Genre: Party-based Real Time RPG
Price: Standard Edition: £14.99 - Deluxe Edition: £18.99
Developer: Tangrin Entertainment
Publisher: Versus Evil
The ideas guy. Everybody knows at least one ideas guy, that fellow who can draft up some wonderfully elaborate plans about any given topic on a whim, but lacks the capacity to translate them into a fully realised final product. In many ways Kyn is similar. While Tangrin Entertainment have clearly worked hard, one cannot shake the feeling that the game lacks polish; the plot and characters are thin, path finding occasionally fiddly, maps large but barren, and the loot uninspiring. That isn't to say that Kyn is a bad game, it isn't. Customisation options are vast, and the combat is fundamentally sound within a pleasant Nordic theme. The problem is, Kyn doesn't do anything so well as to be noteworthy which in the competitive RPG genre is the single greatest reason why it cannot be fully recommended.
The game commences with Bram and Malek, two newly crowned Magi Warriors, as they emerge from arduous trials within a mountain, trials which claim the lives of the majority of prospective warriors. Upon their emergence, our heroes are greeted by a world in peril. Aeshir, ordinarily peaceful green elf/goblin like humanoids content to trade and play music have turned red and hostile by unknown means, kidnapping humans. Thus, our fresh faced warriors embark on solving the mystery of red Aeshir the only way they know how, real-time combat. Lots and lots of combat.
To the game's credit, the real-time tactical fighting system is competent at heart. Early encounters are necessarily pedestrian, helping acclimatise players to the hybrid tactical/action battle mechanics. Like Diablo, each character has their share of activatable skills usable as per their respective mana and cooldown restrictions, while the ability to almost pause time, or in this case slow it to a near crawl, enables the management of multiple units during battle. Fundamentally this works well, making it simple enough to get the most out of each character, while forcing an element of urgency in keeping with the fast paced real time combat. With only two skills, and one artifcate power per character, it is also simple to quickly switch between units via keyboard shortcuts, and activate their powers. Those fearing overwhelming keyboard controls need not worry.
One might look to only 2 skills being a problem, and in the early going the restriction borders on tedious. However, each party member is completely malleable. Core skills like intelligence and strength can be altered on a whim within the party menu, meaning Barbarian Bram can be substituted for Wizard or Rogue Bram. Finding the sweet spot in party composition is a large part of Kyn's appeal, and selecting the best combination of skills from a wide pool is an important part of that. However, none of Kyn's characters are particularly interesting, motivated solely by ever-used themes like saving the world or finding their family. Resultantly the fluidity of character customisation also serves to make each unit feel just a little more soulless than they already were.
Although at a fundamental level the combat system is sound, broader problems arise as a consequence of level design. As early as the second level the map becomes so littered with enemies that the constant fighting becomes tedious. Moreover, one particularly challenging task requires the escort of a catapult through an Aeshir blockade. Perhaps my party was poorly optimised, however I found that the only way through this was to bait enemies, retreat, kill the baited, heal up and repeat. Without doing this, my lads were getting butchered, but employing this strategy entailed that already long missions lasted even longer. Too often, enemy numbers swelled to the point of being too difficult. Tough battles against overwhelming forces have their place, but at such an early stage of the game it's rather too intimidating.
What's more, each mission is set within a ludicrously large map, given that many areas are simply barren. Certainly numerous enemies and the odd NPC litter each mission, but there are too many dead ends without satisfactory loot rewards. Worse still, there doesn't seem to be a functioning checkpoint system, meaning that player's must remember to save or risk losing all of their progress within a given mission, which is archaic. Further, although the protagonists aren't slouches by any means, there are occasions where a wrong turn is made, or a portion of the map left unexplored by accident. Backtracking in order to return to such locations is tedious, and made more frustrating by a camera that seems so smitten with the main characters that it refuses to zoom out. There is an option for a free camera, but even then it remains almost glued to the ground, ensuring that foes will be bumbled into more often than not.
Kyn is a nice looker, with a pleasingly bright colour palette and a fun Norse theme. Unfortunately, too little of each map seems bog standard, and there are not enough moments featuring artistic flourishes which the setting deserves. Animations are fluid enough, and impressively functional at super-slow speeds, and the soundtrack is largely pleasing. A lack of spoken dialogue is disappointing though. Certainly no voice acting trumps bad voice acting, but the party tend to chat at sub-optimal times, with text boxes appearing above their heads. When a character gets stuck behind a rock or tree, something which happens each playthrough, one will only get half the conversation should one occur. Even without that issue, it can be difficult to read the text on the move so one will most likely stop to take everything in. A text log is present on the bottom right, but in a game that prides itself on action packed battles, stopping to read a wall of text is jarring.
The game also features a few puzzles, some more challenging than others, but upon I did experience a few bugs on the first puzzle, the stone platforms in which refused to move no matter where my characters stood. It's a shame, because these puzzles are a good source of loot. Drops from fallen foes are usually just crafting materials, and sadly levels contain sparse interesting pickups, limiting the extent to which one benefits from venturing towards side objectives within each map, and once again rendering the large level sizes rather pointless and wasteful.
For all of that, Kyn's greatest issue is that action RPG's and party based RPG's have been done extremely well in the past. The already mentioned Diablo is often viewed as the pinnacle of action RPG's, and still features a hefty community for anyone new to that series. Dragon Age Origins, and more recently Pillars of Eternity have also nailed the more methodical tactical side of party-based RPG gaming. In such a saturated field, Kyn's arduously long levels, poor loot drops, and shallow characters means that it struggles to carve out its own niche. That said, those looking for a combat centered RPG with plenty of skill customisation will find some value here at the current asking price.