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Frozen Hearth is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game produced by Sydney-based Epiphany Games which has fallen slightly under the radar due to its limited release. It is Epiphany Games’ first solo project, but it is still worth calling your friends about, plus there are plans for a couple of follow up games to the Frozen Hearth series with the next one being a straight-out Role Playing Game (RPG) and finally a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game to complete the series.
Frozen Hearth is set in the mythical world of Ámorrá and sees you take control of an entire race of people known as the Danaan who are seeking to save themselves from extinction at the hands (or claws) of some pesky supernatural ice monsters called the Shangur. Rather annoyingly The Shangur are helped along by a vast wave of moving ice which envelops every inch of land in its path and extinguishes all life it comes across. This world, it has to be said, is very rich and there has obviously been a lot of work put into the creation of Ámorrá, so it’s easy to see that there is clearly a lot of potential here from which the future projects can blossom.
Many of the traditional elements of RTS’ have been tweaked in Frozen Hearth. For example the resource building elements so common to many games in the genre are very slimmed down. Instead of harvesting wood or mining for gold, resources are acquired by controlling ‘resource nodes’ on the map in a similar manner to the Relic games, Warhammer, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes. As soon you control one of these nodes the resources start flowing. On top of this approach to resources, the base building element, another common feature of many an RTS, has also been dramatically reduced. Instead of building huge bases with multiple barracks, armouries and defence towers, you have one base building which can be improved upon and upgraded as you see fit.
Both these features allow for a greater focus on the action side of things, rather than the economical aspect of other RTS games. Again, like the aforementioned Relic games, rather than having individual units, players control squads which can be increased and upgraded to suit the needs of the battle you find yourself in. Your army is supplemented by the ‘hero’ unit who adds a strong RPG element to the game. The hero unit is with you throughout and plays a crucial part in the action – it is up to you to build him up and equip him with spells and abilities as you see fit. You have to be selective about the direction in which you choose to upgrade your hero unit as he will be vital to how your army perform, so make sure you choose upgrades that compliment your other units.
The combat is also slightly different to other RTS games which usually use a rock, paper, scissors approach to the action. For example, each unit in StarCraft is strong against a certain type but weak against another. In Frozen Hearth there is more emphasis on micro play within battles, and keeping on top of your units’ abilities, and upgrades are a must. It is certainly quite a refreshing take on RTS combat and it’s nice to see a game reward micromanagement to such an extent.
The multiplayer element is where this game really comes into its own and though the single player campaign is rewarding, the co-operative campaign is far superior. Being able to play across twenty maps with another player in campaign mode is a great feature and one of the strongest points of the game.
The only real negatives are that the graphics are nothing special, and the lack of base building and resource accumulation may deter genre purists. There are better RTS games out there and the squad-based warfare is not as good as either the Company of Heroes or Dawn of War games. For a small studio though, with a far smaller budget than Relic Entertainment has, this is still an impressive achievement and is definitely worth a play.
Frozen Hearth is an enjoyable venture into the world of RTS gaming by Epiphany Games. This is not groundbreaking by any means, but there are some interesting elements which should please fans of the RTS genre. The game world is very interesting, and we may see it better utilised in future games, but this time it is definitely enjoyable. A solid debut from what looks to be a very promising studio.