Kyn – What We Think:
Kyn is, unbelievably, the creation of just two people: Victor Legerstee and Cait Ozturk, otherwise known as Dutch indie studio Tangrin Entertainment. A beautiful RPG/RTS hybrid that harkens back to the classics, it adds a few interesting mechanical innovations, but mostly sticks to what fans of both genres have come to expect. New isn’t always better anyway, and Kyn nails that sense of fun that keeps people going back to games like Diablo.
The world of Kyn is Viking-inspired, but loosely so, and more Hollywood Viking than the purist historical variety; the imagery is familiar – beards, axes, horned helmets – but the lore isn’t. You’ll control a small team of “Magni warriors” that have undergone an intense ritual initiation that gives them magical powers from crystal “feed stones.”
This leads into one of the game’s more interesting aspects: character customization. Rather like the system in hit free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile, you can level your characters up in a number of different ways.
First, you’ll distribute points in three basic categories: Body (affecting strength and health), Mind (affecting magical powers) and Control (affecting speed and dexterity), and then you’ll augment them with one of a number of different kinds of feed stones, which you’ll use to cast more powerful spells and which “feed” off of different in-game events (the Life stone feeds on nearby healing actions, the Death stone on any nearby characters taking damage).
Your stats do affect what gear you can use – you’ll need lots of Control to use a fancy bow and lots of Body to wear heavy armor – but there are no set classes. Plus, you can completely reset a warrior’s points for redistribution if you feel like turning your ax-swinging Berserker into a bow-wielding assassin (or a healer, for that matter), so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck partway through the game because you picked the wrong skills.
Almost Out of Control
The control scheme is more RTS than RPG, especially as your squad begins to grow. It’s pretty simple on the face of it, with right-clicks taking care of most actions and a few keyboard hotkeys to select individual warriors and cast spells, but a control scheme that would be simple to control one character can get frantic when you’re trying to position six, especially if your fast-moving archer keeps rushing ahead of your more heavily-armored types. It’s a lot like the dungeon-crawling levels without resource-building elements in the very first Warcraft game (before there was an MMORPG, much less television commercials for it).
If things get too hard to handle, there’s a “slow motion” effect that you can activate by hitting the space bar, but like the feedstone powers, it only takes effect for a limited time before you have to wait for a cool-down. This is actually a really smart call, because if the game allowed you to pause completely during battles, it would take most of the challenge out of the game.
A Sense of Kyn-Ship
Game mechanics aside, there’s something about Kyn that’s just sort of ineffably likable; the pretty graphics, occasional puzzles (mostly involving character placement on various levers, moving tiles, etc.) that challenge without being frustrating, and cartoonish but well-written characters, (especially your main two warriors, the friendly but oafish Bram and his more acerbic friend Alrik.)
The storyline and setting are, again, familiar, but well-realized, with the main town of Vinborg – which serves as a mission, merchant and crafting hub – being particularly pleasant in a pastoral way, complete with fat, happy sheep bumbling around. It’s definitely Norse-inspired, but less bloodthirsty Vikings and more mild-mannered farmers. Wandering around among the pumpkin patches, horse stables and cozy-looking cottages in between missions is at times more pleasurable than the missions themselves (and certainly more relaxing).
There are marauding monsters invading the land, of course–it is an RPG, after all–but the overall mood is a far cry from the constant dreariness of the Diablo games or the aforementioned Path of Exile. And the presence of friendly farmers, bakers, blacksmiths and the like along with the usual chieftains and soldiers makes it seem like a world actually worth saving; who knew a that more whimsical approach could make a game’s storyline paradoxically more realistic?
Kyn doesn’t really break new strides for RTS or RPG fans, and it’s not a standout example of either. It does nail the basics of each genre, though, and crams them together into an extraordinarily fun game. Whether or not you’re a particularly hardcore fan of either genre doesn’t make much of a difference, either, as the developers have put in enough difficulty settings to accommodate just about any player’s preferred absent-minded clicking-to-screaming-rage-quit ratio (and the difficulty level can be changed mid-game).
The word “addictive” gets thrown around a lot in game reviews, but I missed tons of sleep playing Kyn. Pick it up if you’re a fan of casual RTS or RPGs and see if it doesn’t get its hooks in you, too.
Kyn is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Kyn below: