Frozen Flame Goes for the Survival Crown
Does this new early-access upstart have the chops to gain Valheim-like success?
It can take a lot of work - and luck - to crack the third-person multiplayer survival game market. Some games become a phenomena unto themselves (a good example is indie darling Valheim, which demonstrated the potential for success in this competitive genre).
Frozen Flame, developed by Dreamside Interactive, is the latest title vying for survival supremacy. Serge Korolev, Dreamside's founder, expressed his intention to create a different type of survival game.
Nevertheless, the question remains: does Frozen Flame have the potential to take off in the coming months?
Set in Arcana, a dying world "once governed by the Dragons", Frozen Flame sees players taking up the mantle of explorers who are tasked with stopping an evil force known as "the Faceless", a force intent on destroying the world. As you might expect, Frozen Flame is an open world experience comprised of several interactive hubs that players can jump between via portals. It boasts an impressive art design and an authentic atmosphere, promising an immersive experience.
When you jump into the game for the first time, you're greeted with a brief tutorial and character selection screen before you're ready to explore the world. At first blush, both the art design and controls are somewhat reminiscent of Breath of the Wild, but you'll soon discover many more nuances and details present here. For example, as you chop down trees, you'll notice each stroke making a distinct mark, and you'll see just how close you are to making it fall. Like many survival games of this kind, you can decide whether to craft weapons or obtain them through treasure chests spread throughout the world.
While there isn't much spoken dialogue, the lore is interesting to study. You'll pick up lore tidbits by speaking to NPCs in the world, or by reading knowledge tablets scattered around the place.
Fluid, responsive gameplay
If you enjoy action RPG style games like Genshin Impact or Breath of the Wild, Frozen Flame will make you feel right at home. The core mechanics are fairly simple to get to grips with, and we'd tend to divide the gameplay into three distinct components:
The crafting system allows you to convert almost any resource found in the world into valuable items. You can make anything: from wooden pickaxes to healing potions, without spending any in-game currency. Still, it's possible to purchase items directly from vendors if you don't want to bother with crafting.
One detail that's notable about the system here is that it's realistic within the confines of the game world. So, you'll find resources where you'd expect them to be. Water lilies don't grow on frozen mountainsides, for example. It's helpful too that traversal is straightforward: you can run, swim, teleport, or even turn into an eagle to cover long distances. This should hopefully mean that resource gathering isn't a chore for most players.
In Frozen Flame, there's no regenerative health and you must manage your stamina. You consume stamina for almost any action; this should be a familiar concept for players who have already experienced the numerous third-person survival games out there (including titles like Valheim). In addition to reliance on stamina, combat prioritises dodging rather than blocking, which imbues encounters with a slightly faster pace. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of enemies on offer too, so the combat doesn't get stale.
Frozen Flame grants a large degree of freedom when it comes to developing your character. You can build a mage-like sorcerer and never pick up a sword beyond the initial tutorial. You might prefer a more tank-like melee character, or a long-range archer; these options are all available to you.
There are some downsides, however...
Although Frozen Flame ticks many boxes, we found that the core plot and co-op system are definite downsides.
Frozen Flame doesn't really offer up a fundamentally new premise. A fantasy land filled with dragons - where you play as the 'chosen one' who is supposed to stop the apocalypse - isn't a novel idea. Other action RPGs arguably presented these tropes in more compelling ways (The Witcher 3 is a good example).
And while there is some interesting lore to study here, the overall content in the game - such as it is right now - is relatively thin on the ground. Many players will find that they have experienced most of the world and story relatively quickly. If you're looking for a massive experience you can sink your teeth into without lots of repetition, then you may find this aspect difficult to swallow.
This game has received criticism because you can't really play co-op effectively unless you rent servers from GPortal. These servers allow up to 10 players to experience the game simultaneously on the same server, but it'll cost you. And while GPortal isn't the only server provider available here, the lack of free public servers is likely going to be a blocker for some gamers.
Is Frozen Flame worth your time?
At the time of publishing, Frozen Flame is available for around $29.99 on Steam (the price will, of course, differ depending on your location). Bear in mind that if the price seems too steep in your region, it's you can get a VPN for Windows that allows you to change your virtual location, which in turn enables you to access some games at lower prices. A VPN will also be of benefit if you're travelling overseas and want to connect to your home country to access the prices you're used to.
The developers claim that Frozen Flame currently has around 20 hours or so of gameplay, with more to be added via a free update due in February. Some players absolutely swear by the game, but remember that this is an early access game - so you're going to be playing something that the developers are continually tweaking and adding to. Of course, you'll need to try it yourself to see if it's up your alley. Don't forget that you can always request a refund via Steam if you're not enjoying the experience.
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