Recently I received a review code for Frozenheim a new RTS citybuilder created by Paranoid Interactive. I had never heard of the game before receiving the review key, but I was intrigued. I have always been a fan of the RTS genre and the game also seemed to have city builder element which is a genre I might enjoy even more than RTS games. On top of that I find the Vikings/Nordic theme intriguing as well. Releasing today in Early Access, I was curious about what the game had to offer. Frozenheim is a little light on content and has some bugs at this point, but the game has some intriguing ideas and a solid foundation for a fun Nordic themed RTS.
If I were to describe Frozenheim’s gameplay I would say that it feels a lot like a combination of a city builder and an RTS.
Lets begin with the RTS elements. Like most RTS games a large element of the game is built around gathering resources which are then used to construct buildings, upgrade technology, and acquire military units and defensive structures. Much of the combat is pretty similar to your typical RTS as you just select units and tell them where to go. They will attack enemy units and buildings that they encounter in their path. The combat should feel familiar to those who play a lot of games from this genre, but I would say that the game has a greater emphasis on exploration than most games from this genre.
Anyone who has seen my other reviews of RTS games will know that I have always been a bigger fan of the resource gathering and base building aspects of the genre than the combat. The resource gathering element is a little different than most games from this genre. The game has around five basic resources and a couple more advanced resources. To gather the basic resources you need to build the corresponding gathering building and select an area of the map to collect resources from. Some resources are replenish-able, while others are limited. To get the more advanced resources you need to create the corresponding manufacturing building and bring the basic resources to it to further refine them. Once you have these buildings set up, you just need to assign workers to them and they will start to gather resources.
The workers/citizens is where the city building aspect comes into the game and becomes a major element of the game. Citizens are used as workers at resource gathering buildings as well as recruited for your military units. To generate citizens you begin by building houses. This will give you one or two citizens. To acquire more from the house you need to improve the happiness of your people. Each house has a happiness rating which determines the max number of citizens that can be generated from it. The current weather will impact happiness as the winter will always lower your overall happiness. In order to raise a house’s happiness you need to put other types of buildings within its range. This includes houses, wells, and other beneficial buildings.
I found this mechanic to be really interesting for the RTS genre. This honestly made the game feel like just as much of a city builder as a RTS. Placement of your buildings is actually pretty important in the game. Normally you can place buildings anywhere you want in this genre and it doesn’t really matter. To maximize your population though you need to think about how you place your houses and other buildings. A larger population gives you more people to gather resources as well as recruits for your military. If your people aren’t happy, your population will remain low which will limit the resources that you can gather as well as the military units that you can recruit.
As I have been a fan of the RTS genre for quite some time, a lot of games from the genre tend to blend together as they fail to really differentiate themselves. I would say that a lot of the RTS elements in Frozenheim don’t differ too much from most games from the genre. You gather resources to build military units to defeat your enemies. If you have ever played an RTS game before all of these elements should feel familiar. The addition of the city building mechanics do change things up some though, and are a nice change of pace in my opinion. It is probably not enough to change the opinion of someone who has never cared for RTS games, but it makes things feel different enough for those who play a lot of games from this genre.
While Frozenheim has some issues which I will get to shortly, I generally enjoyed the time that I have spent with the game so far. You can tell that it just entered Early Access, but it felt like it already had a good framework in place. Some of the mechanics take some time to get used to, but the game is easy enough to play. I have always preferred the base building aspect of the genre more than the combat, and I found it satisfying to build a base and acquire resources. The extra emphasis on the placement of buildings really helps in this area. As for the combat it is okay, but nothing spectacular. I would say that the combat is on the slower side as units move kind of slow and take time to damage each other. I am guessing this is partially due to trying to remain more realistic/grounded, but it might turn off people looking for fast paced battles/combat.
Normally when I think about RTS games, the graphics are usually just a passing thought as I normally aren’t interested in a RTS based on the graphics. For a game made by an indie studio that just entered Early Access though, I have to say that I was honestly quite impressed with the game’s graphical style. The whole game is going for a realistic atmosphere and I think it works well for the game. Basically the entire game takes place in wooded areas and I found it to be generally impressive how much detail there is in the world. Then you add in the weather and it is hard not to be impressed by the game’s visuals especially for a genre where the graphics aren’t a key component.
Frozenheim has a lot of potential. I think the game’s biggest issue at this point is just the fact that there isn’t a lot of content in the game right now. This is to be expected as the game just entered Early Access and the current plan is to stay in it for awhile. At this point the game has a single player campaign, a free play mode, and some basic multiplayer. The campaign currently only consists of two missions. In a way they feel like more of a tutorial as their purpose is mostly to teach you the game’s mechanics. The missions are okay, but they are pretty basic and not much different than your typical early RTS missions. The free play and multiplayer mostly just let you build up your base, explore the surrounding area, and fight various enemies scattered around the map. Unless you are satisfied just building a base and exploring, you may only get a couple hours out of the game at this point. This is a little disappointing as I was enjoying the game, but more content should get added to the game as it spends more time in Early Access.
The other main issue with Frozenheim at this point is that it has a number of bugs. Some people seem to have encountered game breaking/crashing bugs, but I didn’t in the couple hours that I played the game. Most of my issues came from two areas. First the unit pathfinding could use some work. There were times in the game where I would have to click on a location a couple times to get the units to actually move to it. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that due to the game’s topography it is sometimes hard to tell where units can and can’t move. Then there were the times where units would get stuck either by partially falling down a mountain or moving to a location that they then could not find a way out of. This was frustrating at times as if just one of the soldiers in a unit got stuck like this, the whole unit couldn’t move any further. Otherwise most of the bugs were graphical like when rowing a boat the units sometimes floated in the air above the boat instead of being in the boat. The bugs I encountered were a little annoying at times, but none were bad enough that they really impacted my enjoyment of the game.
Frozenheim has some things to work on through the Early Access process, but I think it is on the right path to becoming an enjoyable game. The combat is pretty typical of the RTS genre. Where I think the game shines is with the city/base building. The resource gathering is pretty typical, but how you acquire workers is pretty interesting. The placement of buildings in your base is key to improving the happiness of your people, which will create more citizens for resource gathering and military units. I thought this was an interesting twist for the genre and a welcome addition. On top of this the game looks great for a RTS game. At times you can tell that the game is in Early Access though. The game has some occasional bugs and graphical glitches that can be kind of annoying. Frozenheim also is pretty limited in content at this point.
Ultimately my recommendation for Frozenheim depends on your thoughts on the theme and genre, as well as the current limited amount of content. If you don’t care for the Nordic theme or RTS games in general, I don’t think the game will change your mind. If you don’t really want to wait for more content to be added to the game, I would maybe recommend waiting a while as well. If the game’s concept intrigues you though, I think it is worth looking into picking up Frozenheim.
Buy Frozenheim online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Paranoid Interactive and Hyperstrange for the review copy of Frozenheim used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.