Stop reading reviews – just try the Demo!
I’m a bit of a card game addict, and this game looked interesting / unique enough to make it a day one purchase. There is a demo available, which gives it a massive +1 in my opinion since so few developers these days are willing to give you a chance to try the game. This is probably going to appeal to a fairly niche set of gamers, so it’s definitely worth checking out before you purchase. You get a good sense of gameplay and art style from the demo. But hey, if you still care what I think about it…
It has a very simplistic art style, UI and a very minimal soundtrack made up of odd winter noises, but a surprising amount of depth to gameplay and strategy. The aim is to get your group of survivors through the blizzard and into safety, with resource management dictated by a set of RNG cards from a pre-built deck. You manage food, wood and survivors to travel to each new area, whilst the frost follows quickly behind, putting a lot of pressure on you not to make a mistake each turn and to use your resources in the best way possible. You draw cards and with those cards you can manage random events, defeat obstacles/fights, complete “ideas” (special effect cards) and complete a region to move onward. You don’t get to customize your own deck; but different difficulties and scenarios give you different decks and abilities/challenges. There are three main difficulties (easy, medium, hard), an endless mode (survive as long as you can), and then specific scenarios, such as keep a target family alive.
There is a frustrating amount of RNG that really ups the difficulty level of the game. It is already quite a challenging game in my opinion; even at the easier difficulties, but sometimes it feels nigh on impossible and my eye twitched once or twice in rage even on the easiest setting. Grrrrrrr. Overall I felt like the difficulty threshold was set too high; the word “easy” on the first mode is really not true at all (unless I’m just being super-dumb) and some balance tweaks could be useful here. Even just increasing the frost timer would make the easy mode a little more forgiving in the start.
There’s no campaign to give you a sense of progression or story, but there are levels of difficulty that are unlocked, as well as specific challenge scenarios that unlock as you play. I do feel like there was a missed opportunity to throw a bit of writing in here and to add a campaign. The open-play with limited cards makes it feel a little lacking in content to me, unless you’re a fan of farming achievements and then there’d be a goal in mind. The game is low priced, so it still feels like there is a good sense of value to me for what it is, but I would have been happy to pay a bit more for a proper campaign and a storyline with a real sense of progression rather than getting brutalized in random encounters from the start.
The options are a little too limited for my taste. No windowed mode is a very big deal for me, especially in a slow paced card / strategy game where it’s really not that unexpected that people are going to want to alt tab and reply to messages or play in a smaller screen. The entire UI is extremely white – white background, white cards, even a white mouse cursor, which can sometimes be hard to see. Blanket white games when played for a long period can give me headaches and be pretty harsh on the eyes, and I can’t even make the game smaller to deal with that. There’s no resolution or graphics options – full screen as it is or nothing at all and the only thing you can change is the sound which I set to off, since I found the weird groans and clanks a little annoying. This, above all else will stop me playing the game for more than a brief period. That being said, a single game can take place in 5-10 minutes so perhaps on the whole it is more suited to quick bursts of play.
Still, despite the annoyance of fullscreen, despite the RNG and the constant failure as my group of survivors died over and over and over, I kept playing it. I enjoy the challenge, and it gave me a real feeling of achievement when I finally triumphed. My playstyle rapidly improved as I figured things out and learned the cards, and the way I was playing a few hours into the game was very different to the start, so expect to die a bit in the beginning as you work out the best strategies. Whilst there may not be a campaign, I definitely felt the warm tingle of personal progression. Ultimately, it definitely brings something new to the genre and that’s what I like to see.
It’d be tough to give this game a rating out of 10, as it definitely has a lot of areas that can be improved – but I’m happy to give it a thumbs up with a strong recommendation of playing the demo first to see if you enjoy the style. Hopefully some of the frustrations can be alleviated, such as a look at the balance of “Easy mode” and a windowed mode being added in the future.