Leaves you cold but wanting for more
Winter Voices is a game that spreads over different episodes. This review is about the first episode, the prologue.
In the game you start of as a female protagonist who has just lost her father. You do not learn the details but it is clear that it is a very traumatic event for her. Throughout the game you must overcome your grief, in the prologue you can react differently; either be very emotional about everything, make jokes or be very cold. All of these however portray your character as someone who is disconnected from her true emotions.
The story is being told mostly through conversations and some by a storyteller. The story itself is very depressing but it is not melancholic as the protagonist seems to want to keep herself busy. With both the story itself and the way it is told it sets an atmosphere unlike any other game. It is very different and as such it is really hit or miss. Either you really like it or you can't stand it. Since this is really the core of the game, it will be a decision maker. The overall gameplay is really just filler. Now that said, it is a shame that the voice acting is not the best out there, there is definitively worse but I feel that the game would have felt so much better if the voices acting was of better quality.
The gameplay consists of two parts: Walking around talking to people and turn based grid "combat". I say "combat" because the main objective, with the exception of a few puzzles, is almost always to flee or survive the battle. You do not have any weapons, your skills are all there to decrease damage and increase your lifepoints. This makes for a rather unique experience. I enjoy having a change of pace in games and this was no exception, even though the AI was not always as good. The main problem it seemed was that enemies would not always attack even if they could.
There are a few puzzles, most are simple others are a bit more difficult. There are some reviews that suggest a few puzzles are "impossible" but if you can't figure out what to do on a puzzle called "Victory lies in defeat" you shouldn't play games with puzzles.
Another feature is that the difficulty level is fully adjustable, it is connected to the Memory attribute more memory means more XP but harder enemies. So increasing your memory will make you stronger quicker but also make the game more difficult. Moreover you can stop at any time or make the game harder for you at any time. Since adding memory only happens at leveling up you'll have a good idea at which point you are making the game too hard for yourself.
Now I played the game as a weaver, you can choose from 3 character types. All point towards a different playing style. The weaver is the most social character and as I enjoy my RPGs most when I'm able to pick the fun conversation options this seemed the most logical way to go. As a weaver you surely have some of the more funnier lines and even though the game seems to push you more to the lone huntress character, with the cold distant setting, playing as a social character seems also plausible since you are an outsider.
As you gain XP either through battles or conversation you level up. When you level up you get a skill point. Which you can use to choose a skill from one of the most amazing skill trees I've seen, ever. You might think I'm joking but I'm not. If all games that use skills in a similar fashion would implement it tomorrow I wouldn't mind at all. But maybe that's just me.
It's a giant snowflake, so what's the big deal? You would say: Winter<-->Snowflake. I get it. But because it is a snowflake the paths are connected which means that for instance to get the skill "Oversized Ego" (Yes the skills have great names too) you need Mastery and Chatter. Which are Perspicacity and Charisma based respectively. Which in turn means that by choosing certain skills you are also going for a character that suits your character and the points you spend on attributes. Which makes, in my opinion, your own character more believable and better to play.
Should I play this?
There is a demo, so if you are interested, play that first. If only for the skill tree. Have I already said that I really like it?
As I said earlier the story is the main aspect of this game. It reminded me most of the Longest Journey and its follow-up Dreamfall which I believe the developers have both played. A theory that was strengthened when at the end I was joined by a Crow. So take that into consideration, also it is depressing so take that in to account.
As for the gameplay, well you are running away so don't expect anything all too exciting. Some battles tend to be a bit boring so you want to go through them as quickly as possible which, from a character point of view, makes total sense.
I encountered a few bugs that caused my game to crash. The prologue isn't that long so it was certainly annoying. But it didn't stop my from finishing it so that says something about the game itself.
If you like RPGs that are different or want to try something out unique give it a shot. Even if you are doubtful, downloading the demo and playing it doesn't take a lot of effort. Even if the quality isn't all that, for the low price it is certainly more than worth it.