The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse (PS4) Review
Game: The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse
Developer: Desert Owl Games, LLC
Rating: T for Teen
Platform: Playstation 4
Although the game is licensed from The Huntsman film universe, it is not based on any of the two movies. The story is completely original, the events of Winter’s War are just a loose backdrop for the game and the actual Huntsman barely shows up at all. The game’s story follows Elisabeth, a competent fighter who decides to go out into the world in search of her four missing brothers, all of whom left on their own journeys, never to return. As is the case with most RPG’s, her quest takes a turn as she not only uncovers the mystery behind the disappearance of her siblings, but also a larger conspiracy that threatens the region.
Winter’s Curse has a solid turn-based combat system that reminds me of Grandia. The focus is on delaying the enemy’s turn while successfully using yours, requiring careful management of the turn gauge. Even on the easiest setting, attacking without thinking will lead to a quick defeat. To add to the complexities, each character uses a deck of cards to represent their available attacks and skills, similar to the Free-to-Play game Card Hunter. You get to pick from a set of randomly selected cards and as the game progresses you will get new cards for each character. I enjoyed the combat system but as is the case with “card” games, sometimes it is frustrating when you die because of a bad hand instead of any strategic choice you could have made. However, as I learned the nuances of the game I found myself able to escape from bad situations by making good use of what I was provided.
Outside of combat the game relies on a basic map and “cutscene” sequence, not unlike The Banner Saga. There is no actual over world exploration. In fact, the character design and graphic style during these sequences is very much copied from The Banner Saga, using a hand-drawn art style and comic book-style thought bubbles to covey the story. The story is very linear and although in some instances you are allowed to choose what to reply during conversations, none of it seems to change the direction of the game. This doesn’t make the story any less interesting as it features a few surprising turns and remains captivating until the end. Yes, there are some genre conventions, like the mysterious stranger and the chance encounter that turns a simple quest into a battle for survival, but it generally stays away from that. Both main characters show significant growth and evolution through the course of the story.
The graphics will not blow you away, but they are very different from the majority of games out there and deserve some recognition. They are beautifully done and animate well, almost like a moving story book. Kudos to the development team, who probably didn’t have the budget for Final Fantasy XV-level of graphics and instead opted for something unique that stands out as being different. They became one of my favorite features and I am hoping the developer continues to make games using this same style.
Although I enjoyed my time with the game, it has a few significant flaws. It is very short for an RPG, as it took me a bit over five hours to beat. This might be a blessing in disguise because, as much as I enjoyed the combat, the game becomes repetitive. There is nothing else to do but go from location to location, reading conversations and the like to have the story advance, and then engage in combat at one of several generic “fantasy RPG” locations, rinse and repeat. Although the two main characters are well developed and their story and evolution through the course of the game is great (if a bit rushed), I wish the game would have done SOMETHING to make me care about the rest of the world and the locations I visited. They where mostly generic settings and not enough backstory or detail went into making me care about them. You just went there, fought and got out. Also for a licensed game, there is very little benefit from it. The story stands alone and there is very little actual crossover with the movie’s events and characters, so little in fact that sometimes I wished the game had just dropped the license and gone wholly original.