Published on Monday, May 27, 2013

We’d imagine the design document for Lucius was a pleasure to create and even more entertaining to read. The premise alone is enough to make any self-respecting horror video game fan sit up and take notice. Players assume the role of Lucius, a child born on 6 June 1966, who receives an unexpected visit from his real father on his six birthday. Said father happens to be the Devil himself, and gleefully explains that you, being the Anti-Christ, must kill a succession of individuals via devious means, ensuring you’re not caught or even suspected, and you will be rewarded. Each murder will play out inside your home, the vast Dante Manor, and, as the death toll rises, the scenarios and methodologies become ever more challenging. Sounds like the perfect pitch for a mature adventure game, right? Perhaps, but the devil is in the detail...

The game’s opening tutorial sees Lucius commit the first of nine chapters of murder, having locked the maid in the walk-in freezer and adjusted the temperature to ensure survival is not an option. Each subsequent chapter opens with a voiceover and an entry into Lucius’s notebook, detailing the next target. Once the target has been eliminated, Satan returns and offers you an additional power or strengthens an existing one. These powers include telekinesis, combustion, and mind-control, and are essential to accomplishing the grizzly task at hand. The problem here is not the tools of the trade, it’s deciphering how they are best to be applied. Dante Manor is a spacious, detailed and well realised environment, but with that comes an almost crippling lack of direction.

While the kills themselves are without question creative (think Final Destination’s level of complexity and morbid humour), it’s never quite clear what tools, powers or circumstances are required in order to set the macabre stage. The game consistently fails to provide even a hint of the path you are to follow, which leaves the player to endlessly explore the mansion, scavenging items and trying to fathom possible uses for them. The truth is, once the solution is understood and the pieces are in place, the task doesn’t seem to have been the chore it was and the grim reward almost justifies the effort. That said, it’s almost impossible to recommend a game that’s very nature is so obscure you will eventually succumb to the urge to “investigate” online walkthroughs simply to progress.

Graphically the game offers no thrills, but it doesn’t really need to. Colours are deliberately washed out, character models aren’t overly detailed (giving Lucius a brilliantly deadpan stare), with textures that just about convince. The lack of graphical fidelity adds an unnerving quality, which reminded us of watching The Omen on VHS, which is probably the developer’s intention. Music is sparse but fits nicely, the cut-scenes are enjoyable (perhaps for reasons other than intended), and the voice acting is fine. The regrettable truth is that there simply isn’t enough on offer to counter the frequent frustration felt during each chapter.

Lucius is an excellent idea, badly realised. The opportunity to play as a baby-faced killer is a welcome one, and the content and missions are never less  than enjoyable. One moment you’re orchestrating an elaborate design of death, the next you’re tiding your room, happily picking up the toys that litter the floor while the mansion’s inhabitants fall to depression or succumb to madness. Unfortunately, the excitement on completing a chapter gradually turns to a feeling of relief that you don’t have to go back and do it all again (there are no save checkpoints). It’s a shame, as a few relatively minor changes would have drastically improved the game (a better hint system, save points, removal of repetitive jobs). As if stands, if you’re going to fully enjoy Lucius we recommend a nice bottle of red and a printed walk-though; without them you’ll be damned.

Score: 2 out of 5
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