Lucius review
The Good:

Interesting premise; huge cast of (mostly) believable characters; dry sense of humor plays well with the game’s horror elements; many puzzles are a (sick) joy to solve; kid is incredibly creepy.

The Bad:

Puzzle clues are often vague or non-existent; much of the writing and voice acting is mediocre at best; doing chores is mind-numbingly un-fun; shoe-horned action sequences are unpolished and the save system unforgiving; small but pervasive bugs.

Our Verdict:

Sometimes infernally frustrating and plagued with inconsistent design, the deeply morbid Lucius nevertheless contains some diabolical fun for those with loads of patience and a strong stomach.

Kids can be terrifying. I think we can all agree on that. After all, why else would there be such a longstanding tradition of creepy kids in horror stories? From Damien in The Omen to the Little Sisters from BioShock, it's safe to say that if you run into a cute little kid in formal wear with a predisposition for staring and talking in weird voices (or not talking at all), you should run far, far away. Chances are they aren't smiling because they want to play "Guess Who?" with you.

In these stories, the nightmare demon-child is usually cast as the antagonist or the innocent victim who must be saved from forces beyond their control. Similarly, the vast majority of horror games position you as the victim who must escape or fight back against the their assailants. Lucius, from the aptly named Finnish studio Shiver Games, has something different in mind. This game has the window-dressing of a classic possessed-child horror story and the structure of a slasher film, except that this time, you're the slasher.

And that slasher is a six year-old child.

Lucius is the eponymous protagonist, but certainly not the hero. Born on June 6, 1966 (this isn't a subtle game) to a wealthy United States governor and his wife, Lucius is raised with silver spoon in mouth. The family estate, Dante Manor (did I mention this game isn't subtle?), is expansive and packed with servants, relatives, and close family. Lucius is a quiet child, but nothing seems too terribly out of the ordinary until his sixth birthday, when none other than Lucifer himself appears and compels Lucius to commit his first murder. That night Satan reveals the boy's true lineage—he is the Son of the Devil, and is commanded to begin harvesting souls for his true father.

So yes, this is a game about controlling a small child as he devises ways to stealthily murder everyone in a mansion on Satan's behalf. For some of you, that will be enough to tip your hat and say "Thanks but no thanks. Not my thing." For those of you who are still intrigued—you're a little scary.

The game is divided into nineteen chapters taking place over the course of several months, most beginning with a kill order from Dear Ol' Dad and ending with a body and/or explosion of viscera. Nearly every chapter follows the same formula: find out who needs to die, gather information and items until you figure out how the target needs to die, and then, ahem, execute the plan. As you work your way through your demonic hit list, the members of the household slip into insanity and depression, all while your own powers and bloodlust grow.

It's a fantastic idea for a game, and there is a solid foundation here with its fair share of memorable, satisfying moments. Unfortunately, the experience is dragged down from greatness by questionable design choices, inconsistent quality and polish, and small but pervasive bugs. As often frustrating as it is compelling, Lucius is the very definition of a mixed bag, and that's a shame.

When Lucius succeeds, it's primarily because of  the developer's commitment to their unique concept. There's a lot of potential to the idea of a household beset by demons and serial murder, and the story is actually quite good. While the dialogue itself is generally tin-eared and poorly-translated, it convincingly conveys the sense of dread falling over the estate. Lucius himself never talks and has little character development, but this isn't the story of his seduction by the forces of darkness. He never questions his purpose or methods. Essentially, he's all-in from the very first murder and never looks back. That's okay—his purpose is to be creepy, and friends, he is exceedingly creepy.

The real story is the downward spiral of his family as the body count rises, and it's here that the game is surprisingly meaty. Cutscenes between chapters and overheard conversations during gameplay explore the futile attempts by the family to cope as everyone they know turns up dead in their house. Relationships are strained and minds are fractured by the trauma. The story is narrated by one Detective McGuffin, who tries desperately to explain an increasingly inexplicable series of deaths through reason and deduction. What at first seems to be a run of bad luck morphs slowly into a murder investigation and then something even darker. It's nothing new if you've seen any of the films or read the novels from which Lucius is clearly cribbing, but my initial cynicism regarding "Demon Child Murder: The Game" was stripped away when I realized it didn't run away from the personal and intellectual side of the horror. It would have been easy to focus entirely on shock and gore, and thankfully that's not the case here. Lucius's mother and father in particular are well-drawn and multi-dimensional as they try to deal with the insanity around them.

It's grim, but there's a dry humor to the game that keeps it from being utterly distasteful. There are no explicit jokes or winks from the developer, but there is a level of absurdity to the proceedings that can be undeniably hilarious. Lucius rarely kills people in simple or obvious ways. More often than not his victims die in grotesque and bizarre fashion, and the developers are more than happy to dwell on these moments with comedically drawn-out slow-motion sequences of gore flying through the air and such. Add the child's creepy, dead-eyed stare to the scene and you've got moments that are equal parts disturbing and friggin' hysterical.

So the story's pretty great, if not the actual script. The rest of the experience, unfortunately, veers between a competent adventure game and a hair-pulling orgy of frustration.

Players control Lucius in third-person, using the standard WASD keys and mouse controls. Items and people that can be interacted with are outlined in faint yellow when moused over in close proximity, and interacting with them is as simple as a mouse click. Beyond simply walking around and using objects, Lucius can store things in his inventory and combine items if necessary. In addition, over the course of the game Lucius is granted powers that can be switched out at will. These rely on an energy bar that quickly dissipates during use and automatically regenerates over time. Among these are Telekinesis, used to move objects around the environment as well as to interact with hotspots from a distance, and Mind Control, which can be used on vulnerable minds to force characters to perform certain actions (often leading to their own demise).

