Sovereign Syndicate is a Victorian steampunk CRPG developed and published by Crimson Herring Studios. The game is set in a steampunk-inspired Victorian London and features a tarot card system instead of dice rolls. You play as three different characters, each with their own skills and motivations, and customize their personality through narrative choices that unlock new tarot cards. The gameplay is essentially a mix of Disco Elysium within a steampunk world similar to Arcanum where magic, technology and supernatural creatures coexist. First, you will play as Atticus Daley, an orphaned minotaur and skilled magician who prefers to live away from society. Next, you will play as Clara Reed, a corsair and rebellious woman who is trying to leave London but gets involved in an investigation about missing people. And finally, you will play as Teddy Redgrave, an engineer who is building Otto, an automaton who gradually acquires more consciousness and questions the nature of existence. You will alternate between these protagonists through different chapters. Their personal stories are linked by one big main quest and some of their actions can influence the world they live in (for example, I unlocked a door with one character and that door was unlocked for the other characters too). NPCs also react to your gender, race and appearance with different dialogues; for example, when playing as the minotaur Atticus I casted an illusion that made him look like a human and NPCs changed their behavior towards him. This can be very important to solve certain quests in more subtle and diplomatic ways.
When playing with a new character for the first time, you will be asked to choose their archetype, which defines their starting attributes, traits and major arcana. The latter can also be obtained throughout the story and are very important because they unlock new personality traits, which in turn allow you to select some unique dialogue choices that otherwise would be locked. The main attributes are: Animal Instinct, Wit, Self-Discipline and Spryness. As you play, you also accumulate humours points through the choices you make; these are divided into phlegm, yellow bile, black bile and blood, which are tied to one of the attributes listed above. When a humour bar is filled, the associated attribute levels up and your personality changes according to which attribute you have developed the most. Similarly to Disco Elysium, you have some inner voices that constantly talk inside your head. Choosing one voice over another will drastically change the balance of your humours and with time some voices will become stronger than others. Temperament is also another key aspect of your characters as it represents their mental state, which can move between Desperate, Weary, Content, Optimistic and Hopeful. Similarly to humours, your choices can also change your temperament (for example by giving you +5 Hope) and some special dialogue choices will only be available depending on your temperament score. Last but not least, instead of a DnD dice roll system, you have a Tarot Cards system that basically replaces it. To make a skill check, you draw a card from one of the four Minor Arcana decks (Cups, Wands, Swords and Coins). Each deck includes cards numbered from 1 (Ace) to 14 (King), as well as special ones like The World (which automatically grants 100% success on skill checks) and The Fool (which will always fail the check). All this may seem complex to understand at first, but if you have some experience with CRPGs you will be at home. Plus, the game’s tutorial covers pretty much every gameplay aspect and you get a better understanding of it when you start seeing how your character changes based on the choices you made. The progression system is complex but also rewarding because it allows you to change your character’s personality and, depending on the personality, dialogues provide multiple ways to complete quests. The writing is great too, with a lot of description about environments and situations, plus the inner voices in your head that constantly question your choices. The game is only available in English right now, but it’s not as complex as in Disco Elysium. Compared to the latter, it lacks the deep philosophical, political and surreal themes that made me think even when I was not playing the game. This is more like a fictional narrative focused on characters’ personal dramas that are linked together by a long and intriguing main quest.
The game’s open world is rich and immersive, filled with interesting characters and locations. The main setting is East London, divided into multiple streets and lanes that host minor locations of interest. You can fast travel to each of these streets, but for some unexplained reason, you can’t fast travel when you are inside a building or in a particularly restrained area. There is great diversity in the environments that reflects the social status of the people who live there: from luxurious districts filled with exclusive clubs and high-class buildings to dark alleys and brothels, each location provides plenty of content, characters and side quests. One thing that I noticed though is that some outdoors environments feel empty and lack detail compared to closed areas, and some basic NPCs also walk through these areas but you can’t talk or interact with them, which is something I have rarely seen in CRPGs games, fortunately.
As you can easily see from the trailers, graphics look pretty good and the PC version runs great even at max settings. Minor bugs and glitches are present, for example sometimes my character got stuck near a wall and could not move or fast travel (because I was inside a building), so I had to reload my last save, which fortunately wasn’t very old, but I was able to replicate the glitch on the same walls, so it’s probably something that needs to be addressed through patches. There are also some sudden frame drops in a few areas (from 60 to 45 fps), but they don’t ruin the experience. What partially ruins it, at least for me, is the angle of the camera, which constantly moves to follow the character’s movements. Despite having an isometric view, the angle of the camera often moves overhead on top of your character (like a bird’s eye view), which becomes annoying while exploring, especially on certain locations where the camera seems to be fighting with walls. I think that a more classic and fixed isometric view would have been a lot better for exploration.
Overall, Sovereign Syndicate is a very intriguing CRPG that offers a distinctive and immersive experience. The game’s world feels interesting to explore thanks to the wonderful mix of steampunk technology and supernatural creatures, narrated through well-written and highly descriptive dialogues. The tarot card system works really well and allows you to define your character’s personality through in-game choices that also unlock new options to complete quests. Recommended if you are fluent in English (which is the only available language right now) and you enjoyed Disco Elysium.
Review written by Sonic Punk for Zeepond.com
Positives+ Rich narrative, great quality of writing and multiple ways to complete quests
+ Character’s personality changes through narrative choices and tarot cards
+ Fascinating steampunk open world setting
Negatives- Outdoor environments feel empty and lack detail
- The overhead angle of the camera can be annoying
- Occasional bugs and glitches
Sovereign Syndicate offers an immersive RPG experience through a fascinating steampunk world filled with interesting characters and well-written quests.
Share this review!
Zeepond Rating: 7/10
Game CategoriesAll Game Reviews (1331)
Hardware Reviews (0)
Alpha Games (2)
Board Games (3)
First Person (19)
First Person Shooter (30)
Massive Multiplayer Online (4)
Pixel Graphics (20)
Role Playing Game (59)
Third Person (10)
Utility software (1)
Virtual Reality (22)