Wednesday, 27 July 2016 00:00

Frozen State Early Access Review

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Post-Apocalyptic Survival. I'm coming at this from DayZ and Don't Starve. Bring it on.

Oooh, good spooky intro music (crucial for mood-setting). There are a few different characters, but their stats don't mean much to me before playing the game--I choose the retired military fella (Ingvar!) because that seems like a good person to be after the collapse of society (plus he's called Ingvar!).

Ehhh, the intro story is a little heavy on the "we thought we could but never considered whether we should" idea and is also riddled with typos. And suddenly the story music is upbeat and happy? What happened? I thought I was in the Russian zombie apocalypse!

OK, it looks like I've got me a knock-off Pip-Boy which tells me how to do the basic tasks; so it's like having a tutorial on your arm, which is great! Some sort of boot camp-style intro might do wonders for this game, though, because I've got little to no idea what I'm doing.

The controls are mostly fine, though the camera-turning is a bit awkward. Good environment details but when it gets dark, whoo boy it gets dark. It seems like, during the day, I cast a sort of light in my field of view which illuminates things but at night? Forget it. I've got a flashlight, but that beam is thin. I've built a torch, but it gives off as much light as a birthday candle. Either I'm missing some crucial piece of equipment, or I'm supposed to be blind during the dusk-night-early dawn hours (Russian winter, so that's a fair few hours of the day).

The inventory is well-managed and grouped by item type, AND YOU CAN SORT BY WHEN YOU RECEIVED THE ITEM HELL YEAH! Oh man, I've wanted that in so many games, and this is the first I've seen it. Big thumbs up there!

It's very quiet, which I suppose is accurate.

In my apocalypse games, I like a good deal of realism, so this is fine. Then again, one of the main ingredients required to craft a crossbow is a condom, so maybe it's a certain sort of realism.

Ah yes, the crafting. I'm never quite sure what I can mix together without going into the craft/build menus and it seems like half the stuff I'm holding isn't useful for anything. But with time, I think I could use this system. Same with cooking --I feel like I've got what I need to cook a meal or improve some food (dirty water plus pot plus fire doesn't equal clean water? why not?), but I don't seem to end up with anything, and my health continues to suffer for it.

Oh right, health! My health is constantly dropping. That's disconcerting! Am I unwell? Is there an end-of-the-world sickness in the air that I missed during the intro? All of my meters (and there are so many meters: health, hunger, temperature, burns, poison, rest, sleep, I'm certain I'm missing some) are near full and still my health keeps dropping. Why? I feel like I'm being punished for playing!

Now, I know that some of you are reading this and thinking "Yes! Finally, a game that challenges me to the hardships realistic to this kind of environment!" and you're not wrong; it's challenging and you will work for every minute of survival. My problem is that it doesn't reward success. I kill a monster, using loads of ammo in the process (aiming is super easy as far as I can tell, thank God, or I'd be toast), and his body has nothing. Bummer. I kill a human who was shooting back, and I don't even get the gun off of him. The hell? I find a human who doesn't want to kill me and all he has to say is "Hey man, watch out, saw someone doing some evil shenanigans round these parts" (not a direct quote). Come on, man! You've got a gun, I've got a gun, we're not killing each other, WHY ARE WE NOT TEAMING UP?! It's fine. It's hard. It's survival.

I died many times. Luckily the game saves during every map transition. I'm awful at this game.


The Verdict

Frozen State is well-made but has a steep learning curve, and you will probably keep dying while learning. Maybe as the game picks up speed, you get better at surviving, but the start game certainly feels like a chore. If you like challenging survival games that treat your successes with an air of "yeah you were supposed to do that now get moving before I kill you," check it out.

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Joe Pilato

Joe Pilato works as an engineer and pub quiz host while developing his skills as a standup comic and storyteller. You may occasionally find him wandering the streets of NYC looking for adventure or possibly running into the woods to hide from civilization for days at a time.