Stasis Is What You Get When You Cross Half-Life With Inscryption

Stasis, in plainest terms, is the hit card game Inscryption, but wrapped in the familiar veneer of Valve’s Half-Life. It’s essentially a homage to the ingenuity of Inscryption’s deck-building mechanics, and the melancholy of Half Life’s dreary, alien universe; even its developer has suggested that you give Inscryption a shot first before trying this out, so that you wouldn’t be spoilt by the unexpected twists and turns of the original game. Trapped in G-Man’s stasis after the events of Half Life, the entity has decided to ease his boredom with several rounds of the macabre card game; after all, eternity can probably feel pretty dreadful. The penalty for losing? Death, of course. But that’s not really as surprising as how Stasis eventually plays out, the more rounds you experience.

As a fan game of both Half-Life and Inscryption, Stasis isn’t as fleshed out as either title—so don’t expect dizzying shootouts and puzzle-solving in between rounds of the card game. That said, Stasis is remarkably charming and compelling in the way it conveys its sense of atmospheric horror masterfully. Like the start of Inscryption, you begin in a dark room with G-Man, who would show you the basics of the card game. Predictably, your deck is made up of the familiar beings from Half-Life, such as the Combine soldiers and the extraterrestrial creatures from Xen: headcrabs, bullsquids, alien grunts and more.

For players who are already well-acquainted with Inscryption’s gameplay, the following should already be common knowledge: the goal is to defeat your opponent by dealing enough damage that would tip the scale to your favour. Likewise, G-Man will attempt to do the same to you. You can deal damage with offensive cards in your hand, but in order to play them, you’ll need hosts—Stasis’ version of Inscryption’s squirrels—that you’ll need to sacrifice, as well as to place more powerful cards. For the uninitiated, this system can take a while to understand and digest, but the setup quickly becomes intuitive the more you play. Each time you win a round, you’ll get the opportunity to pad out your deck with more cards, as well as items and bonuses you can use to turn the tide of a losing battle—all tinged with the familiar Half-Life flavour, of course.

Aside from the occasional easter eggs or references to Half-Life, there isn’t much more in the way of Stasis’ tale. Inscryption’s inventiveness stems from how it melds its card game mechanics with surprising moments of body horror and gore, but Stasis is largely content with being just a fan game of the two, rather than offering a brand new experience—which is a pity, given that the atmosphere of Half-Life fits like a glove to the structure of the card game. If you’re curious about Inscryption’s deck-building and roguelike bits, Stasis may just be your best introduction to the game. Its remarkable similarity to Inscryption, however, may also mean that the game isn’t going to stay available for very long. Give the game a shot while you still can.

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