From the depths of hell comes a careful purchase recommendation.
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Developer: Shiver Games
Publisher: Shiver Games
Release date: 13th Dec, 2018
Lucius grew quite a fanbase. It was a small indie game released in 2012 that I’d vaguely describe as “Satan’s low budget version of Hitman“, with alot of asterisks added to it. You played as Lucius, a 6-year-old boy with demonic powers that you would control and your goal was to kill the people around your manor without being the suspect of the hideous murders you’d stealthily and creatively commit (albeit the kills themselves were mostly done in a linear click-and-drag on objects manner). It ran like garbage and had a lot of bugs, but it was charming and interesting in its own twisted way.
Lucius 2 brought us more of the same, with added bugs and a bit less linearity, garnering a decent reception.
And now we get Lucius 3… what a train-wreck of a fun time this was. To sum it all up, Lucius 3 has a mediocre plot in a terribly buggy, hideous looking and disappointingly empty open world that somehow manages to keep you on your toes with every day/chapter you unlock. Ultimately, at least from my experience, this game really grabs you with its design during the campaign, but I couldn’t help but complain about something every five minutes; the fact I finished it and thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with it does mean that I will recommend it, but it has way too many issues for it to have a good rating.
The actual storyline is not the best reason to buy this unless you enjoyed the previous plots and you crave for more. Here, you start in a car crash after leaving the events of the second game, resulting in you going back to your old town (of the original game that you never explored as that was exclusively played in the manor, yet can be visited here) and finding a scroll to unlock its powers.
The game does a great job with its intro
The story is ultimately decent enough to motivate you to go through and really gruesome events enhance the awesomeness of all the evil things you’re pulling off without your innocence being questioned. The characters always find you cute anyway; they are just cardboard cutouts of stuff you’ve seen in other games/movies: the bully kids, the sweet girl that likes you, the overly religious mother, the creepy motel owner, etc. etc.
This allows for really cool homages to movies or other games (which I won’t spoil) but also causes some cringe moments, as the voice acting is really bad and in some situations you’ll find yourself feeling the gameplay is extremely forced and situational. A few sections, in particular, do this quite heavily ( or more like obviously) as the game hints you towards a way to solve the problem (which is usually a puzzle to kill someone) so that you feel like you barely have any options for your actions.
Which you don’t… until the very end when a very awkward ending choice comes up and you can choose the bad or the good ending, one of which feels so stupidly disjointed of the whole franchise that I can’t believe this would even be an option at all.
In the end, it’s passable enough to not feel like a downside of the game; the added possibility of “secret murders” where you can finish the story without killing some of the characters also adds to the replayability as not only do they not die but you can miss their entire subplots (which are really small but can be interesting nonetheless).
W + Shift plus a few Q and M1 presses. It’s a very simplistic game mechanically with lots of problems. You start the game at a friend’s house (avoiding prequel spoilers here) and you can then explore the open world, which is a small ocean-side town. All locations are locked from fast travel (which is free, there’s no cost for fast travelling, thank goodness) until you discover them (which, like a Fallout game, just requires you to get close), the problem with this is that Lucius can either walk or run/sprint… really, really… REALLY goddamn slow! This makes the early map exploration feel like an absolute chore as places are either really concentrated together, like the neighbourhood, or by an entire piece of forest. There’s a faster way to maneuver in the form of shape-shifting into a crow but it controls really bad and the camera on it is confusing and terrible so you’re better off running around and memorizing the overall layouts by yourself than barrel-rolling your camera into oblivion in crow mode.
Anyway, you can follow the road or cut a shortcut through the forest, which not only consists of roughly 70% of the map area, but also has absolutely, literally NOTHING to do. No collectibles, no random encounters, no interesting places, no lore, no backstory, no enemies, nothing.
This makes the game’s open world feel like a tacked-on feature due to heaps of it being an empty bunch of grass and trees designed to be just filler. I’d rather the developers spend time making a menu-based map and only the actual locations would be playable in, sort of like what Walking Dead: Survival Instinct did (one of the few things it did well, admittedly). This bad taste I have with the open world gets stronger the more I think of the abysmal pop-in the game has, alongside its terrible textures and environment aesthetic (with quite a few lighting problems) on top of the terrible performance (From High to Low preset (as most options don’t exist, only a handful), my performance was roughly the same: 60FPS at 1080p with the frequent dip to 35-45 for absolutely no reason) that ultimately can put A LOT of people off. Aside from a few characters and decently detailed in-building environments, the rest of the game looks over 10 years old and putting my computer on its knees to run it at a mix of 40 and 60 FPS is an absolute sin (heh) to the very notion of optimization.
You’ll see environments like this A LOT
As for the gameplay itself, it’s pretty fun! The game works as a sort of puzzle-lite point and click adventure game with some satanic horror sprinkled on top. You can freely enter people’s house and explore it all (unless conveniently locked houses that are that way for the sole purpose of letting the campaign go the way the developers intended, making it feel more linear than it really is), find clues about people’s lives (and their secrets) to later find their weakness and use that to kill them… “accidentally”.
