Frozen Hearth Greenlight, Review and Critique

Frozen Hearth is a recently released independent real-time strategy game in the vein of Dawn of War 2 or Halo Wars, with just a hint of Universe at War. They’re trying to get the Greenlight from Steam (link in image below) and I wish them luck in their endeavor. Any game which attempts to extend Dawn of War 2’s model, and does so while incorporating an extinction level event for a medieval tribe in a remote forested land, has my support. Especially when produced by an independent developer like Epiphany Games, who has the freedom to experiment with themes and genre-defying mechanics

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Here’s a short list of some of my favorite features:

  • The game features 6 hero units (3 for each race) with the Danaan getting the ability to give each of their heroes a unique focus, meaning that they have 6 total options on this score.
  • The Danaan and Shangur play very differently, with Danaan units gaining experience the longer you keep them alive, and the Shangur having upgrades which improve the effects of their Ice Field over time. It’s an interesting dichotomy I’d like to explore in more depth.
  • They have 6 multiplayer game modes right now, which range from king of the hill (capture and hold) to attrition (you have a certain max amount of money and when it runs out, you can’t build more units or structures) and Crucible (semi MOBA style) allowing for a lot of variation from match to match.
  • It’s like a fantasy version of DOW2, which is easily one of my favorite RTS games ever.

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As much as I want to laud and support the game, though, it has a number of issues which prevent me from (currently) recommending it to the average gamer. In an extensive review I recently wrote for RTSGuru (link to review) I mention a number of them, which I’ll list here in bullet form for convenience:

  • The Danaan race doesn’t have a lot of unique unit silhouettes making telling them apart a chore. Also, Danaan Avatar (heroes) are nowhere near as visually impressive as their Shangur opponents
  • many UI elements are not intuitive, leading you to play against the game more than I’d like
  • Mechanics such as Ice generation and Morale, and several stats on the units’ stat cards, are left unexplained. The tutorial could be a lot more comprehensive. I didn’t even know my Danaan units gained experience until I saw it in a video on YouTube.
  • There are numerous pathing issues including units getting permanently caught in terrain features, which is untenable in multiplayer and annoying in the campaign
  • There’s no save in campaign missions, no ability to change difficulty after each mission, and most notably no leaderboard in the multiplayer
  • Units move speed and reaction time seems low

Aside from this admittedly extensive list, the game has an excellent concept and is quite fun to play once you acclimatize yourself to its quirks. With some QA and polish this could easily be an excellent title, and I really hope Epiphany spends the time to add multiplayer, tweak the pacing and pathfinding and give Frozen Hearth a fresh coat of paint. I could see myself playing it for a very long time if it built a community around itself (which will only happen with considerable polish and marketing efforts).

Let me know what you think, and if you plan on supporting the Greenlight!

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