to do it a certain way in your head. The game however, only accepts one single way of killing a person as the correct answer. In this sense, it’s really just a task of deciphering what the game wants you to do and less about devising how to kill the people yourself. If the game had more freedom and flexibility it would really go a long way to not only making it more engaging and rewarding, but also give the game a significant amount of replayability.
As it stands, once you are finished progressing through the entirely linear structure of set-piece deaths there is little else left to do in the game at all. There are some ancillary “sidequests” like doing chores around the house you can do and earn rewards like a good little boy should, but they’re often as tedious as cleaning your room. I get the attempt at creating an immersive environment but it doesn’t really help the pacing at all.
Graphically the game is very hit or miss as well. Some of the lighting effects and environment designs are pretty amazing, but then the character models (especially Lucius himself) look like they were made years ago. Animations for the characters are even worse as they move very stiff and the way Lucius holds objects looks so silly it made me chuckle a bit (wait until you complete the chore to brush your teeth.)
The soundtrack is appropriately chilling and is timed well to compliment the game itself, but the voice acting is an entirely different story. It isn’t all below average, but many characters just don’t sound right and their voices don’t match the environments or characters they are portraying. A bit more work could have been put in to realistically syncing the lips with the voices. This facet definitely hampers the atmosphere.
Lucius is a good game backed up by a great idea with below average execution. If you love horror games, or this tale specifically, you will find plenty to enjoy in this title. When you play the game however, don’t expect it to redefine the genre like the movies it clearly borrows its inspiration from did. Lucius releases for PC on October 26th and you can check out my exclusive Q&A with Shiver Games’ founder and developer Johannes Aikio here.
Let us know what you think of this review and the game in the comments below!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PC provided by Lace Mamba.