Kyn is an action RPG — launching later this month — from the two-man development team Tengrin. It puts a bit of a team-based spin on the isometric, hack and slash genre, although unlike some squad-based RPGs, there’s no pause in the action to reflect on strategy and planning. This mechanic moves Kyn from the realm of mindless button-mashing to something both frenetic and tactical, two adjectives which don’t always coexist peacefully.
Although the preview levels didn’t fully realize this idea, Dutch developers Tengrin have promised a dynamic world in which player actions have far-reaching consequences. Very simply, the story begins with two heroes (the first two of six team members), Bram and Alrik, trying to make their way home from a training mission. Along their journey they encounter the expected story and side quests: revive a little girl, help cleanse an encampment of the enemy and rescue the good guys, and some of these require savvy use of the heroes individual skills and more than a little planning and hero placement.
Those skills are divided into three broad categories: Mind (basically, magic), Body (physical attacks) and Control (traps and ranged attacks). In theory, one could craft a balanced hero with strengths evenly spread across the skill trees, but in practice one ends up creating a traditional fantasy RPG team with the expected specialists. This is necessary because enemy types are equally specific and need counter-attacks that a party of generalists might not provide. At any one time, heroes have a regular attack and three skills equipped, but there is a fair amount of complexity and interactive depth in the choice and use of the Mind, Body, or Control-based skills. This is a plus for Kyn, but on the minus side, juggling the skills between multiple heroes in real time encounters can be frustrating even with just two or three characters in play.
For a two-man team, Tengrin has attempted to include an admirable amount of player choice, tactics, and unpredictability in Kyn. Less impressive — at least in the preview levels — is the art style, enemy and level design, and the game’s graphics, none of which have much character and already look dated. Relying so heavily on traditional fantasy-RPG tropes means that Kyn will inevitably be compared — and perhaps not favorably — to Titan Quest, Diablo, Path of Exile, or a dozen other genre-defining games.
The desaturated greens, greys, and browns of the opening, featureless countryside level don’t make for a dramatic first impression and fighting wolves, boars and skeletons create an early, “been there, done that” feeling that suggests a paucity of imagination when it comes to design. Even at the highest resolution, Kyn‘s graphics lack sharpness, and while there are environmental and battle sound effects and an ever-present musical score, there is no voice acting to speak of. Instead, the unremarkable character dialogue is conveyed via written text, which at least has the virtue of being pithy and to the point.
Kyn is a study in sometimes unfortunate contrasts, elements that work better in theory than in practice. Giving a single player control of a squad of heroes, each with a plethora of powers and abilities sounds like an exciting opportunity to approach enemy encounters in multiple ways but in reality, there is little time to make choices and so one defaults to a few effective commands. Games like DragonAge handle these kinds of choices by letting the player pause the action, but not being able to pause is the hook on which Kyn hangs its hat.
Kudos to Tengrin for being a small developer with big ambitions. I’m hoping that the final version of Kyn fleshes out its story, characters, and environments, and I’m looking forward to trying out the full game.
A preview of the game was provided by the publisher.
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