The investigation vibe the game transmits is really interesting and made the whole game for me. Finding and inspecting items, discovering something I shouldn’t or managing to find an item that I needed a while ago and go “ah-ha!” felt really great and made the game’s total length of 6 hours (with all achievements but one unlocked) feel worth the journey.
The exploration of the environments is quite non-linear, you can tackle some murders sooner or later than you probably will on your first playthrough and the order of them can change too. Some items and places are hidden and require a bit of extra exploration, which also makes the game feel a bit more natural in its side-stories (the main plot still is quite linear, as I mentioned).
A big problem the game has is the UI: the inventory system is dated and clunky. When picking a new item up, it becomes the new active item (the one you can use in environment interactions). Stuff like the collectible bobbleheads will take this slot even though they have no function in the gameplay, so I have to open the inventory and pick the item I wanted to remain active again… it’s a really annoying design decision (or omission).
The diary is well designed though, it works as a notebook and the interactions and the interface is intuitive and never gave me problems. The diary has the objective list and detail logs of the people you talk to, as well as of the places you visit and search around.
Another problem worth noting is that some locations are dead and have no role in either the main story or any subplots the game possesses. They are there and it’s clear the developers planned chapters (or sub-stories) in those places, like the Halloween party at the cabin (flyers are all over the place about it), but the cabin itself never has anyone there… just some sad empty pizza boxes (literally). This also applies to the hideout (no, not the pizzas). This makes the game feel like something was rushed, probably early development had these two (actually well detailed) locations planned to involve more storytelling or exploration, but ended up locking them and depriving us of any sort of meaningful content besides admiring it for 20 seconds and taking a deep breath in disappointment. I’m assuming future content is probably planned for this if the budget and sales allow it to, which I hope they do.
AUDIO and GRAPHICS
The audio essentially consists of the music and the voice acting. There is no combat or anything to really talk about as far as sound effects and most of the action actually happens during cut-scenes. During these, you will be presented with the lamest, inadequate slow beat. It sounds like the music when you die in Mass Effect 1. Now imagine that while you’re stabbing someone or you’re blowing their head off clean with telekinesis. Yeah…
That music with this scene really didn’t fit, for example.
Anyway, the rest of the music is passable and fits (what little there is of it anyway) the theme. Moving on to the voice acting…
…oh dear God, the voice acting.
Alongside the stiff and awkward facial expressions, the mediocre voice acting enhances the cringe factor of most cut-scenes even more. Mr. Freeman is particularly terrible and Ceefor is just… unnaturally awkward, even for Ceefor himself, which is a pretty weird character. Only McGuffin really has voice acting that I can praise (and maybe Gabriel), albeit weirdly enough, his voice is EXTREMELY low compared to the rest of the voice-overs and the rest of the game itself. I have to double my volume to hear his breath while I will blow my ears out as soon as a new person starts talking. The pitching is really all over the place!
The graphics were already discussed a bit when I talked about the world building and the exploration because I found it was appropriate to approach it right there. Not to sound like a broken record, but the performance is quite abysmal and the game has tons of graphical bugs and glitches: from the uninteresting and very pop-in prone forest with the trees to cut-scenes being textureless scenes that need to load in (the town hall is a prime example of this) before they start playing. The problem is that this happens pretty much always and it looks so terrible, the pop-in isn’t even hidden (sometimes I managed to see through buildings) so you’re constantly observing these immersion-breaking graphic issues that ultimately take away the experience. The Unity engine is not used well here and the fact of it being open world is one of the likely causes for such issues, as Lucius 1 and 2 did not have these issues, at least not with such severity.
Regardless of the problems, the graphics should never be the reason to buy/play the game and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not getting it due to the number of problems the game has.
And you’ll probably see this face far too often to take it seriously by the mid-end game
Lucius 3 is a bit of a “so bad, it’s good” kind of game. It could be a really good experience for the end of 2018, but it ends up being missed potential and a mediocre game due to the sheer volume of bugs in the gameplay and the poor graphics that kill the enjoyment of the game at times and when coupled with some overly linear main story design, really shows how the game could’ve been much more than it really is. Some of these bugs are even game-breaking, though most have been fixed, yet I still managed to find some chapter skipping bugs. That being said, a fun time is to be had here if you can get past its vast number of issues and enjoy its puzzle/investigation based gameplay with some cool deaths to witness. I had an unexpected good time with it despite the mountain of issues, but I can’t give it a better score as it has too many problems to allow me to do so. I heavily recommend against its current price tag as it’s too short (5-6 hours for a full 100% achievement run) and buggy to be worth the asking price, but it’s definitely a fun afternoon when bought at a heavy discount.