Frost is a card-based survival game that has you leading Nomads to the Refuge in order to escape the looming frost that relentlessly follows you. Manage your stock, scavenge for resources and do whatever you can to overcome the Frost before it overcomes you.
As soon as you jump into the game, you’ll notice that the tutorial is optional. However unless you had played Frost before, you will be immediately overwhelmed as the gameplay may seem quite convoluted at first.
To simplify, the aim of the game is to fulfill the requirements of each Region via the three main resources: Food, Materials and Survivors. You’ll receive a new hand of cards at the beginning of each day, allowing you to continue working on the Region, however every time you end the day, the Frost draws nearer; yet this can be combated as every time you Travel, the gap between you and the Frost lengthens by a day. To mix the gameplay up even further, there are Ideas that allow you to swap resources for others (in a manner of speaking), hunger, fatigue, crafting, sending Survivors off to scavenge and wolves to fend off. Without these additional twists and turns, the gameplay would have grown stale and repetitive very quickly.
Despite everything listed above, the gameplay still feels luck-based. You will definitely proceed further into each trek if you strategise well, however a single adventure can be made or broken by whether you receive the correct card or not. Gameplay sessions tend to last for approximately 20 minutes (depending on the required travel distance and various other factors), so it can be quite frustrating being 15 minutes in only to lose because you didn’t receive the correct card. You can often do everything right and still lose – however, that may reflect the nature of the cold lands we are trekking through.
Frost can be played in touchscreen mode and whilst it may seem like a game that would be much better suited for this control scheme, there are some control options that just seem clunky this way. However, flicking through cards with the analogue stick is also clunky, so playing Frost in handheld mode and going back and forth with control schemes unfortunately appears to be your best option.
As you continue to play through the game, you’ll unlock more card options and Scenarios. The new card options opens up more possibilities for gameplay, however the Scenarios are the big reward as they create campaigns with specific requirements, adding further twists to the gameplay.
Frost’s story is more in its gameplay structure rather than in cutscenes and dialogue. It presents its plot through doing and not telling, creating organic methods. Whilst playing through the Classic and Scenario modes, you can almost make out your own stories by the way that you play your cards, which is a thing that not many video games can say.
Graphics / Art Direction
The art style is beautiful, taking on a hand drawn sketch aesthetic that adds a lot of personality. In addition to that, the theme of white signifying the icy snow is well done, playing into its strengths and telling a story all on its own.
The images drawn on the cards are also well done, bringing about a certain charm to it that’s difficult to narrow down. Oftentimes, you’ll want to enlarge the card just so you can further admire the artwork.
Lastly, a neat little touch is that the closer the the Frost gets to you, the more snow drifts around on screen; and when you get down to one, you’ll know about it.
Music / Sound Design
The game’s soundtrack is minimalistic but effective. The menu music encapsulates the Nomads’ long adventure for survival. Whilst in-game, the music shifts to taking a more atmospheric approach that doesn’t take any attention away from the gameplay.
Final Score: 72%
Frost is a beautifully crafted game that tells so much by saying so little. It’s card-based mechanics may take a little while to grow accustomed to but if you stick it out, it becomes a deeply rewarding experience. However in the end, I found myself wanting more. I’d like to give a bit of leeway as the game was majoritively developed and programmed by one person, Jérôme Bodin, however a campaign mode would have gone a long way to fleshing out a game that has a lot of potential.