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Imelari 06-21-2009 12:39 AM

An Analysis and Discussion of the Cryostasis Story
Earlier, I happened across a thread which went over a few theories about the nature of the game, and though I found them a bit questionable, I was inspired to offer my own thoughts on the matter. Thus, my own analysis of the story, setting, and characters.

To begin with the basics, there's one important piece of information in understanding the game which isn't emphasized much. Alexander Nestarov arrives at the North Wind in 1981. The North Wind wrecked in 1968. In other words, the ship has been out of commission for over ten years by the time Alexander boards. Yet, even without its power source, parts are still functional and fires still burning. furthermore, when you consider the ending, in which the crew saves Alex from falling into the ice, it makes no sense given the dates. That is, unless you realize that Alex is dead, having perished shortly before the start of the game when the ice broke.

The game does not take place in reality, but rather a sort of afterlife (explained in more detail later). This can be seen in the prisoner's cafeteria where you can see into a void through the hole above the globe, which is the same void that you see later in the final chapter. This explains the odd state of the crew. As is seen in the echoes, there are two phases of corruption, one which produces zombie-like but still human enemies, and another which produces bizarre and otherworldly foes. The zombie-like foes likely come from the ship's reactor failure which lead to the massive radiation poisoning seen in the sick bay scenes (oddly enough, Arktika class ice breakers used pressurized water reactors, while the North Wind uses a Graphite Moderated reactor. The latter is famed for its involvement in Chernobyl. There may be some intentional parallel here, though). This would explain why they are present when the ship and crew are still alive. All of this leads to widespread fear, and after the ship effectively collapses during the helicopter's attempted escape, those who are left find their will broken as the temperatures continue to plummet. As a parallel to the story of Danko, they become bound by their own fear to the point where they sacrifice their humanity and become warped in this world of stasis. Notice that all the warped enemies feature locks, bars, chains, or other bindings (save, perhaps, the flys, though they may still be bound in some fashion. It may also be noted that all of these enemies, including the fly and Kronos, are blind, their eyes bound or altogether missing).

The nature of these enemies also leads us back to Alex. If Alex is dead, how is it that he can die again at the hands of these enemies? The simple truth of the matter is that he can't, just like the surviving crew could not. Notice that his "life" is represented by heat. Think of this, instead, as will. If his will is broken, then like the crew, he surrenders and is bound to the ship. Will, in such a situation, can easily correspond to heat, since when one is cold it is hard to keep moving. You simply want to sit there and drift off into the darkness...

What, then, is the world in which the story takes place? The mental echo offers the key to this. It is a world formed by the fears and regrets of the crew, it is a world of memory, a mnemosyne; ethereal in form, but real to those whose memories are bound within. This is why changing the memories of the crew also changes the reality of this world--it is formed by memory, and so can be changed by it. It is a world stuck forever in 1968, or rather the memories thereof, locked in time just as much as it is ice.

This leads us to a few anomalies—the strange cloaked man you cross several times aboard the ship and then during the final chapter, and the figure of Kronos. On these items, I am still uncertain. One suspicion is that the cloaked man is, in fact, the captain, or rather his wrathful emotions embodied, still wandering his ship and striking down those whom he crosses (a world formed be memory can also be populated by emotions given form). This would explain why he appears at the end, but at the same time, during the scenes with him, you don't take his frame of reference. Instead, you take your own. In other words, it is quite possible that this figure is, in fact, Alex (he does bear a similarity, especially to faceless corpses of Alex encountered in the first chapter. If I could read the Russian on his coat, that might offer a clue, but I am unable...). This is why, when you do a mental echo on him, you see into your own memories--memories of memories (also note that Alex's hand is different during the final area--there is no coat or glove. Oddly enough, though, if you look at yourself via mental echo, you're still in your coat and gloves...). Of course, this explanation seems odd due to the encounters while on the ship—why would you be haunting the ship and why would you kill yourself? It may be that there are two different figures, but the difference in Alex's hand may be key in figuring out who he is, and this also leads us to Kronos.

Edit: Upon reviewing the final chapter, I noticed something curious. Though it may appear at a glance to be the same faceless coat-wearing man in all three scenes, it seems reality is otherwise. I first noticed, when looking at the engineer's area, that the figure seemed odd. He was made of stone, or at least, looked like it. I then headed to the security officer's area, and this time, the figure was coated in blood. Finally, I headed for the first mate, and found the figure covered in black spots. Though I may be a bit off, it seems that these figures are in fact the embodiment of the respective crew members' fears. Each area opens with them saying something expressing their current state, and the figures sit opposite of them, except for the first mate's. The areas as a whole reflect their personalities, warped as they are by now. The security officer goes on about how he must strike first, lest they devour him. His area is a table which consists of an unhinged door supported by swords and guns, with chairs made likewise. The engineer murmurs a message of futility and surrender. His area is a bed supported by gears, books, and a globe, reflecting his call to simply lie down and surrender. The first mate expresses paranoia, saying that they must be tainted and deceived, and his area reflects his desperation to be in control (the chess table seems a bit off, though I'm no expert on the matter. The king is knocked over, but is not checkmated. Rather, the rook is in checkmate, which means it may have been a mistake of placement...). I would be curious if anyone could confirm if the appearances of these figures while exploring the ship bear similar resemblances to the ones here (stone, blood, and corruption/tar)./Edit

