Kyn shouldn’t exist. There’s no reliable reason an RPG like this should come from a two-man team called Tangrin Games. Victor Legerstee and Cavit Ozturk are the two Dutch minds behind this unique strategic RPG. Sure they’ve had some help from contractors to finish the game, but the art, coding, level design, and all of that was done entirely by these two friends with a dream: to make an RPG that makes you think and tell a new tale in a new world. So, have they succeeded?
The short answer is yes. Kyn is a fun game. But it’s also a little broken, a little bland, and a little weird. If Indie RPGs cause you to get gooseflesh and become short of breath, you’ve probably already pre-ordered. And indeed, at $20 there are definitely worse things to spend your money on. Our copy was provided by Versus Evil and Wonacott PR for Tangrin Games. Kyn’s blend of quirky world-building, complex puzzles, and unique and flexible character progression make it a good game to play through even if only once. There won’t be much reason to re-experience the game since you’ll know the puzzles after the first trip, though some player choices do effect the way the world reacts to your heroes’ presence.
The story of Kyn is a pretty good one, though I don’t think we’ll be hearing too much about it winning awards at the next VGAs. A twist on Norse mythology with its own twists and turns, you start the game as Bram and Alrik, two young men from the town of Vinborg with aspirations of becoming mystical heroes. Once you’ve passed your trials, which the game doesn’t explain too much, you find the world around your small village in a bit of an uproar as the local hordes of Aeshir (usually calm and peaceful creatures) are turning red and attacking people. It’s here where things go into a much more global sense of “Oh crap, bad things are happening.” As you go along through the missions your party will grow to house up to six people, all customizable in terms of gear, stats, and skill sets.
The bulk of Kyn is played from a familiar ¾ view, though without being able to turn the camera in the 3D space, it feels a little restrained on just how much of the world you can view and experience. Kyn is not an open world RPG. Rather between missions you’ll go back to your home town of Vinborg to level your heroes, craft and buy new gear, and progress the story and some side quests. Crafting seems a little complex at first, but you’ll quickly realize that just by fighting through missions and collecting all you can, you’ll get the requisite materials to make some pretty nice upgrades. There are definitely lots of unique weapons and armor to work towards, though in general you’ll just want to take the stuff that gives you a boost in the stats of your choosing.
Puzzles, the sort with switches and nobs and turning totems, are abound in Kyn. If you love games like Zelda that make you think, combined with the notion you control multiple characters and have to split them up to solve puzzles, you’ll really dig this part of Kyn. Like I said, it hampers the replay value, since you’ll know the puzzles (remember how hard the Water temple was in Ocarina of Time? That only lasted the first time through).
Not only can the puzzles actually be tough, but the combat makes for a pretty strategic and tense affair as well. Kyn lets you control between one and all of your party members at once, and you’ll quickly learn (even on casual difficulty) that sometimes you have to make use of the “slow-time” feature, mapped to spacebar. This is akin to games like Baldur’s Gate or the more recent Pillars of Eternity’s Infinity Engine pausing to issue orders. But the slow-time effect only lasts so long, so you have to quickly issue orders before it runs out. It recharges quickly enough, but believe me when I say fights can turn sour in the blink of an eye.
Character progression is pretty straightforward, but the crux lies in figuring out your ideal party build in both weapons and skills. There are three areas to focus on, Mind, Control, and Body. Mind is the more traditional Mage skill, while Control focuses on ranger/rogue abilities like traps and snares, and Body veers more towards berserker, tanking, and buffing. As you spend points in any of the three stats, you’ll unlock deeper levels of the skill trees. It works a lot like Torchlight 1, though you won’t be pumping tons of points into skills that just net you a few more percentage points in critical hit chance or anything like that.
Visually Kyn’s character design is a mixed bag. The heroes themselves make zero impression. Bram, Alrik and crew are as vanilla as they get. But little things like the pet named Sheep (who happens to be a sheep), the enemies themselves, and overall beautiful world level design make up for the shortfalls of the characters and animations. In terms of the UI, while it functions, silly things like having to go to the main menu to change settings scream “oversight”.
One final shoutout must go to Will Bedford whose music is absolutely breathtaking. I can’t say it’s stuck in my head, nor can I hum a single tune now that I think of it, but it’s the kind of score that captures the look and feel of Kyn’s world perfectly, and really adds a sense of epic adventure to the game’s missions. Kyn would be a lesser game without the score, that’s for sure.
GAMEPLAY – 8 Kyn’s mission-based gameplay means you can take an hour at a time and feel like you’ve done a lot. The RTS/RPG style combat is a novel invention and the puzzles are very well designed. Just don’t expect anything earth-shattering here.
VISUALS & SOUND – 7 Bland characters and wonky animations are countered by wonderful level design and great use of lighting and the game’s musical score.
POLISH – 7 For a game made by two guys at its core, Kyn is pretty, runs well, and plays mostly bug free. Pathing issues and UI quibbles are the main reason for detraction here.
LONGEVITY – 5 While player choices throughout the game will mildly affect the way the world around you reacts, the overall scope of the game will be the same time and again. For this, we can’t say Kyn is a very replayable game.
VALUE – 8 $20 for 15-30 hours of playtime (depending on your difficulty level) is a bargain. If you like strategic RPGs with with great atmosphere, Kyn is for you. It’s just a shame there’s not much reason to play it again.