by Jonathan Fortin
reviewed on PC
Out of control
Occasionally, you'll get to choose your response to an event. Sometimes this means choosing a blue (Order) option or a red (Chaos) option. Your character will steadily increase both their Order and Chaos meters over the course of the game. It's pretty much exactly like Mass Effect's Paragon/Renegade system. Presumably your alignment alters the flow of the story, but most of the time your individual dialogue choices are inconsequential.
When you do choose a response, what you click on does not always reflect what Dougal will say. His responses sometimes feel so separate from you clicked on that you wonder if you clicked on the wrong thing. It doesn't help that for the majority of the game, you have zero control over what comes out of Dougal's mouth. At important moments, he reacts in all the wrong ways, and you as a player have no power to stop him. Dougal barely tries to get what he wants, and frequently acts like a complete fool, believing obvious lies and trusting potentially dangerous characters far too easily.
It's a good thing that everyone else in the game is just as foolish. Characters that hate Dougal and are in active competition against him tend to easily give up and let him get his way. Need to get to a highly-guarded bag? Don't worry, just ask to check if it's the right one, and they'll let you rummage through it unsupervised. And of course, since the game is on near-constant autopilot and gives you almost no input into Dougal's actions, this happens regardless of whether you want it to.
For very special occasions, the game finally remembers to have gameplay by introducing alchemy puzzles, in which players must select where to place differently-colored puzzle pieces. These are entertaining brain twisters, but they're few and far between. They also feel completely isolated from the rest of the game, and have nothing at all to do with the actual process of alchemy. Had the game focused on more these puzzles, it could have been a much stronger title. The soundtrack is also surprisingly excellent. It's moody, haunting, and evocative. It's a shame it wasn't a part of a better game.
Some patching necessary
Icebound promised full voice acting in its Kickstarer campaign, but has none to speak of in its present form. Apparently the voice acting ended up taking so long to record that the developer, Fastermind, decided to release the game without it. The voice work will be added in via a free upcoming patch. Because of this, I can't comment on its quality or how it will impact the game.
While I didn't encounter any game-breaking bugs in my playthrough, it is worth noting that my coworker was unable to install this game. Again, Fastermind is hard at work on a patch to fix this, but it is worth warning players about the issue.
Icebound is marketed as a “dark fantasy,” but it's honestly just not that dark. When people eat, the food is delicious. If they go outside, the air is crisp and clean smelling. There are constant attempts (emphasis on attempts) at humor. Perhaps most telling is the fact that multiple characters refer to Dougal as a “man in black,” but he's wearing a bright blue cloak. It perfectly encapsulates this game's apparent ignorance of its own identity.
In the end, it all boils down to the pacing. The story moves at glacial pace, and the interactive moments are too few and far between. The unfortunate result is that playing Icebound feels like watching snow melt.
Excellent soundtrack; fun alchemy puzzles
Incredibly slow pace; creepy furry element; very little interactivity