My first few minutes into Kyn, I hoped I had found the spiritual sequel to Aarklash: Legacy, a superlative strategy rpg from 2013 that was criminally overlooked by the gaming press. Tangrin Studios is a two-man Dutch game studio (Victor Legerstee and Cavit Ozurk), and what they have accomplished with Kyn surpasses expectations for the work of such a small team. As I made my way through Kyn’s large, well-populated levels and learned the mechanics of combat and character progression, I realized that Kyn straddles a line somewhere between Aarklash and Torchlight 2, with a toe reaching out to affectionately give the Zelda series a playful nudge.
The protagonists of the game are Alrik and Bram. These two stout-hearted fellows have just survived a harrowing ritual certifying them as elite Magni warriors of their people. It turns out their graduation from mediocre cannon-fodder to commando badasses came at JUST the right time, because an epic interracial war between humans and the Aeshir, a tribal humanoid race, has erupted, spilling carnage and death across two horrified civilizations. Our champions are going to somehow have to push back the berserk hordes seeking to overwhelm the land. Kyn’s Viking inspired fantasy setting is full of the usual fantasy tropes, but it’s a serviceable story and it’s done in a cheerful way, with occasional bits of dialogue between characters and NPCs knocking at the fourth wall without actually breaking through it.
The plot is really just a device to move the player from map to map, and it does the job. The real attraction of Kyn is combat, exploration, looting, and character advancement.
Nighttime raids, idyllic pastoral backdrops, frozen hellscapes, and war-torn villages make up some of the diverse settings Kyn has to offer, and with 30 maps in all, the sheer size and attention to detail of the game-world is an impressive feat from Tangrin. In this aspect alone it hard to believe that the game is the work of two people. The variety of the maps and their design is well done. Some are large and open, others feature multiple branching paths, but there is always room to explore; and exploring each map is essential if you want to acquire the gold and items needed to outfit your doughty heroes with the best gear available.
Kyn’s character progression is complicated and somewhat unique. Your characters have three main attributes: Mind, Body and Control. These attributes directly affect health, attack speed, damage, what gear you can equip and “spirit,” which is the substance used to power special skills. Each of these three attributes also governs character skills, which are placed in tiers. Each tier for each attribute holds three skills, and some tiers contain a fourth skill known as a “feed” skill. However, characters can only equip two normal skills and one feed skill at any time. Attribute tiers are unlocked based on points, and each tier contains unique skills.
Now, why is Kyn’s system unique? Your characters don’t have a set class, they don’t gain any experience from combat and there is no respec cost for adjusting points in attributes or selecting skills. At the start of the game Alrik is configured as a support character with ranged attack and Bram is set-up as a close range melee unit, but at any time outside of combat characters can be tweaked or adjusted as the player sees fit. In addition to this classless setup, feed skills are also modified by feedstones. There are ten types of feedstones and synergies exist between certain feedstones and feed skills. When complementary feedstones and feed skills are combined, the feed skill is modified to such an extent that it becomes a separate skill unto itself. Points to spend on attributes are awarded after completing a map and not through combat, but that doesn’t mean you can avoid combat, because that is your primary source of loot, which you will need to maximize your character’s skill choices.
But wait! There’s more! Every skill has levels, including feed skills created through combinations with feedstones. Skills gain level through use, and since higher-tier skills are unique and not situated to over-power the skills in lower tiers, the customization for character advancement can be as simple or complex as the player chooses.
On top of this, there’s loot and weapons and a rudimentary crafting system. Weapons, armor and crafting items are acquired from slain foes, pillaged chests or as quest rewards. Weapons and armor have a rarity classification system, and it follows a standard scale: the rarer the item, the more powerful the stats are. If quest rewards and loot drops don’t provide the gear the player really wants, then there is the option to craft gear through Oskar the blacksmith, or to purchase from vendors. The best gear comes from crafting, so after the very early levels, save gold to purchase crafting items and don’t waste time or cash on the other weapon vendors.
Tangrin describes Kyn as an rts/rpg hybrid. I feel the rts classification is misleading. Combat is where Kyn finds itself sitting between the two worlds of arpg and strategy rpg. Combat is real-time, but instead of a pause feature to coordinate skill usage and position, there is an option to slow time. This can be activated as needed, but there is a limit to how long it can be used before shifting back into normal speed. And you won’t be using it to go into full-on Neo bullet-time mode in the Matrix. It gives you a few seconds to select a skill and targets, but choose wisely, because when it expires, you might find yourself hitting F7 and reloading a quick save. Most of the combat is against mobs of enemies, in typical arpg fashion, with a mix of weaker units often supported by more powerful foes. With cool down times, three skills per character, swarming enemies and trying to manage multiple characters in the heat of battle, combat definitely has more of an arpg feel with a tactical influence.
Kyn’s main drawbacks are also two of its three core strengths. The combat is fun, but never as quick paced or meaty as a flagship arpg such as Path of Exile or Torchlight II. The strategy portion is not on the same level as Divinity: Original Sin or Aarklash: Legacy; Kyn’s hybrid status might disappoint ardent fans expecting something comparable to their favorites in those respective genres. The character progression system is a work of genius, but how well is it truly balanced with the combat of the game? That’s a question of taste, and I suspect that if Kyn had the resources to devote to refining AI and balancing out the myriad elements of their character skill system, it would be something truly marvelous. As it stands, it is still impressive and the game on a whole is testament to the creativity and level of skill that small, committed studios can bring to a game they are passionate about.
Kyn doesn’t have the polish of the biggest names, but it definitely rises above quite a few titles from much larger studios. Compared to the best games in the arpg and strategy rpg genres, Kyn still holds its own as a decent game. When you look closer and realize that Kyn was made by two people, and not a team of tens or hundreds, it stands out as a remarkable achievement.On Steam On GOG Kyn website