Genre: Adventure, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows))
Developer|Publisher: Deadpan Games | Chucklefish
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $19.99 | UK £16.75 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: April 12th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Honest PR.
A Touch of Wildfrost
Wildfrost is a tactical roguelike deck-building card game. The world has succumbed to Ragnarok, sorry, I meant Wildfrost, thanks to the Sun freezing over. All that’s left is the survivors of the town of Snowdwell to stand against the evils of the eternal winter, reach the sun temple and warm things up again. Of course, the best way to do this is to battle with the evils of the world in card battles. The premise of the game is certainly cold and depressing, but you wouldn’t think that looking at this cute and cuddly art style.
The story is kept very short and to the point, with new lore unlocked as you gradually progress through the game. But if you’re just here for the card fights, then you have come to the right deck. Wildfrost is a highly addictive game, but there are some niggles with its difficulty and balancing that hold it back from being the best in the genre.
Pick a Card
When you begin a run, you get to pick a main lead card from three tribesmen, each of which has its own perks. A feature that instantly stood out is you can name this card and any other companion cards you come across on your travels. It’s a neat quirk you so rarely see in games these days. This starting card is the most important card in your deck. It is always played at the start of a battle, and if it is defeated, the run will end regardless of any other allies in your hand. So do your best to keep them alive.
When you head into a card battle, the overall goal is to defeat the boss card, but this doesn’t usually appear for a few turns. Much like your lead card, if you take this out, the battle is instantly over. You begin the game with a selection of cards to draw. Every character card played on the field has three key features, attack power, health and countdown timer. Once each card’s countdown reaches zero, the card will attack and trigger any other function clearly displayed on the card. The basic strategy is to keep an eye on the enemy’s countdown so you can be tactical about what cards to attack. You can also attempt to build up your own defences with additional companion and trap cards which the enemy may attack instead of you on a turn.
If your card is a dud, you can redraw cards, but if you’re patient and wait for the redrawn counter to reach zero, you can redraw more cards without incurring a penalty to the overall countdown for cards on the field. The game involved a lot of beard scratching and choosing which cards to play. I enjoyed messing around, but I found the game not to be very forgiving if you make a wrong move. More on difficulty later. Once the battle is over, you head to the main map, where you can pick between branching paths. You may gain new cards and new companions or have an opportunity to shop at the vendor. All of this is randomly generated per run, giving plenty of incentive to dive back in for another go in the cold.
Controls are easy to use. The game walks you through a useful opening tutorial to get you to grips with the basic game mechanics. Even if you forget some of the features, the game will occasionally remind you during gameplay, such as how to heal teammates. It’s pretty handy if you have a memory like a sieve, which I do these days, thanks to sleep deprivation.
In handheld mode, you can use touch controls which is where I found things to be a bit fiddly. Dragging and dropping cards is easy enough, but I had a lot of trouble inspecting cards or selecting charms from a menu and dragging them onto a card. It just didn’t seem to register my finger presses for these features. Fortunately, you can hybrid the controls by using the buttons which is ultimately how I enjoyed the game. With runs often ending well under ten minutes, for me, this is an ideal experience to whip out on handheld when taking a short break from the coldness of real life.
Difficulty feels a bit all over the place with Wildfrost. I had many runs where the odds clearly felt stacked against me, sometimes really early on in a run. The enemy cards were ridiculously overpowered, which can do absurd damage when you barely have time to put your team together. Even on runs where I rarely was on a roll and had one heck of a winning deck, I would hit a wall hard where the enemy deck would easily pull one over on me, thanks to the random elements of the game.
The difficulty is, of course, part of the course in a roguelike, but here it feels a bit more balancing is needed in order to make the experience welcoming, especially to those new to the genre. If you stick with the game, you will unlock more content, including cards, tribes and buddies. But to achieve this, you need to meet certain objectives, some of which are quite hard to obtain. It would have been fairer to the player to just allow them to unlock what content they wanted with some currency like a lot of games in this genre do.
As it stands, it can feel like quite a grind to unlock content to open the game up and make the experience more enjoyable. I often became very frustrated with the difficulty, but to the game’s credit, I still hit that ‘quick restart’ button and gave it another try. For a game to even drive me to this symbolizes it is doing something right.
Makes You Smile
Graphics are oozing positivity, welcoming absolutely anyone to the experience. The art style is cartoony and friendly. The game does feature blood spots when cards are injured, but this can be adjusted or even turned off if you want to make this totally suitable for the younglings. All the cards feel like they have this charming whimsical personality about them. Characters are only present in card form, but everything feels very much alive with energy.
Everyone is so happy for some reason despite the cold premise, and I was cool with that. This friendliness extends further to the game’s soundtrack, which is upbeat and jolly. Even when a run fails, the soundtrack just slows down as if someone turned down the vinyl record. Even in failure, the game attempts to make you smile.
Conclusion: Flawed But Super Addictive
This is another of those reviews where I think the game was good, but it didn’t click for me fully. The gameplay is horrendously addictive. Although I got mad so many times at the bad cards I was dealt, I still found myself jumping back in for another run. This was probably thanks to the quick game sessions, cheerful graphics and happy game presentation. I highly recommend downloading the free demo and giving it a go for yourself. I think Wildfrost has a good thing going here but could use a bit more balancing and tweaking to make it my new go-to roguelike deck-builder.
Final Verdict: I Like It
Great review for Wildfrost, was somewhat interested in purchasing this and this makes the decision alot easier.