Posted: December 19
This is a game that suprised and well surpassed my expectations.
I know when I saw the name I was sceptical but it actually unfolds really well. The best thing about it is it has the best parts of an RPG- namely a good story, interesting, well-written characters, and a decent combat mechanic system. What Winterwolves does particularly well is that this style of gaming with the Ren’Py engine does away with the ‘fluff’ or sometimes superfluous content developers put in to artificially extend the playtime. Forget wandering around town talking to every NPC or pixel hunting to find quest items, you can fast travel town to town and quests are plot driven. You can even fast forward bits of story you’ve seen if you don’t want to waste time. Every minute you play you are doing what you want to do rather than what the game forces you to waste time doing. You will end up spending the majority of the time unfolding the story, battling and interacting with your characters.
Dialogue choices are somewhat fixed and not customising in that aspect (think Dragon age 2) but it was a sufficient mechanic to drive the story forward. You will end up making gameplay decisions throughout the game that does impact the world state. The story may share some similarities and tones to Dragon Age: Origins but still a pleasure to watch unfold. Combat is very similar to Monster’s Den flash game series and does have an engaging tactical element. There are 3 main classes (warrior, rogue, mage) with each character having one class skill tree and one unique character skill tree. Light grinding is all you need to get through the story and difficulty options allow you to focus more on story aspects. For those who like to grind and get the best gear the option is there but it’s not necessary. You will end up recruiting and adventuring with a party of 10 characters (DLC introduces 2 more) so there are many combos and customisations you can play with.
The character sprites and visuals are beautiful to look at and despite the simplicity actually works well in creating a convincing setting for the story and there is optional fan service mode. Sure, there can be a few more backgrounds but this game is a great example of creativity when less is more. The romance CGs and interactions are fun and rewarding to unlock. There are multiple racial/gender romance options for each character and I applaud the writer for putting all those in, and for the meaningful character progression gained through these interactions. Each party NPC will also have a rewarding personal quest.
To accompany the visuals I must mention the lush score that accompanies the game. The soundtrack is excellent and I never tire of hearing the themes. The dramatic and emotional moments are particularly heightened with good use of tracks.
My minor critiques are with the player dialogue choices- I’d rather see the 3 options than joking/friendly/optional and they don’t really feel very different. The romances and triangles are handled well but I’d like a tiny bit more climax and epilogue detail. Would have liked to see a few more side quests and story elements from the towns and map locations based on renown. Combat wise it’s a great system but the class skill trees pales in comparison with unique skill trees and perhaps the different weapon types could add different effects (eg difference between single/dual/2H weapon) in terms of range, AoE and damage.
Overall well worth the experience. My first playthrough was a leisurely 15 hours and there’s room for at least another playthrough plus exploring the romances.
Gameplay &combat 4/5
An enjoyable experience.