Lucius Review: Murders That Make You Want to Kill Yourself

As such, each murder is different and each murder requires very specific circumstances, items and player interactions, none of which are the least bit obvious. The game is merciful enough to point you toward your target, and sometimes the notebook provides meaningful hints, but the vast majority of the game is guess-and-check. Your target is smoking — maybe you can grab his extremely tiny, hard-to-click box of matches? Maybe then that sends him to the oven to light his cigarettes instead? Maybe then you can mess with the oven somehow, creating a gas leak, and that will (somehow) lead to his death? Yes, that’s a convoluted method to solving one of the early kills; you must locate a tool, screw with an oven, and hope a guy blows his face off. Of course, he does.

As you progress through the game, you get special powers, like the ability to manipulate the weak-minded into doing things and the ability to move objects with your mind. Inevitably, these become additional puzzle elements, replacing or augmenting items in your inventory. Lucius is at its best when it requires you to think critically about your powers and how you can alter things in your area, and once or twice it hits this nail pretty hard. But it’s hamstrung by the fact that you can only interact with very specific things at very specific times. There are items all over the house, but only a small number are actually interactive, and the majority of those aren’t good for anything. You spend a lot of the game searching for a needle in a stack of needles.

The solution to just about every puzzle in Lucius is completely opaque at the start of the chapter, or even most of the way through the puzzle. Very few items in the game can be interacted with; some you can pick up and keep, some you can only carry around until you decide to drop them. Exploring the massive and completely confusing mansion, you’ll find all kinds of items that have no apparent use to you whatsoever. Lucius will dutifully jam them in his pockets, and you know because of video game logic that eventually they will be useful in some way and that you should remember them. And lo, every single one (barring a few that you can pick up purely, it seems, for the sake of an achievement and red herrings) is essential in the intricate murder plot of some unknown person in the future.

The individual steps in the puzzles in Lucius, however, range from perfectly obvious to incredibly ludicrous, and the game design involved in several of them will make you want to put your head through a wall. I spent literally hours attempting to figure out how to progress through one chapter involving a maid doing laundry. I followed her to see where she went, spoke to every other character in the house, even picked up random articles of clothing and ran them back to the laundry room to help speed her through her duties, hoping that that might be enough to trigger the next step.

Nothing worked, until eventually I accidentally used my Telekinesis power on an iron I discovered was interactive, high on a shelf and out of reach in a corner. Drop that thing in the washer and close the washer and all of a sudden, the solution is apparent — the washer breaks, the maid knocks off for the day, and I can move on to the next stage of the puzzle. The solution was so ridiculous that I almost gave up on the game altogether, deciding to write this review without finishing it because it was such a waste of time. I haven’t been that frustrated with a video game in years.

But Lucius is just full of bad design. Sometimes the puzzles come together but they rarely, if ever, require you to be especially intelligent or creative — they mostly require you to have stumbled upon the correct item for the problem, or to go searching for it. And the game seriously struggles with providing you useful information. The map of the (way too goddamn big) mansion takes a while to decipher, the layout is stupidly overblown by any stretch, and even when you do know where you’re going, you rarely know why or for what. Sometimes Lucius makes it obvious what it is you need for a problem, and sometimes it puts an iron up on a shelf and expects you to figure out that putting it in the washer will break the washer, which is essential to the puzzle even though the maid never went near the washer at all.

I’m all for games making me think, but Lucius never tests you intellectually. You never think, “Ah ha — I can use this character’s weaknesses against her!” It’s almost always a case of random circumstance. You interfere with people, largely by accident, and they end up being convenient to kill without being seen. You never can see the forest because you’re always tied to the nearest tree, with almost no idea of what you’re doing or what the greater purpose is.

The game is also littered with instant fail points that result in long-winded game over screens. Lucius tries to put you in stealth situations, and then makes it difficult to stick with them and avoid getting spotted. One puzzle had me sneaking around during a rainstorm. The only path open to me took me through Lucius’ mother’s bedroom, and she spotted me repeatedly before I realized I could cut the power by using telekinesis on a piece of scenery that was actually a power box. But you only get an impression of the ability to interact with an object with the proper power selected, in the right level, and I’ve never seen this object before — so why would I guess that that’s the solution to the puzzle?

