So… I accidently lost my weekend to Frozen Flame.
As it was just before Halloween, I had plenty on my to-do list. However, the trick-or-treaters will have to make do with fewer decoration this year, as I I got sucked in to one irresistible game loop. To my detriment, the title didn’t make a strong first impression on me. It had a demo in the Steam Next Fest which I managed to miss with all the other games fighting for my attention. Luckily, the open beta gave me a second chance to explore the fantastical world.
Frozen Flame is still early in development, with a planned Early Access release later this year. But with a foundation this good, I’m eagerly awaiting the final product. The key ingredients to the game’s hold over me is three-fold. First it takes multiplayer, crafting, and exploration elements from Valheim. Then it hits me with a cooking mechanic so similar to Breath of the Wild — with different ingredients providing boosts to stamina, health, elemental protection, and more — that I’m still waiting to see dubious food when I mess it up. And the final blow comes from its Souls-like leveling mechanics and NPCs.
Though the majority of the open beta takes place is the garden-like Cradle of Keepers, I start off in the very Soulsian-named Asylum of Faceless. And I’m a skeleton. It’s a brief window into the wider narrative, with an introduction to combat basics. Then a mysterious red haired figure ushers me into a portal where I claim my corporeal form. This area is dark and shrouded in fog, but the aesthetic is more reminiscent of Sea of Thieves than From Software’s dark fantasy title, which lends the game a less weighty tone.
Stepping into the beta’s main world, I’m confronted with several things at once. The abundance of resources like stone, flint, branches, and so on means crafting is going to be a big deal. A giant statue and windmill loom in the distance, giving me landmarks on the horizon to trek out to. And there’s a big AF dude with horns just beyond the clearing.
My armor at this point consists of hastily wrapped cloth and a my weapon is just a rock tied to a stick. The odds don’t look good as I approach the hulking figure. My assumptions, thankfully, turn out to be wrong, as the character is actually a chatty merchant who will end up providing a lot of help throughout my adventure.
With my new friend watching my back, I begin to play around with building. I can build things like a campfire, stone axe, and workbench at any time from the menu. More intricate objects, like protective gear, require the workbench, and more varied resources. The campfire not only keeps me warm during the long night, but allows me to mix and match ingredients to discover helpful dishes. This might be the part of the game that brings me the most joy, and I can’t wait to see what I can combine in future versions of the game.
When I finally feel ready to stray from the safety of my camp, it’s to take out a nearby camp full of masked baddies. Despite desperately missing a lock-on, I take out the foes and loot loads of cloth, a new armor piece, and a backpack stolen from my merchant bestie. I also earn enough experience to gain a Frozen Flame. The game directs me to an altar close by, where I sacrifice the prize to upgrade my health in the skill tree. Realizing my weapon has taken some serious damage and needs to be repaired at my work bench, I appreciate that the game sets up an experience where I am always going to have something to do. Right now, my objectives include returning the stolen pack from some unknown reward, fixing my gear, and checking out what new armor I can make with my newly acquired cloth.
These small concerns expand as I venture into the wider world, finding more merchants, quest-giving NPCs, cooking ingredients, deadly bosses, and rarer resources. As I grow more powerful, I unlock new abilities. One lets me launch myself into the air, making new places accessible. Another allows me to place an AOE healing spell to regenerate as I fight increasingly tough opponents.
While there are a few things Frozen Flame needs to hammer out, I can’t wait to explore more of it in Early Access. If you don’t want to wait until then to play a fun game, I also played Ghost Song — coming in just a few days — over the weekend and have my early impressions posted.
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