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Winter Review

Winter is currently in early access on Steam and developed by Reactor Studios. It is an economic strategy 2D pixel game where you have to protect your forest settlement from the crazed creatures of Slavic mythology.

This Isn’t The Way

After playing for a few minutes and having to actually Google what the hell I’m meant to be doing… I’m still not sure. Apparently, if you’ve played the Kingdom series before then you’re okay. If you haven’t then good luck! There’s no explanation and a tutorial that isn’t a tutorial. This isn’t the way to do things.

The Game

When the game starts, you have no further explanation of what you should be doing other than an initial cutscene that doesn’t help. Having never played the Kingdom games, I have no idea what is going on or what I’m meant to do. So let’s check out the tutorial that the game provides.

In fact, don’t even get me started on the tutorial. Or I should say the lack of tutorial. It is an absolute nightmare to decipher. It’s a few still images and text underneath that you can barely read because it’s using a rune font to match the art style. Whilst I applaud the commitment to the style, from a usability perspective it’s awful. My eyesight is quite good and I struggled, so I feel sorry for people with poor eyesight that would want to play this. They have absolutely no hope of reading it. And the pictures? Don’t even know what some are showing me.

winter tutorial

The aim is supposedly all about protecting your settlement from crazed creatures of Slavic mythology. You have limited space where you can walk left or right where you pay villagers to fight for you. You can get them to build defensive walls and axes. Well, you’re meant to be able to. Depends on whether it works for you and it seems I’m not the only one struggling. Apparently, I need to restart the game a few more times but I’m not starting my fifth game in the hopes that it works as it’s meant to this time. I just can’t.

There are coins above some trees, but what do they mean? And this is what bothers me so much about this game. I shouldn’t have to be asking this. Someone shouldn’t have to tell me. I shouldn’t have had to have played an older game series to have some idea of what to do. I don’t need my hand held to play a game, but giving some basic clue as to what you’re meant to do is always handy.

Look & Sound

The general look of the game is its only saving grace for me, but that’s still far from perfect. Whilst the gameplay looks great some time really needs to be taken to make aspects clearer or in some cases visible. In the initial cut scene, there’s a barely visible ‘skip’ button that most people will likely miss. And if this is a game that you enjoy and want to play over and over again, you won’t want to sit through that cut scene every time.

There was also one time when fog hit and I couldn’t see a thing. Great. Sure, it matches the whole “winter” name, but when you can’t play because you can’t see what is even happening then it’s no good.

winter dragon

And back to the tutorial. The one area of the game where its okay to take a slight break from the style of the game. Make it readable, make it useful, make it give you some guidance. You know, like a tutorial is meant to do. If that becomes too difficult because of the stylistic look of the game then it’s okay to take a break from it with the tutorial. You want people to play the game so give them the tools to do so. If that means the tutorial uses a readable font instead of the rune font then do it. I know I’ve mentioned the tutorial a lot but it’s just difficult to get past if you want people to play your game that aren’t looking for a nostalgia hit from an older game.

Finally, for this section, is the sound. The music is decent and suits the look of the game. The voice-over work on the initial cut scene is a bit monotone but I get what they were going for.

Length & Replayability

Length feels like it will be pretty limited. The area you have to defend isn’t large and it’s so easy to die or lose all your coins with no way to get them back that it’ll frustrate more than provide enjoyment. So it’s fairly limited in scope.

Without other levels or a larger playing field, it’s only the randomness of when and where you’re being attacked that will keep the game going. Maybe if you can get your villagers to do what they’re supposed to do you can learn where to spend and what on. But even that, once you know will only allow you to do so much.

winter

Conclusions

The game is still in early access, but from my time playing it, there’s so much still to do. I hope it gets better because I like the art style. Sadly that’s about where it ends for me. I absolutely hate giving poor reviews, but when a game is borderline unplayable because you haven’t played an old game before and trying to understand the tutorial is like trying to solve a puzzle, then it’s not something I can recommend. And it’s so disappointing because I like the style, graphically, of the game.

Sadly, I can only score this game a 2/10. It’s not a game for me. I hope some people will find enjoyment from it though.

A code was kindly provided for us to review this.

We Score This Game

rating score: 2

Could Be Better!

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