LifeisXbox’s Charon’s Staircase Review | Set in the 1970s we take on the role of a male character, codename Desmond, in his search to uncover, obtain, and destroy key documentation on what can only be described as inhumane and sinister acts that were committed by a totalitarian regime known as The Ministry in Charon’s Staircase. During your venture, you will reveal multiple frightening affairs that occurred during your past that you must come to terms with. However, as you slowly find more information, you will discover a horrific number of experiments have been carried out which is referred to as Project Alpha. Developed by Indigo Studios and published by SOEDESCO, take your time to explore multiple locations, solve a multitude of puzzles, and make it your sole purpose to get what you need and make it out alive. There will be hidden shocks and terrors that await you but, if you intend on succeeding, you’ll have no choice but to confront them.
Most Memorable Moment
This would have to be the final chapter for me where all the individual pieces of the story come together and you get to see exactly what your investigations have been all about. The horrific sights and scenes I found made me realise the importance of my character’s search for answers and the documentation found makes this search all worthwhile. The attention to extra story details that can be found throughout made for exceptional enlightenment for curious people such as myself who want to know more detail where possible.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series S | Review code provided by PR/publisher. This review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Fantastic audio | One element that really stood out amongst everything in Charon’s Staircase was the quality of the audio. It really enhanced every element of the gameplay – from the fantastic narration to the background ambience. The narration was clear, concise, and incredibly well-spoken to the point where it felt like I was listening to an audiobook; gave a sense of calmness. The atmosphere was always suspenseful, with the smallest of environmental noises and sound effects making the game always feel alive, making me always alert to my surroundings. With the jump scares, loud sound effects made these impossible to miss and often got a reaction out of me which I found thrilling.
- Puzzles to solve | Charon’s Staircase, in my opinion, is all about exploring until you inevitably come across a puzzle that needs solving in order to progress the gameplay. Some of these puzzles make you use common sense while others you have to think about in order to make sense of their meaning which adds a degree of difficulty in itself. Luckily, while you look for ways to solve these, you will be inundated with plenty of background information to keep you interested. I enjoyed these puzzles and did not find them too hard to make sense of but the few that made me stop and think from time to time I appreciated as they positively impacted the pacing. I would just advise everyone to make sure they always take notes of the details of their surroundings.
- Unique story | The story is formed around what you manage to find in the game and how you choose to interpret it. Not only can you vastly increase your background knowledge by exploring everywhere possible but while making your discoveries, you can piece together everything to really come to terms with what has happened. The more I found, the more I was able to make sense of the terrible events that had occurred and how serious this investigation was for Desmond. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone but what I will say is I was constantly gripped from beginning to end and there were some unexpected conclusions I was not expecting.
- Suitable setting | As mentioned in the introduction, Charon’s Staircase is set in the 1970s central European era in a rather secluded and mysterious environment with three separate locations you will come across. The setting was important to the gameplay and story as it increased the fear factor as well as making everywhere seem too safe for my liking. With areas appearing deserted but also showing signs of life, it made me question whether I was really alone. The devastating experiments, the copious amounts of secrets that had been hidden, and the abnormal surroundings were welcomed in the well-suited locations.
- Collectables and documents | As with most single-player story games these days, there are collectables and documents that can be obtained throughout your playthroughs. The collectables only consist of photographs that can be obtained which left me surprised that documents weren’t classed as one too. Another gripe I have with documents is they add mass amounts of lore to the game’s story and I would strongly recommend they are read but once you’ve read them, they don’t save anywhere for you to read them again. They’re essential to understanding everything and I somewhat wish there were more but obviously once you advance to the next section, there is no way to return and read anything you have previously come across.
- Inconsistent visuals | When playing any game that even remotely resembles elements of horror, it’s important that the lighting is suitable. Although I appreciate the gloomy visuals, there are numerous areas that have incredibly poor lighting which makes navigating somewhat frustrating and difficult to search. The quality of the visuals as a whole also alters greatly in quality. Some textures look abysmal and incredibly rushed while others are far more appealing to the eye which shocked me honestly. How hard can it be to make a plug hole in a sink circular rather than a pixelated mess? The developers I think should have spent more time looking at the attention to detail; even the smallest of them.
- Horror elements | With Charon’s Staircase, I feel the genre suits mystery and puzzles more than horror due to the lack of fear and scare factors. I thought the only real horror was found in the final chapter but that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t jump scares that can get you throughout the entirety of the game. I would have loved to see and experience more frightful situations and events to perhaps play on the severity and make exploring harder to accomplish but it was not meant to be unfortunately. Looking at it from a puzzle perspective, there is fun to be had. Looking at the game from a horror perspective? You might not get exactly what you’re looking for.
What we Disliked
- Visual bugs and frame rate | Yep, I’m sad to say there are a small handful of visual bugs I experienced during my time playing Charon’s Staircase. Graphical flashes of light occurred on multiple occasions, both solid white and multicoloured which were not pleasant to see and caused me mild distress. The frame rate was never stable and always differed which clearly affected the smoothness – even with the option of resolution or performance mode available to choose from. Further optimisation could have significantly improved the performance and made everything more enjoyable.
- No chapter select or separate save slots | For achievement hunters like myself, there is regrettably no chapter select to easily obtain any missed achievements. There is also only one save slot, meaning you have to either continue your current playthrough or start fresh every time you want to perhaps aim for something you have possibly missed. For example, I missed two miscellaneous achievements that will need an extra playthrough to clear up. The game may not take too long to complete once you know what you’re doing but I still would have liked either of the mentioned added.
- A little on the shorter side | As Charon’s Staircase takes around 3-4 hours to complete the main story, I would consider the game to be too short. There is plenty more content and detail that could have been added, more puzzles or an increase in complexity, additional or longer chapters to further enhance the plot etc. Honestly, I loved the story but by the time I had finished, I was still left with a desire to play and learn more about everything. Perhaps there will be DLC or another game that elaborates further but I don’t believe this will happen.
How long to beat the story | Approximately 3-4 Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | Approximately 6-8 Hours
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Hello, I’m Victoria. I’m from the UK and have been playing video games for as long as I can remember; back on DreamCast. I’ve pretty much fallen for Xbox since I was around eight years old and remember BioShock being my first game on the Xbox360. Although I find it thoroughly enjoyable to not only experience gameplay, I also find comfort in getting lost and engrossed in the online worlds that sometimes differ greatly from what we know. Another side of my Xbox passion would be achievement hunting and gamerscore. I thrive when I hear the little sound of one popping up on the screen and I’m always finding ways to work on my backlog when possible. Horror is my favourite genre so if you have any recommendations, don’t be afraid to send them my way!