Frozenheim on PC
The real-time strategy genre has undoubtedly seen more lows than highs recently, with the once-dominant genre on PC now more of a quirk, relegated to a select group of players that continue to keep it alive. As one of those dwindling numbers, the premise of Paranoid Interactive and Hyperstrange’s Frozenheim was intriguing. Here was a Norse city-builder that boasted real-time strategy elements, where combat and settlement management came together to test your mettle both as a ruler and warrior; what’s not to like? Unfortunately, just like the cold winters faced by your virtual clan, Frozenheim is not exactly a comforting game.
The game can largely be broken down into the single-player portion and a more competitive multiplayer part. Although 21 story missions might sound like plenty of content for a campaign, the short nature of these missions and the actual gameplay itself, positioned more as educational romps, leave much to be desired.
Repeat that over the course of the campaign, and it can be hard to see how Frozenheim can redeem itself based on how it’s positioned as a title. There is an obvious lack of storytelling or world-building, but outside of the lackluster combat and the disappointing campaign, Frozenheim is definitely much better on the city-building side of things.
Taking control of the four clans as part of their own saga, the game will start off relatively simple, tasking players with making sure food and construction materials are taken care of. More complicated mechanics like weather effects and enemy raiders then get added in for more layers for players to think about. Buildings need certain resources before they can be constructed, with more workers allowing for more efficient operations.
Will you be funnelling everything into creating an economic powerhouse, or will the comfort of your people take precedence as upgrades become a concern? Those are just questions that a leader will have to face. As things get more complicated with more resources, decision-making becomes more vital, considering that a long, harsh winter is going to need more than just a warm fire for people to get by. Expansion can be good, but overextending means certain death if players are unprepared.
How an economy is balanced is always important, especially for a city-builder, but when there are no obvious stakes involved when it comes to narrative or world-building, and combat is usually just a small group of soldiers bumping into each other in a war of attrition, it is hardly epic.
Even with neutral camps and points of interest scattered around each map, this is not a game that requires sprawling armies or flanking maneuvers that make for spectacular viewing. Instead, it is often a numbers game when it comes to war, so making sure a robust economy exists is usually a precursor to victory. It doesn’t help that units’ pathfinding is often annoyingly wonky, making micromanagement another issue to add to your plate as valleys, mountains, lakes, and more become common sights.
Naturally, once you get the hang of most things in Frozenheim, the recommendation is to get out of the campaign and start diving into either the custom scenarios or multiplayer matches online. Crafting a flourishing Viking village makes for excellent self-made fun, and you can even turn off combat entirely for the former, while the latter brings more tension than what the campaign manages to muster.
In terms of visuals, the game does look good with sharp textures, with villagers going about their business with a variety of animations. The switch between the cold and warm months also adds to the visual flair, especially as snow builds up, which makes up for the fact that you won’t see a lot of environmental variety in the different maps found in Frozenheim. A map editor would have alleviated this issue somewhat, but that is not part of the package.
As the sounds and music of the Viking people play in the background, it becomes clear that Frozenheim would have benefited more by just being a city builder and making full use of its source material and inspirations. Rather than delivering an undercooked campaign mode and real-time combat, allowing players to experience life as the Norse fully would have gone a long way; alas, it was not to be, and it might be best to leave this game out in the cold if real-time strategy is what you are seeking.
- City building has potential.
- Weather effects are nice twists.
- Lackluster campaign and story.
- Combat is subpar with bad pathfinding.
- Environments are not varied enough.
- No map editor.
June 16, 2022
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