Developer: Studio Tenebres / Stage Clear Studios
Release Date: 19 July 2018
Price: $12.99 / £11.69
Reviewed by Ian Lewis
Frost is a card management game set in a frozen wilderness, tasking you with leading a group of survivors to safety. And while a good card game should be easy to pick up, but tough to master, Frost doesn’t quite hit that mark.
It’s tricky to articulate how the game works without getting awfully tangled up. At its core, it’s fairly straightforward – your aim is to travel from Region to Region to reach Refuge, before the Frost catches you. The Frost begins 8 spaces behind you, and gets closer every time you end a turn without moving.
Icy Deck People
You can only travel when you fulfil a resource quota on a Region card. You’ve three main resources – food, materials and survivors – and you can add more of each through scavenging (which has risks), or via extra Idea and Event cards that appear during the game.
There are further complications to add more of a strategic element to things. Fatigue cards clutter your hand, so can stop you from drawing the cards you need to travel. Those Event cards I mentioned can be useful, but they can also cause you problems. Contest cards for example, require to fulfil a resource quota before you travel. Fail, and you’ll take damage (yes, you also have health points to contend with) or be forced to sacrifice a card.
There’s more still, and the tutorial doesn’t do the best job of explaining everything in one play through. You’ll get the basic mechanics no problem, but by the time you start getting into the difference between using and consuming cards, things become a little muddled. And then there’s two final elements to gameplay – temperature and terror cards – that are only mentioned as a passing comment as the tutorial ends, despite being pretty integral. It’s a tough learning curve, and could probably have been handled a little better.
Deal Or Snow Deal
Eventually you’ll get used to it, but by this point you’ll have discovered that luck does play a big part. Yes, you do need to make strategic decisions about when to travel and when to try and build up your deck. But you’re still relying on the random nature of scavenges, card rewards and whatever the next Region and Event cards you’re dealt turn out to be. Ultimately the game feels like you’re just waiting for the stars to align for you to win.
Once you have won, you’ll unlock a few extra modes to keep the interest going. You can customise the difficulty, there’s an Endless mode, and Scenarios tweak the gameplay objectives. But the basic gameplay remains the same, and so even in these new modes, there’s never a huge amount of skill involved. If you enjoy it, then you’ll probably be happy to try again and again, but some gamers will definitely find it to be a bit of a grind with little reward.
It’s not all bad though. In terms of presentation, Frost is a gem. The hand-drawn art style is kept simple but that only makes it more beautiful, and pretty unique too. There’s no real animation to speak of, but the game doesn’t need it. The sound is well executed as well – effects are crisp, while the music builds dramatically to ramp up the tension as the Frost creeps ever nearer. It’s really nicely put together and the developers deserve a lot of credit for making a card game so visually interesting.
The way it's presented, Frost is a game that you really want to fall in love with, and the core ideas behind the gameplay are fun. But the steep learning curve, and the lack of any real reward to keep you coming back for more, leave you feeling just a little bit cold in the long run.
Pros & Cons
+ Charming visual style
+ Smart use of music and SFX
- Tough learning curve
- Tutorial could be a little smoother
- Not enough variety to keep you hooked