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11 Comments on Lucius Review: Murders That Make You Want to Kill Yourself

Johansson

On October 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I’ve been thinking about buying the game. I’ve red from other gaming sites about this and it has got pretty good reviews. It’s probably just not a game for Phil? I think I’ll try it since other sites have praised it.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm

@Johansson

Good luck to you, then. Let us know what you think here. I don’t think that it was “not a game for me” — I’ve been excited to try Lucius for about a year now, but the flaws were just too big to overcome. Still, like I said, if you end up with a different perspective, feel free to return and share it.

quicktooth

On October 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

A “game” about a child explicitly murdering his family. This is why humanity needs God to squash it a few times, to get rid of the soulless horrible evil like this. I just got to remember there are decent folks out there too; this… heinous crime in video game form could cost a person their faith in humanity.

Dick Cheese

On October 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

@quicktooth: This game is supposed to be like the movie “The Omen” maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe it was too satanic for you, but that movie is basically like this video game. I guess games like Hitman, Grand Theft Auto or FPS games are also too evil for you too? What do you play, Barbie’s Horse Adventure? Grow some balls man, just because it isn’t a good game doesn’t mean the Devil made it!

ShutUp

On October 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm

@QuickTooth

No one asked you, jesus freak. I hate how religious people feel the need to remind everyone how sorry they feel for our deprived ways. We are just fine and are perfectly allowed to enjoy any heinous activity we want. I don’t think it justifies our race getting squashed. Some people enjoy “role playing” and probably contribute far more to society than you ever will.

As for the game, thanks for the review Phil. Helped me dodge a bullet since my mouse had hovered over the “add to cart” button on steam.

Ezelkir

On October 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for the review! Very fun to read! Too bad the game isn’t what I hoped it would be though. ^^’

Chips

On October 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

Sounds tedious.

SteelRat

On October 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I read this review before buying the game, and I read some others, all of which were positive, so I bought the game. It’s made me realize this, most video game reviewers are either paid off by developers or don’t bother to play the game and instead rehash the game’s publicity feeds.
Lucius is EXACTLY like Phil describes. Imagine, if you will, the most frustrating video game puzzle you’ve ever been stuck on. Now, stretch that out to an entire game. Yes the artwork is good, not great, but on par with other releases, and the actual murders are entertaining to watch… but the actual game play is about as much fun as trying to wander around a pit of broken glass wearing a blindfold.
From now on, I’m listening to Phil. If I had, I’d have 22 bucks more in my pocket.

gunar

On October 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I loved this game!!! I was just like MUHAHAHA!!! All the time I played it. Like I don’t think the game is supposed to be taken seriously because I was like MUHAHAAHA dumb es and I love you daddy to satan and just stupid ed up lines I would say and the gameplay didn’t bug me at all. Then again I like all puzzle games so thats just me and so yeah this game isn’t supposed to be taken seriously and your supposed to laugh as you murder these people because your satans child and its just so funny to me for some reason because we would never do that in real life but here you can be a stereotypical evil laughing funny kinda joker character and its just so fun to play this game….love this game….felt like the joker…..never knew my plan and had funny commentary to every situation….completely insane…

Phil Hornshaw

On October 28, 2012 at 8:52 am

@Steelrat

Hey, thanks! And thanks for reading!

Also, “about as much fun as trying to wander around a pit of broken glass wearing a blindfold” is a hilarious analogy.

Hmmm

On November 5, 2012 at 12:16 am

Well, after viewing a video playthrough of the 2nd puzzle, it does seem like this game is all about finding needles in haystacks.

It reminds me of those 2D Flash games i play from time to time; they’re exactly like Lucius, but they’re shorter. And being 2D means there are limited objects to click (but the concept is still the same i suppose, click everything till something works).

The cutscenes coupled with the music are nice though, but i think the horribly boring gameplay’s gonna turn me off.