Genre: Point-and-Click Survival Adventure
Release date: December 5, 2016
Reviewed on: Windows 10
Arachnophobe alert: You must "track and kill a scuttling arachnid"
Beastiarium is a 3D point-and-click survival adventure developed by Fazan Ltd., an indie development and publishing team based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The game was written and designed by Artem Luzik and includes a memorable sound track of original music by Mike “Ronin” Kornienko. For your listening pleasure, the full soundtrack can be downloaded at You Tube and other sites.
Your journey begins on a lakeshore in St. Petersburg. You quickly learn that the world has been invaded by creatures from various worlds and humans have resorted to living underground and/or behind closed doors in order to survive. Some creatures are malevolent; some are curious; and others are just wandering about. The first extraterrestrial you encounter is Lacrus -– an ancient being who is driven by his need for exploration and knowledge. He exists in your mind but occasionally appears in physical form as he chats with you at various points in Beastiarium.
After Lacrus provides a brief discourse on history and philosophy, you find yourself in an empty apartment hall. Exploration is accomplished by using the WASD keys to move and the mouse to turn. Inventory items are collected and used. Actionable items are automatically retrieved into inventory and some items, such as keys, are automatically used when needed. You are provided with the ability to equip yourself with up to two items. For most of the game, the handiest object in your toolbox is the flashlight, since Beastiarium tends to be a very “low light” environment. Overall, game mechanics are simple and intuitive. If you’ve played other games built with the Unreal Engine, you will feel right at home.
Your adventure is divided into nine chapters, each of which requires a completely different style of game-play. Although the backstory provides minimal connectivity, each segment presents a new environment and a unique set of challenges. While some chapters are threat-free, others are fraught with danger.
Initially, you need to lure a harmless creature down a hall. “No problem!” I thought and then I headed down into a maze-like sewer and was immediately killed by an army of resurrected corpses. Other segments require that the player solve riddles, run errands, evade deadly plant-like monsters, track and kill a scuttling arachnid, and navigate endless hallways with multiple doors. The final segment requires some serious running for cover and outwitting an armed assailant who is determined to eliminate you. The net effect is that Beastiarium does not fit into a classic genre. Instead, it combines elements of adventure, survival and action.
The adventure segments are no-brainers. You exchange dialog with several human characters who provide information and make requests from behind closed doors. You also converse with a creature who challenges you to solve riddles. On occasion, you are interrupted by Lacrus as he pontificates and provides limited guidance. For the most part, however, you are on your own in a landscape populated by creatures. I found several of the survival segments to be quite challenging, as you are not provided with any weapons to defend yourself. This means that I had an inordinate number of fatal encounters before I was successful in planning and executing a unique escape strategy for each hostile environment. Luckily, the game restores at a nearby save point each time you are killed so repetitive gameplay is minimized.
I admit I am somewhat ambivalent about Beastiarium. Fazan did an admirable job on graphics and the sound track combines original music and ambient noise to create an immersive experience. However, I found the lack of cohesion between segments to be jarring. It felt as if I were playing multiple mini-games rather than experiencing a start-to-finish adventure. As mentioned previously, the non-lethal segments are very easy but I found the hostile environments to be very tedious. Just getting through each survival chapter represented a small victory for this adventurer. My feeling of accomplishment was diminished when I finished Beastiarium to find that it is one of those games with a "non-ending." You know -- the kind where you are surprised when the credits begin to roll and there has been no resolution or reward; no quest completed; no happy ending; no heroic triumph over evil...just "game over."
+ Solid 3D environment with immersive soundtrack. The original music score is a feast for the ears.
+ Intuitive game mechanics – anyone who has played another game built with the Unreal Engine will feel right at home.
+ Each segment poses unique challenges so players will never get complacent.
- Disparate segments do not add up to rewarding adventure.
- Don't be surprised when the game just ends.