Cryptis: A Boomer Shooter Proof of Concept Featuring Damn Good Dark Fantasy

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hello world!
Tyler Graham
| February 16, 2024
hello world!

I don’t know if I’m benefitting from Steam adding the “boomer shooter” tag to their storefront or if my Steam queue has finally attuned itself to my interests, but I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across some real gems in the rough lately.

Cryptis is one of these gems! It’s a short free-to-play experience (around half an hour of playtime) put together by a solo dev named Dobrx, and it’s his first go at putting something up on Steam. The game definitely feels like it’s a proof of concept for some larger project in the future, but Dobrx is still polishing this title with updates and hotfixes all the same, which is awesome to see.

The gameplay loop will be extremely familiar to anyone who has dipped their toes in this genre before. You’re dumped into some caves, find your first rinky-dink pistol, and battle some eldritch monsters. Once you fight tooth and nail out of the dank, dark caves and into an area full of gothic architecture, you find a shotgun and battle some more baddies. 

The good ol’ boomstick was the most reliable weapon in the game… as it should be.

After battling through a couple of sets of arenas containing a handful of new weapons — there are five total weapons for you to add to your arsenal — you’ll ascend a massive staircase leading to the final arena. 

This is where you’ll fight to the death with the game’s titular boss, Cryptis.

Although Cryptis is described as a “movement FPS” on the storefront, it’s not particularly difficult. There isn’t much in the way of enemy variety: there’s a normal melee enemy, a melee enemy with a rage mode, some long-range shooters, and Cryptis. 

Whenever these yellow shamblers rose from the ground, a quick two-tap would instantly turn them into dust.

From within that limited pool of baddies, the melee attackers shamble toward the player at a snail’s pace. Dodging these foes is trivialized by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any cooldown on the player’s dash. Ranged attacks are also quite slow, posing little to no real threat, and the enemy AI and pathing is nothing special.

That’s not to say that the game is bad, of course. There’s a great framework here for something more substantial. I need to stress that this really does seem like a single person’s labor of love, and the lack of difficulty is beside the point.

The game truly shines in three key areas: artwork, atmosphere, and a couple of fresh ideas that hint at a promising future for Dobrx’s shooters.

Areas like this were my favorites — the Gothic architecture and snow capped mountains blend so well with the pinkish sky.

First and foremost, the sprite work that makes up the world of Cryptis is truly gorgeous stuff. I really enjoyed the areas that had large churches and cathedrals, as they evoked the imagery of some of my favorite levels from Dusk. The enemies themselves are also pretty good-looking, although I don’t think they need to be so vibrantly color coded.

The real standout sprite work was the player’s arsenal, though. The art style pairs super well with this mix of medieval and WWI-era weapons, and the distinctive visual identity of some of these weapons makes them feel much more fun to run around with than they’d be otherwise.

I’m definitely no gun nut (far from it, actually), but the pistol seems to be based on the Mauser, I believe, and it feels good to two-tap most enemies while carrying that thing around. The machine gun, which you find much later in the game, is also brilliantly designed.

The LMG might not feel super impactful to play with, but it looks damn cool.

I’d assume it’s modeled after the Bren, with the top-loaded magazine. It’s an unwieldy beast, taking up most of the screen, and I found it did low damage and was extremely inaccurate. I found the pistol more reliable, but I used the LMG on occasion just because of the Rule of Cool. That’s how you know the art style is done well!

Some fresh ideas at work here seem like they could form the scaffolding to a more fleshed-out game. One thing I really liked about Cryptis was how Dobrx tried to combine elements from the environment with the combat loop. Yeah, there were some barrels to shoot around the place, which is pretty standard fare for a first-person shooter.

There are candlesticks around the arena that double as weapons, too, though. They provide an eerie, gothic atmosphere to Cryptis’ locales, but shooting them snuffs the flame, doing massive area-of-effect damage to surrounding enemies. 

If Cryptis were a harder game, kiting enemies around toward a candle to take them all out at once would feel very satisfying.

I love this idea of incorporating pieces of the arena into the fight, and I’m always happy to see more shooters adopt this idea into the design philosophy. Though a lot of Cryptis arenas are fairly wide open and sparsely populated with level geometry, it feels like Dobrx is onto something here that he can pursue as he develops more shooters in the future.

All in all, it feels like there’s a lot of love and care put into this game. It’s a neat little 20-minute package that I implore anyone reading to try out. Dobrx is still updating this title — and working on other projects, too — all of which you can follow on his public Discord server. If you think Cryptis holds some promise, pop in and check out what else this dev is cooking!

Are you excited for the Steam boomer shooter tag? Has it improved your Steam queue recommendations? Most importantly, have you given Cryptis a try? Let me know in the comments!

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