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Frost Review – A Blizzard is Coming

There have been a few games released in the past year that force you to try and survive in a frosty wilderness. From developer Stage Clear Studios, Frost has an interesting take on the survival genre with an intriguing deck building premise and compelling reasons for making you want to come back for more.

Frost is a deck building survival title where your goal is to try and survive for a certain number of turns in order to make it to a base. All on the way, people will end up dying and you’re going to need to scavenge some food and supplies in order to barely make it to your destination with as many survivors as you can keep alive. The difficulty is ramped up considerable from the get-go and has a steep learning curve that even the tutorial could not explain all the nuances of the card based system.

What I found with Frost is that it doesn’t give you much motivation to keep on trying to improve your skills, as many of the scenarios are lucked based depending on the cards drawn for you. You’re just going to have to set your mind to trying to best the harsh winning conditions that only a small handful of gamers who dedicate themselves to see what Frost has to offer. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun and there isn’t a lot here if you can stomach the difficulty, but trying to progress is somewhat slow.

There is no campaign or story mode to speak of, only trying to survive in whatever scenario is given to you. However, the progression system does consist of discovering new types of card along the way to make your next attempt different, or possibly even easier. You are given ten cards at the start of a game and these can be made up of basic resources such as food, wood, and survivors. There are also two idea cards, such as weapons and fire that can be useful if used correctly, and finally two fatigue cards that you should try and get rid of immediately.

The gameplay is simple, but there is a lot going on with the different cards you can use. Managing every single card and using them  correctly is going to be the key to survival for the duration of the journey. Having to deal with wolves by crafting spears from the cards you’re given, or deciding if you’re even going to make the weapon in the first place just to save resources to get moving to the next step are critical decisions you’ll have to make.

You advance further by reaching the criteria on the region card, which is situated in the middle of the playing area. To move on, you will have to submit a certain amount of your basic material cards in order to do this. By fulfilling the objectives you will be able to move forward and if not you must end your turn and the cards will be re-dealt. The goal is to stay away from the ever encroaching blizzard on your tail and if you have to skip too many turns it’s game over by freezing in the wild.

You have a certain number of health points for your character, as well as the people that you’re trying to get to the encampment. During a play through, you may have to decide to sacrifice one of them or take damage yourself depending on a situation. If you run out of resources, whether it be the people, food, or your own health, you will get a game over and have to start over from the beginning.

Controlling the cards and maneuvering through the menus feel nice and simple. You select the cards using the A button and move them with the left stick or left d-pad. Pressing Y on an idea card shows you more information up close the the shoulder buttons are used to travel or to end your turn. There is also an option to rest by pressing the ZL button, which will clear any fatigue cards in your hand at the expense of the blizzard counter ticking down at the top of the screen. Touch controls can be used, but I wish there was a way to drag multiple cards to a destination instead of one at a time.

Frost has a unique art style that is reminiscent of a sketch style of art work and the colors are exceptionally bright from the snow effects, although there is a night mode which obviously makes everything look darker and gloomier. The crude lines are a harsh metaphor for the harsh environments that Frost depicts. Snow blows nonchalantly across the screen as you play and each card has its own symbol to represent it. There is definitely a less-is-more approach to the graphics and, in all honesty, it’s a good decision.

In a similar way to the graphics, the sound is also very minimalistic. The music ends up being very unobtrusive as I barely even noticed it was playing for a good portion of my play through. It goes from the wind howling, to a fairly haunting score, and then using ambient sounds to make the environment appear desolate. The effectiveness of the music and sound effects does range, with the ambient sounds not really suiting the proceedings and just drown out what is otherwise a solids musical score.

Overall, Frost is a unique and clever deck building title that is based around survival and it’s definitely worth checking out for the premise alone. It can be equally compelling as frustrating and there is certainly a learning curve which may make some players shy away. For those that have the perseverance though, will find themselves becoming more strategic in their use of cards and being rewarded with further progress into the experience. It may not be for everyone, but there is a certain unique quality to the title that keeps me coming back for more.

Nuke the Fridge Score: 7.5/10