The Frostrune was an absolute surprise for me at PAX East this year. I had seen the game billed as a “Viking point-and-click adventure game” and was interested, but not nearly as excited as I should have been.
What I found was a game full to brimming with passion for viking history, storytelling and a commitment to authenticity I’ve only seen rivaled in a few large scale simulation games, and never with as much heart as this beautiful point-and-click adventure.
Find yourself shipwrecked on an island after a summer storm. Nearby, a recently abandoned settlement shows signs that its inhabitants left in a panic. Surrounding the village is a dark, dense forest filled with ancient rune stones and burial mounds. Among them are hidden relics and other well-kept secrets that will bring you closer to solving the mysteries of the island.
Again, this brief pitch doesn’t touch on the most interesting aspect of the game: the developers are all viking-age reenactors who have worked with museums and academics for years to make sure this game is as authentic as possible.
The language spoken in game is the dead Norse language. The music, while modern composition, is played on authentic, viking-era instruments. Sections of the game have been scrapped and rebuilt when the developers discovered the vikings didn’t have access to a certain tool or technology that featured prominently in the game’s puzzles.
I ended up talking with Audun Refsahl, the game’s executive producer for quite some time at PAX East, and was absolutely thrilled by his passion and commitment to the subject:
We wanted to give to you the experience of an authentic Viking age, because there’s a lot of the Viking age in modern media and its always changed to fit the story. We wanted to do things the other way. We changed the story to fit the history. Everything is highly authentic. We’ve researched every object in the game, and we can give you the sources, from small bowls in the background to the way the house’s are constructed.
– Audun Refsahl, Executive Producer
This dedication to getting a game set in a historic setting accurate filled me with joy. I may be biased, having studies archaeology in university and having done some medieval era reenactment myself, but I think it’s still an ideal and dedication that many gamers who happen to be history-buffs will appreciate.
The art in The Frostrune is gorgeous, painterly and colorful. There’s an air of mystery and dread on the abandoned island as your explore, only reinforced by the out of place frost, and dead bodies you’ll stumble across, but at the same time there’s plenty of beauty, and a quietness to the area that’s both calming and unsettling.
Mechanically, The Frostrune isn’t breaking an molds. Like all point-and-click adventures, you’ll be trying to a certain item to unlock a certain door or pathway, and clicking all over the landscape trying to find them. However, unlike many other point-and-click adventures, I didn’t feel like The Frostrune suffered from the typical pitfalls of point-and-click logic. This could be a benefit of the historical setting and a grounding of the ghost story in a world bound by the rules of history. No matter the reason, it’s fantastically designed and a joy to play, and it’s an experience only enhanced by knowing the background and goals of the development team.