Frozen Flame

Update: Developer Dreamside Interactive released a hotfix just a day after launch that reduces item wear. You can read more about the hotfix here. Otherwise, the original article is below in its entirety.

I’ve been exploring the world of Frozen Flame for the past few days, thanks to an early review code provided by Ravenage, one of the game’s publishers. While this definitely has its merits — I’ll get to those in just a second here — I can’t help but feel like I’m swimming upstream with this one.

But let’s talk about the good first. Frozen Flame is a hybrid between an action-RPG and a survival/building game. You can pick up quests from various NPCs across the fantasy world, and those quests will oftentimes bring you into contact with elite bosses who you must vanquish. On the other hand, if you just want to build yourself a cozy little house and chill, you can do that too.

And the building element works, for the most part. While I haven’t yet attempted any kind of crazy mansion or tower or anything, the building I’ve done felt pretty intuitive, even while using an Xbox controller. Floors and walls have a “snap” system that reminds me a little bit of No Man’s Sky‘s base building. If you place a wall close to a floor tile, it will snap into place, exactly how it should.

What’s most striking to me about this game is the visual style. This has a kind-of-cartoony high fantasy look to it, with some really well-designed monsters. Seriously, the monster design in this game is just incredible.

Frozen Flame - Chameleon

Unfortunately, the game feels almost antagonistic toward players. This is a game that punishes you for doing absolutely anything, and rewards you for very little of your accomplishments. I think that statement pretty much boils down everything that’s currently wrong with Frozen Flame.

In fact, the release-day patch wiped my save file, which means I now have to start over from scratch. FML.

But even for people who haven’t been playing a prerelease build of the game, the problems compile really quickly. One of the biggest issues is that absolutely everything in the game deteriorates. You know how weapon durability was one of the biggest complaints people had about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Well, take that issue and apply it to everything else.

Your armor? That deteriorates at a stupid rate, especially when enemies deal fire damage. I kid you not, there are non-boss enemies that can take you from fully armored to completely naked in just two or three hits. And that’s after applying a buff that’s supposed to reduce item degradation.

Frozen Flame - Death

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the one resource that you can use to repair your worn-out clothing — or craft a new set from — only drops from one specific enemy type, and it’s not even a guaranteed drop. So you’ll kill 15 to 20 of these guys to collect the eight pieces of Fabric you need to repair your pants, and in that time you’ll take enough damage that your shirt now needs mending. Rinse, repeat.

How about your bonfire, which you need for cooking? That will eventually degrade until it falls apart. Your workbench, which you use for crafting, will eventually wear out and collapse.

Even the wooden crates that hold all your items are vulnerable to degradation. I once came back from a particularly lucrative adventure, only to find all of the stuff that had been stored in my crates lying on the ground. Because my bags were too full, I couldn’t even pick up the stuff to start cleaning it up. And because I didn’t have the required materials to build a new crate, I had to actually drop a bunch of my items all over the ground so I could figure out where those logs were, so I could then build another chest, which I couldn’t even place on the ground because there were too many discarded items on the platform I had originally built my crates upon.

Frozen Flame - Wooden Crate

I hope my point is clear by now: This item degradation is an absolute nightmare, which makes all of your progress in the game feel like three steps forward, two steps back. You can’t progress anything without regressing something else.

To add insult to injury, there’s also encumbrance, which means your character starts walking painfully slow once their bags are too full. Plus, they can’t access fast travel, and they’ll even be blocked from completing certain quest objectives — you won’t be able to go through a portal, for example, until you’ve unloaded all your stuff into a chest that may or may not be waiting for you when you get back.

I’m of the mindset that video games need to do away with encumbrance completely. It’s a stupid game mechanic that can completely suck the fun out of anything it touches. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Skyrim. Seriously, encumbrance is dumb, and I could rant about this for hours, but I won’t do that now because I want to keep talking about Frozen Flame instead.

The good news, though, is that Frozen Flame is in Early Access, so this isn’t even the official 1.0 version of the game. There’s still plenty of time for developer Dreamside Interactive to rethink some of these game systems. At the very least, I feel like your chests and workbenches shouldn’t have durability at all, and that wear and tear on gear needs to be turned down substantially.

Frozen Flame - Hornhead

And please, please, please, Dreamside, get rid of encumbrance. Frozen Flame doesn’t need it. Hell, Skyrim and Fallout never needed it either.

So yeah, if Dreamside can clean up some of this stuff, I think they’re onto something. I can see myself spending a good amount of time with this one — especially with the ambitious amount of content that’s planned for the next couple months.

In the meantime, I’ll have to grit my teeth and keep pushing through. There’s fun to have here, and I’m determined to have some of it, but it does feel like I’m doing it despite the game’s systems rather than because of them.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Frozen Flame on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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