While I’m glad that Lunacy: Saint Rhodes has finally been released after its troubled development, I can’t recommend it due to how disappointingly unpolished it is. On top of its visual and aural shortcomings, it’s not even scary.
Developer – Stormling Studios
Publisher – Iceberg Interactive
Platforms – PC (Reviewed)
Review copy given by publisher
Indie horror games are a dime a dozen, but I had my hopes held high for Lunacy: Saint Rhodes since its announcement. If you’ve followed this title for some time, then you probably already know that it has gone through an extremely rough development cycle. The game was initially announced all the way back in 2018 with a 2019 release date, but got delayed multiple times, and even changed developers midway. Stormling Studios took over after Lazarus Studios decided to abandon the project. After a long and rocky 5 years, Lunacy: Saint Rhodes is finally coming out on PC via Steam, with no word on console ports.
You play as a man named Rhodes, who has just been notified that he has inherited a mansion in his family’s name. A detective explains that there’s a connection between the property and a murder that happened many years ago. And thus begins your journey to Saint Rhodes, an abandoned town filled with rotting derelict buildings. There is a darker secret that lies within your family’s history, and the game doesn’t shy away from leading you into a narrative filled with tons of secrets. Like most other horror titles, this one delivers most of its hidden lore through objects, notes, and the occasional cutscene.
It’s a bit of a stretch to even consider this game a survival horror experience, which is what the game markets itself as, because the gameplay boils down to a walking simulator combined with solving puzzles and avoiding an entity that aims to kill you. There are no weapons, combat, or an inventory to manage. A bit of a spoiler but you do get an item that allows you to temporarily impair entities to give you some more breathing room, but that’s about it. Categorizing it as a first person psychological horror would have been a better fit.
However, Lunacy Saint Rhodes does add some spice and variety that makes it stand out a bit from other games in the same category. The game introduces this novel mechanic of pressing the spacebar to wipe away the rain on your glasses to make it easier to see. Several clever visual tricks are played when environments start to shift or change offscreen, resulting in an interesting experience.
The greatest and biggest marketing push for this game is its “advanced AI” that watches your every movement and makes sure you never feel really safe. Yes the entity that stalks you is relentless, but not in a good way. The AI is always in the way of wherever you need to go, forcing you to run in circles and backtrack just to shake it off. Instead of being scary, it’s just unnecessary and extremely frustrating. This leads into what I can only call terrible pacing, as you are constantly stopped from progressing due to the aforementioned situation or another locked door or obstacle in the way.
The audio design and visual effects ultimately make or break the atmosphere of a scary experience, so it’s pivotal for the developers to nail these 2 aspects. A horror game without a meticulously crafted eerie atmosphere ends up being one that lacks any terror whatsoever. Lunacy: Saint Rhodes, unfortunately, is lackluster and even borderline bad in both, featuring terrible sound effects and outdated visuals.
All the environmental assets are tinted with a nauseous blur effect that causes my eyes to burn if I stare for too long, with little to no detailed textures. The lighting is also way too dark, so I recommend cranking up the brightness, as the game forces you to look for too many environmental details that you otherwise can’t even see. This was developed using Unreal Engine 4, but I’ve seen plenty of other titles built on UE4 that look way crisper.
The audio effects are deafening and poorly implemented, with a notable example being the thunder effects that blasted my ears so much that it hurts. While you are navigating the city of Saint Rhodes, there is also little to no background noise that helps build tension. All you hear is your repetitious footsteps and the pouring of rain. The voice acting, on the other hand, is serviceable at best, but there are moments in which the dialogue is annoying, such as when the AI entity repeats the same phrase over and over again.
Not only does the game not look or sound great, the performance is also shoddy and inconsistent. Considering this game started development back in 2018 or even earlier, you would expect that the hardware requirements wouldn’t be too taxing. The game frequently suffers from frame drops and stutters, with considerably long loading times. I often found myself needing to take a break as a combination of the blurry graphics along with poor performance made my eyes hurt if I played for too long.
Surprisingly, the game is priced at a more than fair MSRP of $19.99, with a launch discount that brings the total to $15.99 until August 3rd. There are no difficulty settings to the game and the entire playthrough will probably run you around 3 to 5 hours, depending on how fast you are at solving puzzles and navigating around the AI that pursues you. You may find a bit more replayability through the two different endings the game offers along with a handful of collectibles to find.
The immediate red flag about Lunacy: Saint Rhodes is its troubled 5+ year development cycle, numerous delays, and multiple developers. While I’m glad that the game has finally been released, I can’t recommend it due to how disappointingly unpolished it is. On top of its visual and aural shortcomings, it’s not even scary.