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Frostrune is a captivating point-and-click adventure developed by Norwegian developers, Grimnir Media, set in a world heavily inspired by Norse and Viking mythology.
I honestly can’t recall the last time I encountered a game so gorgeous it took my breath away. From the ethereal beauty of its music and hand painted artwork to the hypnotic charm of its narrative, Frostrune is an experience that will linger in my mental recesses for quite some time to come.
It is the summer of 965. You take on the role of a thirteen year old girl (who remains nameless for most of the game) whose ship has wrecked just off the coast of an abandoned village, its religious landmarks covered in a mysterious frost.
Everywhere there are signs of recent life: a boiling pot hanging over smouldering coals; a half-built boat resting on the shore, a freshly slaughtered whale carcass rotting on the beach… but there is not a single person to be found.
That is until you make your way into the temple and discover the spirit of the village seer, her lifeless body spread across the floor. After realising that you can see her, the seer informs you that you have a gift that allows you to “see through the mist”. You are the only one that can help her now and she pleads you to help save her village from “Jotun’s wrath”.
I honestly can’t recall the last time I encountered a game so gorgeous it took my breath away
Frostrune’s world is rich with substance and tells its story through a masterful blend of dialogue, music and environment. For a game that takes just over two hours to complete (depending on your puzzle-solving skills), it has the impact and depth of a 40 hour saga.
According to the developers, their game is “based on historically accurate Norse culture and environments” with “objects faithfully recreated from archaeological sources”.
Beyond the overarching narrative, the story is filled with little details that bring this fictional world alive. Click on a red piece of cloth and our nameless heroine comments: “It’s dyed with madder root. My mum’s very good at that”. An insignificant detail in the greater scheme but the experience is all the more potent for it.
Frostrune has a very familiar and simple point-and-click formula, providing us with a range of clickable static scenes and a very basic inventory system. You will barely ever carry more than three objects in your six-slot inventory and will never need to combine any of these items.
Later in the game, you will discover a magical staff that allows you to go in and out of the spirit world at will, which adds a very interesting layer to both the gameplay and narrative. In this world, you will be able to see and interact with spirits and objects not visible in the earthly world. This ability also essentially doubles the area of the game as each scene will have its spirit world twin.
The static scenes are very carefully positioned and shifting from one frame to the next feels like a seamless stroll through the village. This can also be attributed partly to the simple but effective control scheme. Left click moves you forward in the world and right click lets you reverse, making it easy to quickly navigate between scenes.
Overall, the puzzles aren’t the most complex I’ve encountered but certainly some of the most interesting. One of my favourites includes rearranging a series of singing voices in a specific sequence. Each voice was as angelic as the next and in chorus, no matter the variation, I was struck by the beauty of the sound. So much so, that I might have intentionally not solved the puzzle right away.
There were a few puzzles though that admittedly had me stumped. As with most adventure games of this type, a lot of the clues were hidden in the riddle-like dialogue and enigmatically written Old Norse poems.
If that isn’t enough though, Frostrune fortunately provides you with an extensive hint section in the pause menu to help get the brain juices flowing while still keeping it vague enough so that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a step-by-step walkthrough.
Release Date: 2 February 2017
Developer: Grimnir Media
Publisher: Snow Cannon Games
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Platform(s): PC, iOS, Android
Review platform: PC
Price: R109 (Steam)
Verdict: Frostrune was a memorable experience filled with wonder and enchanting beauty. Its narrative runs deep and holds faithful to the Old Norse Viking legends, clearly conveying the passion and understanding the developers have for and of its subject matter. Its slow-paced adventure offers a break from the energy consuming action titles rife in the industry today. Its careful blend of casual and challenging puzzles ensures it’s an experience both meditative and captivating. For its more than tolerable price and less than demanding play time, there is no reason for you not enter this mesmerising Viking adventure.