Developed by Tangrin Entertainment and published by Versus Evil, Kyn is a Diablo-style action-RPG featuring puzzles and an enthralling story. In a world where magic and viking mythology collide, you lead a small group of Magni warriors, an elite force trained to fight evil. As the heroes return to their home in the village of Vinborg, they discover that the once-Pacific Aeshir, a race of lizard-like humanoids with the power to raise the dead, have begun attacking the neighboring villages and are now terrorizing the region. It is up to you and your warriors to investigate the situation and rescue the population in an attempt to solve the crisis.
An interesting and refreshing action RPG
Kyn features a central Hub where you return after completing each mission. In Vinborg the group can speak to various villagers, resupply, and accept new missions related to the main storyline or new pacts, a series of secondary tasks you can complete for money and gear. Once the group is ready you can start a new mission from the map and your warriors will be automatically moved to the related area, as the game only allows a limited form of free-roaming restricted to the exploration of the zone you currently are in.
Kyn lacks a standard experience-based leveling system with the developers opting for an innovative way of customizing your characters instead. Completing a mission and returning to the hub will yield a variable amount of stat points to be used on each character. Increasing body, mind or control will increase the character’s prowess with physical, magic or dexterity based skills and, in turn, will make them better warriors, casters or rogues. This system includes skill trees, with each new tier becoming available as soon as enough points have been spent on the corresponding stats. Magni warriors can also resort to more powerful skills which require special items to be activated and that can effectively aid the party in battle, from restoring massive amounts of health to buffing the characters or controlling large crowds.
While the system, at first sight, might appear simplistic, it actually allows you a greater degree of customization, as characters can effectively use skills from each tree without having to specialize. For example: characters using dexterity skills can also equip a crowd control spell or heal their teammates, turning into a life-saver if your main healer is incapacitated during combat. A specific value for each stat is still required in order to equip stronger gear, forcing you to decide which one of the three each warrior will use as their primary.
Kyn also includes a crafting system that you can use in order to produce your weaponry and the game features a plethora of different items your warriors can put to good use during their adventures, including swords, suits of armor, daggers, staves, and bows, further increasing the possibilities you have when preparing for a battle. This makes the game an interesting and refreshing action-rpg that is sure to keep fans of the genre engaged for days. The puzzles and enigmas, evenly scattered through the map, provide the right amount of challenge and often reward your efforts with rare or epic items, making them a pleasant variation on the gameplay mechanics.
Unusual design choices are kyn’s downfall
While the storyline is surely an interesting one, with frequent references to the world of mythology and to the canons of fantasy literature and the dialogues often include sketches between the characters, making them light and enjoyable, Kyn seems to be totally missing a voice-over feature, both for the English and the German versions of the game. This unusual design choice, which is partially explained by the heroes often referring to the fact that the Aeshir cannot talk, still keeps you wondering why the development team didn’t bother working on a voice system, considering the fact that voice actors were hired to record all of the grunts and battle effects and has the additional effect of diverting your attention away from the events unfolding in front of you whenever a funny joke is thrown on the screen, resulting in a few battles ending with the party meeting an early and tragic demise. Kyn also allows you to resurrect any dead NPC you encounter, but this mechanic is rather disappointing. While some NPCs will refer to their last moments before meeting their maker, especially if they are somewhat linked to a quest, others will simply throw random default sentences such as “For the Jarl!” or “For Vinborg!” at you, making you wonder why you wasted some of your precious time to call them back from the dead.
Exploration is surely one of the main features this title has to offer, with chests and treasures scattered around the levels, waiting for you to crack them open and collect the goodies they jealously guard, but the development team seems to be actively trying to keep you away from easily reaching them. Kyn’s navigation system is riddled with odd design choices, starting from the way you can control the camera while moving around. The game features a fixed auto-follow camera which can be unlocked to explore your surroundings but the inability to rotate the view and the zoom that is just a few centimeters shorter than expected make the whole process fiddly, with blindly panning left and right remaining the only effective option when you’re looking for a hidden switch, a path or a chest. The game provides you with both a mini-map and a larger one but these tools only show you the territory and little else. Markers on the mini-map will light up when you’re close to an objective but will magically disappear if you move away from it, making long-distance exploration and planning a pain rather than an enjoyable part of the game.
While similar titles often offer you a dynamic diary with the ability to track you current quests and objectives, Kyn is lacking in this department too. Active quests and pacts will be shown in a small window on the right side of the screen, but are all thrown there together and tracking cannot be enabled or disabled. Furthermore, the quest window will always show all active quests, even if the objective is not located on the current map, leaving you to wonder whether you missed an important NPC upon returning to your base. These odd design choices seem to have leaked into the user interface design department as well, with the UI sporting a good few of them. While you can control up to five heroes at once and can easily switch between them by using the heroes bar located at the bottom of the screen, the same bar also houses the skill slots, forcing each of your characters to only equips two general and a special skill at once and having you open the character panel more often than you’d like if you wish to play dynamically. The fact that quest markers in Kyn are not as reliable as they should be is already clear, but Tangrin decided to make the whole matter more confusing by creating their own standards for symbols. While bigger titles from the same genre would abide by the standards enforced by giants such as World of Warcraft and mark an available quest with an exclamation mark and a completed one with a question mark hovering on the related NPC’s head, Kyn’s creators decided to invert these two symbols, resulting in players often having to take a second look to understand whether the NPC is offering them new tasks or calling them over to reward them with a bulging bag of gold. The game also lacks a tutorial which is replaced by a wiki-style menu located on the top of the screen that you have to access whenever you wish to know more about the story, the characters or some of the game’s mechanic.
Aside from these design decisions, there’s no denying that Kyn looks and sounds amazing. While opting for cartoon-style graphics, Tangrin delivers an impressively detailed world that sports colorful environments rich in dynamism and strength. Each shade of the colors that compose this view was clearly picked after much deliberation, an effort which greatly rewards the software house with a result that is second to only a few titles. Villages, fortresses, and the wild forests surrounding these Viking-inspired locations all sport their little peculiarities that show just how much care and dedication was put into recreating this mythological world.
The soundtrack also deserves special mention. Composed by Will Bedford, it includes different tracks that perfectly fit the style of the game, providing a pleasant but not invasive background for the adventure. Each track is composed by dynamic layers that will change according to the current mood in the game, from happy exploration music to a sad and sober track marking an unfortunate happening. Bedford also released some of his tracks on his personal soundcloud allowing all fans to listen to them.
All things considered, Kyn remains an interesting title that is surely worth a look. The developers’ ancestors would be puzzled by their extravagant design choices but surely pleased by their ability to deliver a strong story and an enjoyable game that excels at evoking the glories of the ancient Nordic culture. Kyn is the game you rush home to play after a long day and that has the power to relax and entertain you from the moment you see the loading screen to the moment you realize it’s three in the morning and you should probably rest. Its funny dialogues, the cute yet powerful graphics, the solid story and, all in all, the degree of dedication this Dutch software house put into their work delivers a great product, and one that can only be better. Sure that their ancestors are rising their flagons and filling the mead halls of Valhalla with tales of their achievements and glory, Tangrin should continue working on this promising game that, once a few issues are ironed out, will lack nothing to be an instant classic.