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Game Info:

Syndrome
Developed By: Camel 101
Published By: Camel 101; WhisperGames
Released: October 6, 2016
Available On: macOS, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Survival-horror
ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Intense Violence; Blood and Gore; Language
Number of Players: Single player
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Camel 101 for providing us with a review code!

Back in the early and mid-2010s, the survival horror genre received quite the resurgence with many games coming out such as Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, Amnesia, Outlast, Soma, and so on. Even the Resident Evil series moved back to its survival horror roots with their latest entries. Syndrome by Camel 101 takes a crack at the survival horror genre taking inspiration from the former mentioned, as well as a few older series such as System Shock and F.E.A.R.

The tone of Syndrome is set immediately when the player character Galen awakens from his cryosleep onboard a massive spaceship named Valkenburg. He suffers from a bout of amnesia not remembering what he did before his sleep. Looking through the crew status, he notices that most of his mates are either missing or deceased. As he wanders the dim-lit vacant halls of the ship, two people contact him through communications—Jimmy and Neomi. Jimmy and Neomi seem to be at odds as they tell Galen to not trust the other, but he is forced to listen to both of them and their contrasting demands if he is to make it out alive.

Valkenburg’s setting is unsettling, with dark corridors throughout, passageways blocked by wreckage, and the only sounds accompanying Galen are his footsteps and breathing. Dead and severed bodies are strewn all over the place with weird messages written in blood. Syndrome doesn’t boast the greatest graphics out there, but the aesthetics make up for the lack of graphic fidelity. In terms of sound design, it is comparably disturbing to the visuals. Each step Galen takes echoes through the area and the roars of the monsters that lurk in the shadows are loud and intimidating. When Galen eventually finds items such as a flashlight, a wrench, and weapons, they all sound great too. The flashlight clicks on and off with sharpness. The wrench clanks and bangs against metal, and the guns have a sense of power and futuristic boom.

Syndrome
Highlights:

Strong Points: Creepy visuals; good sound design
Weak Points: Goofy-looking enemy design; poor and inconsistent AI; constant backtracking through previous areas
Moral Warnings: Severed bodies and bloodstains littered throughout; language ranging to “d*mn”, “as*h*le”, “sh*t”, “b*tch” and “f**k”

With good sound and style, Syndrome starts on a strong point, and the inspiration from other games in the genre can be seen clearly. Unfortunately, the positives don’t stick around for long. In a twist of irony, this survival horror game becomes pretty meta, as it slowly descends into a mess that becomes harder and harder to stick around for.

The default controls are awkward in some places. It has the standard WASD movement, but crouching with the C key isn’t a toggle. It must be held. Holding the crouch button by moving gets awkward and uncomfortable. Toggling the objectives list has you reach all the way to the L key, making it so that you’re either taking your hands off moving or aiming. In the options settings, keys can be remapped, but strangely only in the main menu. Gamepad controls feel a bit better and Syndrome may have possibly been designed with them in mind, but it ends up being one of those games where the gamepad takes priority if plugged in and a type of softlock happens if Galen is in specific menus and the controller unplugs.

While the monsters themselves sound frightening, almost all sense of horror fades away when Galen finally encounters his first monster. It is some of the goofiest enemy designs that I’ve ever seen in a game, and the way they move is almost like they’re a puppet. They flail around like they have no sense of direction with either a stilted or grandiose walk cycle, and the AI is horribly inconsistent. Half the time they lose interest when Galen breaks into a sprint. Most of the monsters can simply be sidestepped with no danger and they run extremely slow. Galen can outwalk them backward faster than they run so there is almost no danger from the enemies. When Galen starts acquiring guns, shooting in itself doesn’t even feel good. Outside of the sound effects, it’s a flat experience. Syndrome claims that ammo is scarce, but don’t be stingy with it. You can kill most enemies in the game without worrying about ammo too much. It’s kinda bad when I spent more time laughing than actually scared. Even the unbeatable foe trope that survival horror games love to use is woefully undercooked in Syndrome as it shares the same bad AI, being a minor annoyance at best—but only because it can one-shot Galen.

Syndrome
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 51%
Gameplay - 4/20
Graphics - 6.5/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 75%
Violence - 2.5/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10

Even navigating through Valkenburg becomes a bore and a chore as Galen constantly backtracks his steps through each of the eight decks. One objective will have him go all the way from one end of Deck 4, find out he needs some item or switch on Deck 3, and then goes to the elevator to go all the way to the end of Deck 3 to press the button or grab the battery, just to go back to where he needed to be. This happens dozens of times, and more than half of it is simply empty with no enemies to distract. The back and forth gets tiring very quickly as you’ll see the same environments over and over again almost turning Syndrome into one of those “walking simulators” without an engaging narrative to keep a player invested. Most of the narrative is explained through data logs scattered all over, with some of them being mandatory pick-ups for passwords to unlock doors. I can’t even say the logs themselves were all that interesting either.

Probably the most annoying aspect of Syndrome is the save system. Don’t get me wrong, saving is easy as there are manual save points all over. It’s just that the “checkpoint” system also acts as its save system. You die, you get sent back to the last save point. Once in a blue moon, the AI does show a sight of brilliance (or outright disregard of the rules Syndrome set in place) and they completely demolish you. If your save happened to be an hour back, that means you’re losing an hour of progress!

As with most survival horror games, there are bound to be some moral issues and concerns. Of course, there is the blood and gore, with dead bodies everywhere, bloodstains on the floors and walls, and at two points, Galan has to chop off the head and hand of two separate corpses to progress. Language consists of d*mn”, “as*h*le”, “sh*t”, “b*tch” and “f**k”. Towards the end of the game, the main antagonist proclaims themself as a god, ushering in the evolution of humanity.

I’m sure there was something there with Syndrome. The inspiration is clear as day for anyone with knowledge of the survival horror genre. It just seems to forget a third of the way there what to do with it. It’s such a shame that admittingly great sound direction and scenery is wasted on such a dull experience. The dark, grim setting is demolished by the laughably absurd enemy design and stupid AI. Navigation is ruined by constant backtracking, shameful controls, and some bugs here and there. Syndrome also felt much longer than it is due to the excessive padding. It only took me four hours to complete but felt twice as long as I was bored for 85% of it. Syndrome isn’t worth your time in the end.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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