Frozen Hearth

I was sitting in bed when my boyfriend noticed the DVD sitting on my desk. “What's that?” he quizzed.

“I’m not too sure” I replied. “But I think it might be that curious new title from Sydney that sent me to review”.

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I was right. Hidden inside the bubble wrapped package was a copy of Frozen Hearth, the latest little title from Epiphany Games, an independent developer from across the ditch.

“Well go on, give it a go” he said. I obliged, and after spending a good 20 minutes updating, registering, and optimising, I had Frozen Hearth all ready to go.

“So, what do you do?” I was quizzed again.

“I think its a real time strategy title” I said, “But the game’s style doesn’t really jump out at you — I mean there are some pretty obvious giveaways here, resource points, hero units, base camps — but there’s something missing. it doesn’t really feel like any of the modern RTS games I’ve spun through recently”.

He slumped back down under the covers and reached for his phone. “Well get on with it then, I’m sure there is something in there that will be worth the time”.

“I hope so, with indie titles you never know” I said.

I sat down and peered at the title’s menu screens. Everything looked in order, but the interface also looked a little dated.

“It looks like Age of Empires” came the critic from the covers.

I nodded. “Yes, it does. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing, Age of Empires is 15 years old. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love that game to bits, but I hope Frozen Hearth doesn’t play like it's 15 years old as well.”

I jumped right into the Campaign, noting with interest the co-op mode. After navigating the menus up popped several screens asking me to select what kind of hero I wanted.

“Who are those guys?” came the interrogator in the bed.

“One of these will be my hero unit” I said. “They lead my troops into battle and I can upgrade their spells and buffs as they level up”.

“What makes them special?”

“Well..I guess one is a tank, one is a healer, and one is an all-rounder.”

“Oh, well that doesn’t seem all that novel, we’ve been seeing that for years in the RTS genre — is there anything else?”

“Not really” I replied. “Everything looks pretty stock standard. I’m not even sure which one has the best story, or even if they have one, because we haven’t been introduced to the game’s narrative yet.”

“I do know that we could play co-op campaign though. Keen?”

He looked at me sideways, furrowed his brow and went back to playing Osmos on his Galaxy Note.

I looked back to Frozen Hearth. I’d made my way through part of the Campaign and by now the story had been fleshed out in more depth. I was leading the heroic Danaan tribe in the fantasy world of Amorra. After crushing my neighbouring village, Amorra was overrun by strange ice-beasts called the Shangur. After that the game appeared to descend into a Darwinian battle for survival.

I relayed this back to my audience of one.

“I’m not really buying it.” came the voice from the covers. “Surely in a magical fantasy land there’d be some awesome way of blasting those ice things away”. “Where’s a badass like Gandalf when you need him”.

“You’re confusing your mediums” I chided. “But you’ve got a point. This game really isn't grabbing me by the balls and I can’t see it reaching down there anytime soon. To be frank, I’m only an hour or so in and I’m getting bored.”

Unfortunately, this disquiet entrenched the more I played the game. At the macro level the familiar Dawn of War-esque style of resource gathering did not evolve into anything more substantial, and the only improvement was the overall complexity of the campaign (both in story and in gameplay). But this too came with a caveat, it was only achieved by increasing the difficulty of the game’s missions, and at the micro level by increasing the range of units and armies that you needed to focus your attention on.

“Maybe the combat’s worth it?” the bed suggested helpfully.

“Sadly, I think not” I said. “The skirmishes are rote and if there is any actual strategy needed its not obvious. I’ve just been sending units at the enemy time and time again. All I need to do is capture resource points, there is no macro economy to speak of. Add to that an odd mix of RPG upgrades that take some time to get used to and you have a very strange experience. I mean, there is the glimmer of a good idea here, but it just don't think it has been developed enough.”

“Uh huh” he said.

I rolled my eyes and peered at Frozen Hearth’s graphics. Up close they were blocky and unpolished. Harsh colours hit against each other, units were animated in a sloppy way, and the draw distance on maps was short and distracting.

“Are those units that you’re fighting? Tell me what’s going on.” came the disgruntled voice from bed.

“What’s happening — I can't see anything.”

I looked back at Frozen Hearth, and cast my mind back over the experience I’d laboured through.

“Neither can I,” I said.

Frozen Hearth
"Uninspiring, unpolished, and unnecessary"
- Frozen Hearth
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments Comments (3)

Posted by grieving
On Thursday 17 Jan 2013 12:02 AM
Interesting way to review..
Posted by Insanctity
On Thursday 17 Jan 2013 12:14 PM
Strange format review, almost a story telling approach. But hey I actually read through most of it without skimming through bits. So it worked on me hahaha. In regards to the game, it really does look like it would of been succesful 10 years ago...
Posted by emetic
On Thursday 24 Jan 2013 12:40 PM
Epiphany is one of my favourite words.