I at first thought Kronos might be the captain, but this didn't quite work out. Kronos is the antithesis of the captain. Whereas the captain is represented by red, the color of heat and blood, Kronos is represented by blue, the color of cold and ice, a distinction which is rather important in the game (notice, for example, that when you shoot enemies, they're wounded with red, while when you're hit, the screen flashes blue). Kronos is, then, one of two things, either an amalgam of the three (engineer, first mate, and security officer, relating to how Kronos struck down his father (the captain) and seized the throne, but out of fear, began to strike down his own children (the crew) who would usurp him as he had his father (they had taken out the captain, and in the end, it seemed the crew was poised to take them out were it not for the helicopter). Note that it is Kronos, the titan, not Khronos, god of time. They may have intentionally merged the two, though, due to the hourglass/stasis symbolism, as well as the fact that Khronos was said to have three heads, akin to the heads of these three), or the fearful and wrathful emotions found within the whole of the crew (they both seem to be possible as both can be related back to the story of Kronos, though the parallel is a bit stronger with the three, especially the first mate). Kronos stands in the void where heat and confidence once arose, and where now only fear and despair can be found. While the crew, or what's left of them, yearn for freedom, Kronos strikes them down, chaining them to their prison of fear. Thus, they must be freed and this fear which has seized the heart dispelled. And this brings us back to the previous bit.

The fight with Kronos is activated by using the mental echo on a red, glowing hydrogen atom. This atom is seen once before inhabiting the outline of the captain, and is linked with the heart/reactor due both to its color (that of blood) and its nature (Hydrogen, often associated with the nuclear process due to the Hydrogen bomb). What does this all mean? Basically, in that final fight, you are not Alexander, but rather the captain. Your goal is to dissipate the fear of your crew, embodied by Kronos, and finally give them peace. In the past, when the captain attempted to destroy this fear, he failed both in reality and in this battle, leading the ship to be encased thoroughly, inside and out, in ice (during the battle, the ship still seems to be in repair, as opposed to when you come across it). This parallels the story of Danko up to that point where Danko seems fated to perish at the hands of his people's fear. But, due to Alexander, the captain succeeds in quelling Kronos, the collective fears of his crew, and then needs only to reverse what happened in reality. Thus, he faces the three, locked in prisons of their own making just as with the rest of the crew, and along with them is Alex. Upon dispelling the fear both in reality as well as in memory, the captain is able to lead his crew at last to peace, mirroring the shift in Danko's story in the end.

Granted, it is these final parts with which I am uneasy. Feel free to offer any suggestions or corrections. If there were a transcript of the story, it'd be easier to draw parallels between it and the game as I always notice plenty when going through it (the sides of the ships having an icy leaf pattern in line with the forest, the poisonous vapors being akin to the radiation poisoning, the bog being analogous to the flooded--now frozen--ship, etc, etc). Perhaps when I have more time, I could just alt-tab through it, but for now, I'd rather see if there's any discussion to be had.

Xiaopang 08-07-2009 06:23 PM

this was a very fine read! you should also take the level names into account as they also seem to bear a symbolism that is important to the part of the ship you're just wandering in and the history that happened there

kantucki 10-08-2009 09:46 AM

Wow! As Xiaopang already said, what a fine read. And I do believe your analysis of this excellent story is very close to what the creators meant it to be or convey.

I think my biggest revelation from your post is the time line. I thought I had the story figured out but the time line blows my theory out of the water,NBI. Love this game btw. We need more of this.

RavenMaster 10-08-2009 11:35 AM

Thats a good analysis. Shame the game is unlpayable with physx turned on...

With physx off my 3 nvidia GTX260's run the game at 40-60fps all the way through. If i turn physx on, the game stutters so much that it feels like a slide show. Why they even bothered to give it physx recognition is beyond me (patch did nothing to help).

But yeah game has a great storyline. Danko's story and the Captain's story run back to back and are very similar in essence. They are both leaders and they are both turned against by their own people when $h** hits the fan.

rrohde 11-02-2009 08:49 PM

That was indeed a fine read. Thanks for this one!

Sneaksie 11-03-2009 07:26 AM

I would rather say that Alex didn't perish. By his actions throughout the game he alters events of the past all the time (saves people and in the Captain himself), setting the things the 'right' way. After all that, past is changed and North Wind did not died with all it's crew in 1968. It remains in service and it's crew saves Alex in 1981. There is a contradiction though - we've been told that North Wind was on it's last journey in 1968 and was going to be scrapped, but this could be changed too along with other events.

After all, both outcomes are possible - either Alex dies and is being saved only in his declining thoughts (or afterlife) or he truly alters the history and in new 1981 North Wind is still operational and saves him.

mjhhiv 11-17-2009 03:54 AM

I'd just like to add that the fact that Cryostasis' narrative can generate a somewhat intelligent discussion is something that not many video games can claim. I don't think I've ever played a first-person-shooter that has anywhere near the depth of Cryostasis, and it's a shame that more people aren't aware of this.

Sneaksie 11-17-2009 07:00 AM

If you like first-person games with strong plot, i would suggest playing Thief series of games, especially the first one. If you can cope with outdated graphics, it's story is the best out there IMO.

redscare 12-25-2009 10:51 PM

Interesting read, though I have a question. Where exactly have you read that the North Wind wrecked in 1968??

I've checked wikipedia (cos I know 1C games are usually as realistic as they can be), and the first Arktica class nuclear icebreaker was launched in 1975.

So I think the North Wind would have been launched much more later than 1968. But then again, in the game is stated that the ship is quite old so you may be right :confused:

Everything (specially the ending) would make more sense if everything took place in 1981.

Sneaksie 12-28-2009 06:13 AM

Maybe it was a Lenin class icebreaker (it was launched in 1959 and taken out of service only in 1989).

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