For the most part these powers simply involve selecting the appropriate number key, then pointing at your target and clicking. The controls are simple and work well enough, except for the abilities that rely on aiming and reflex, which feel loose and unpolished. Objects moved with Telekinesis fly around willy-nilly and never seem to end up where you want them, and the rarely-used Combustion power is only ever broken out during the game's two unfortunate "boss battles", which do nothing to undo the stereotype that there are no good action sequences in adventure games. Both are kept short, but they each provide more than their fair share of frustration. The climax, which involves weaving through narrow corridors trying to dodge enemies who cause an instant game-over if you so much as come within two or three feet of them, is not fun. At all.

The endgame wasn't the first time I was forced to restart, either. Since there are no checkpoints or saves allowed during individual assignments, failure at any time means starting again from the very beginning. Considering chapters range anywhere between 10-45 minutes in length, that could be significant. For the most part, though, failing a mission isn't hard to avoid, unless you get caught using supernatural abilities or carrying a suspicious item by another member of the household. This happened to me accidentally perhaps once during the entire game, so it's hardly a major frustration. However, there are some chapters that introduce a more immediate fail-state: For example, one chapter involves sneaking through the house at night without being seen, and failure is instant upon being caught. These are generally short sequences that aren't awfully challenging, so although annoying, they're easily forgiven considering the structure of the game. Lucius is less a game about fearing failure than about simply figuring out how to succeed.

Continued on the next page...



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Game Info

Lucius

Platform:
PC

Genre:
Thriller

Developer:
Shiver Games


Game Page »

United Kingdom October 26 2012 Lace Mamba Global

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Lucius

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User Score

Average based on 6 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Devilfish on Oct 26, 2012
Action sequences, stealth sequences, insta-kill failures and NO SAVE OPTION? That's four cardinal sins of adventure games right there. At... Read the review »



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About the Author
CitizenArcane's avatar
Nathaniel Berens
Staff Writer

Comments

Advie Advie
Oct 26, 2012

after watching some of the game’s playing somewhere on the Tube, i think the rating with 2.5 is even generous .

Norah
Oct 26, 2012

Despite the game’s problems, I would probably have wanted to play it were it not for the action sequences, especially the stuff at the end of the game mentioned here.

indigoo indigoo
Oct 27, 2012

You know, I was really excited for the ideas behind this game; but after a few hours with it I’d say it definitely falls short. Once the game opens up it’s a bit more interesting; this review was spot-on with a lot of things. I’d have to agree the 2.5 here is maybe a bit generous. The strong points, I think, are the story bits and some of the atmosphere is a bit eerie. Overall though I’m somewhat disappointed by the game. If I hear my mother tell me I will get a new bike if I take out the trash one more time I might die.

SamandMax SamandMax
Oct 27, 2012

Your review is spot-on. The game is frustrating and even borderline unplayable at times but its initial concept is so good and its dedication to being morally reprehensible so unwavering that you can’t help but like it for simply existing. It’s insane that a game would cast you as the antichrist but not only does Lucius do that, it never even tries to redeem your actions, it gleefully lets you loose as evil incarnate trying to kill everyone in as gruesome a way as possible.

Dag Dag
Oct 29, 2012

Damn, I was really looking forward to this game, but judging by this review, it’s not gonna be my cup of tea afterall.

Codexus
Oct 29, 2012

I have been waiting for this game since I saw the first screenshots and learned about the concept of playing the diabolical child. I was not disappointed.

The concept is a lot of fun, I enjoyed solving the puzzles and I was stuck on them just long enough to appreciate them and not to the point of frustration.

Now the frustration came at the end with the final battle. After playing the whole game in a single session all-nighter, I really hated dying over and over again. That part needs fixing: there should be a check point in the middle and it should be made easier.

Other than that I got bit by a nasty ‘game over’ for walking around with the wrong inventory item after doing all the chores in the same chapter, but redoing them only took 10-15 min since I knew what I had to do. So it was no big deal really. Still the game could have been better without those game overs.

But overall it was just so much fun. Exploring the manor and getting to know its inhabitants so as to be able to murder them one by one while pretending to be a good boy is just extremely enjoyable (well unless you’re one of those people who have problems separating fiction from reality Wink So if that’s your thing, I recommend this game despite a few rough edges!

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Oct 31, 2012

Not a good game. 2 stars is a fair score.

Dag Dag
Nov 1, 2012

“Game over’s” and few checkpoints is a pretty solid recipe for a game that most people aren’t gonna play all the way through.

After having allready wasted a solid portion of my life playing mmo’s, I’ve developed a strong dislike towards replaying content, which basically is all you do in an mmo (do the same dungeon 50 times, just to get that lovely pair of nickers, then 50 more times for a smashing blouse). Replaying content in a story based game is even more dull, and if a game-over takes me 15-45 minutes back in progress, It’d probably exit the game and find something else to do.

Especially in this day and age, where we are spoilt for choice as far as games are concerned, I’d say designers are fooling themselves thinking that this strategy will increase playtime. Judging by reviews and comments I’ve seen (aswell as personal experience), it’s doing quite the opposite.

Legster Legster
Nov 7, 2012

I have to agree, I could not finish this game due to utter frustration of having to repeat over and over the same steps.. I felt more like doing chores then playing with the strictly scripted concept. Also the choice of using the Unreal engine seems odd, since on close-ups you clearly miss the face muscles that give expressions, rather you just watch dollfaces with moving eyes and mouths.

Codexus
Nov 7, 2012

I want to add that since my previous comment, they have released a fix for the last battle difficulty that was my main complaint. Smile

AutumnRiley78
Feb 26, 2013

Just wanted to let you know that the game saves after you kill someone or after an in-game day has passed. Whenever I go back in to play the game I have the option to Resume Play and then it shows me my two saves. Hope this helps.



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