There’s undoubtedly been a sharp rise in Viking-esque games over recent years, from the giant of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to the fan favourite Valheim. Now there is a new addition to this Norse sub-genre in the form of Frozenheim, which is self-described as “a serene Norse colony sim”. Your task in a nutshell is to build your settlement, defend it and carry out missions in the meantime, much like other strategy games. But how does it fare?

Firstly, Frozenheim offers various different play styles including the campaign that is built up of missions and several different stories that follow certain characters. There is also the custom scenarios option which offers survival, city building, and skirmish modes, and lastly, the multiplayer mode so you can get your friends involved. That being said, the gameplay overall leaves a mixed taste. On the most fundamental level, the controls are intuitive and quick to get a hang of, making it easy to get stuck in from the get-go. Frozenheim is also something you can in theory play at your own pace, which is only enhanced by the atmosphere created in-game. The developers tried to create a sense of realism through the changing seasons which are beautifully animated and designed but are also functional. That is because some of your resources such as the farmhouse will become defunct over the winter months, meaning you have to be tactical with your resource usage throughout the warmer seasons.

Luckily, Frozenheim to an extent delivers on not making the gameplay feel like a drag by offering options such as changing the gameplay speed, which is particularly useful when you are trying to build up your resources. Likewise, you can queue things up such as developing warrior skills and training the soldiers, so you don’t have to constantly keep triggering the action and can focus on exploration and other aspects of the game. Frozenheim adds some personality to your clan by allowing you to choose their clan type at the Elder’s Hall such as whether they are mystical, defensive, resourceful, or aggressive, which injects at least some character into your settlement as well as the mission style.

Frozenheim Settlement
Frozenheim lets you have free reign building your new home

A huge but unexpected plus is that there is a photo mode with a surprising number of features including effects, filters and camera functions, which leaves you with crisp and detailed images – a big win if you love game photography! That being said, it is not all smiles and rainbows as the photo mode strangely doesn’t allow you to move forwards or back as this zooms the camera in or out. This means if you wanted to move forward to capture the perfect shot, you have to rotate the camera around which felt out of place given the vast number of creative options available in the mode.

At first, the gameplay screen layout can feel quite overwhelming but the tutorial is at least useful in helping players come to grips with where everything is. Another con to Frozenheim‘s gameplay is that although you can play at your own pace, it does feel very slow and at times frustrating as you are constantly having to rebuild your settlement with each mission. Luckily some later levels in the campaigns remedy this by offering some building elements already in place, but regardless, the gameplay can still feel quite repetitive at times. The missions are also not always the best at making it clear what you’re supposed to do, especially if you haven’t played for a couple of days you can spend ages trying to remember where you’re meant to go or how you can progress.

Onto visuals, and Frozenheim undoubtedly delivers. The graphics and animations are incredible, especially given that it’s an indie game developed by a small team at Paranoid Interactive. The cutscenes are animated pristinely, with the opening cutscene, in particular, being stunning and letting the player know they’re in for an experience that is driven by passionate creators. Likewise, the loading screens are also well-designed with a good balance between text and beautiful imagery. Within the gameplay, the visuals are enhanced by pleasant atmospheric music as well as a soundtrack that subtly ramps up when you are in peril or faced with an ambush or assault. Also within the gameplay, you will find that the animation is incredibly crisp for its indie status, notably the flames if your buildings are on fire. Although touched on within the gameplay section, praise must be given to the aesthetics of the changing time of day and the seasons as these reflect beautifully within the look and feel of your settlement as well as the overarching gameplay. Frozenheim‘s visuals are in my opinion, its strongest part, with the only minor criticism being that some subtitles are delayed with the narration.

Frozenheim Fire
Frozenheim’s effects and animations are impressive

Next, is Frozenheim’s story, which in all honesty isn’t something I ever felt invested in as you only really get to see the majority of the characters from each campaign in the cutscenes. Something odd about Frozenheim is that it dives headfirst into the Viking and Norse look and feel, yet the narrator of these cutscenes has a strong American accent which felt very out of place with the rest of the theme. Naturally, as mentioned in the gameplay section, Frozenheim requires you to rebuild your settlement from scratch with every mission although some later missions have some buildings already in place. The repetition combined with the somewhat lacklustre story, unfortunately, makes the game not that replayable unless you were going to try out different custom scenarios or play the multiplayer mode.

Onto some more specific gameplay points, the first being that the combat is pretty much what you’d expect from a strategy game; it’s not massively detailed. However, the selection of abilities for different warriors adds a good touch to fleshing out tactics, but on the flip side, the archers are by far the strongest soldier unit and at times, make the other warriors feel kind of redundant as the archers can deal heavy damage and be far away from oncoming attackers. That being said, a cool characteristic that comes with the Seidkona units is the animal taming ability which can prove to be a unique and helpful asset when in combat. As for building the settlement, watchtowers and windmills will become your best friend. This is especially the case in later missions as they can both prevent a tedious waiting game with the windmills raking in more food and the watchtowers simultaneously preventing your townsfolk and soldiers from being slaughtered by the never-ending enemies. Some missions do seem to dump ridiculous volumes of invading enemies on you, sometimes you will just finish training up your soldiers only to be invaded and have them all killed off, to then repeat the cycle. It can seem frustrating especially when you’re trying to progress with the mission at hand, therefore feeding into the slow pacing mentioned earlier.

It is worth noting that during my playthrough, there was an early update that fixed several issues players reported experiencing, so it is at least good to see that the team behind Frozenheim are committed and working hard to ensure that we have an enjoyable gaming experience.

Frozneheim Ship
Frozenheim sets you out on various missions alongside building your settlement

Frozenheim is probably best described as a strategy title that is fun in a pinch, but not something you’ll become obsessed with simply due to the slow pacing and its repetitive feel at times. That being said, the visuals, photo mode, atmosphere, and unique warrior traits are certainly enough to keep you interested.

Holly reviewed Frozenheim on PC with a review key.

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